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Leesburg church helps parishioners get ahead of Lent

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“If you’re like many, you turn to your spouse at 9 p.m. after your Mardi Gras dinner and say, ‘So, tomorrow’s Lent. What are we doing for Lent?’” said Msgr. Michael Heintz of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., speaking to attendees at a pre-Lenten retreat Feb. 22 at St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg.
To get ahead of this perennial question, St. John parishioners turned out in force for “Traveling the Lenten road in the company of holy friends,” an event featuring two talks by Msgr. Heintz interspersed with discussion.
First, attendees enjoyed dinner and fellowship. Fifteen youth volunteers, including confirmation candidates, boy scouts and youth group members, served and waited tables.  
“The youths were fantastic,” said Rick Wagner, grand knight of Holy Family Council No. 6831 that co-sponsored the evening with the parish Men’s Morning of Recollection group. “Without them, there is no way we could have checked in and cleared 20 tables for over 160 people in 45 minutes, and started the retreat talks 15 minutes ahead of schedule.”
“I was happy to be able to help,” said volunteer Jack Osborne, 12. “I am proud to be part of the St. John’s community.”  
“Start small, be faithful and let God do the rest,” Msgr. Heintz advised retreatants in preparing for Lent, noting that all too often, “We start big, don’t follow through and forget we need God’s help.”
“Craft your Lenten resolutions with your endgame in mind,” Msgr. Heintz advised. “First consider your goal, such as, ‘I want freedom from an embedded habit of sin, my complaining, gossiping, lack of patience, or addiction to social media,’ and only then, consider the means.” Lenten resolutions include negative and positive dimensions, he said, things we give up and practices we add.
“I’m so grateful to God for this opportunity to prepare for Lent,” said Yvette Lunjwire, a St. John parishioner. “Tonight’s talks, fellowship and honest conversations have already helped me to focus.”   
“Seeing a full-capacity attendance for this retreat on a Friday night demonstrated to me that we have many brothers and sisters in Christ who want to live our faith to its fullest,” said parishioner Nancy Dowgiello.
“The retreat was an encouraging step forward in strengthening our parish community, particularly as we embark on the Lenten journey together,” said Bill Atwill, founder of the Men’s Morning of Recollection.
“Lent is ultimately a time for freedom and conversion,” Msgr. Heintz concluded, “This July, we want to be able to look back on Lent and be able to notice, ‘My capacity to give of myself increased.’ ”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019