Bolingbrook church gives drive-thru Ash Wednesday service

Rector says drive-thru ashes become 'a sacred moment'

Esther Simonson blesses Carol Trotter with ashes Wednesday at Episcopal Church of St. Benedict in Bolingbrook. (Eric Ginnard - eginnard@shawmedia.com)

BOLINGBROOK – One woman was working 12 hours Wednesday. Another was having surgery. One man just stopped by because his wife had told him how good it felt.

These were a few of the 92 people who visited the Episcopal Church of St. Benedict on Ash Wednesday for what's been dubbed "Ashes to Go."

Most of them never left their cars.

The church at 909 Lily Cache Lane in Bolingbrook was providing drive-thru ashes for the fourth year, joining an Ashes to Go movement that has brought ashes to people on the streets and at train stations.

Eight church leaders and members gave ashes in the parking lot at St. Benedict's or held signs along the road to let people know that ashes were available to passers-by from 6 to 9 a.m. At times, two, three and even four cars lined up.

It's meant to be convenient for people who otherwise might miss Ash Wednesday, but who did not intend to make the observance an afterthought.

"It's a sacred moment," said the Rev. Heidi Haverkamp, rector at St. Benedict's.

"It's very individual," Haverkamp said. "You meet this one person while you give the ashes. But you still have the confession. It's important to us that we just don't have the ashes and then they go. We have a prayer together."

'To dust you shall return'

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of repentance for Christians that leads up to Easter Sunday.

The ritual of applying ashes to the forehead is a reminder to Christians of their mortality.

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Go in peace," the ministers at St. Benedict said to each person after putting ashes on the forehead.

Such a somber moment was also remarkable for the good feelings it produced.

"It makes me feel better," Rena Blazonczyk said, when asked why receiving ashes was important to her. "It's what we should do."

Sama Allen said he drove to the church for ashes after getting a call.

"My wife was on her way to work, and she noticed the ladies out here," Allen said. "She called me and told me to stop by and get ashes. When they put the ashes on her forehead she felt really good. She told me to come here and get blessed."

Allen, an Episcopalian although not a member of St. Benedict's, said the ashes that he, like others who stopped by, would wear on his forehead throughout the day are an important sign of his belief.

"I do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins."

Longing, not lazy

Juana Tamayo said she was thinking about surgery she would be having Wednesday when she approached St. Benedict's.

"I saw 'Ashes to Go.' I thought it was amazing," Tamayo said.

Tamayo walked into the entryway of St. Benedict's to get her ashes. Before she left, she prayed with Priest Associate Donna Ialongo about the surgery she would be having.

"She said she was worrying about her surgery today and saw this and came in spontaneously," Ialongo said.

Later in the morning, Ialongo would give ashes to two co-workers who were given a break at work to come and get ashes.

Havercamp said she's heard complaints that people avoid Ash Wednesday church services when they receive ashes in the drive-thru service. St. Benedict's also held noon and 7 p.m. services Wednesday.

But Havercamp said Ashes to Go is a way to reach out to people who might otherwise miss ashes and want them.

"It's really nice to go out and meet people," she said. "I don't think everyone realizes that many people work two jobs. I don't think most people are here because they're lazy. I think they're here because they're longing. They're longing to be closer God."

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