Many religious observers mistakenly think Lent is entirely about giving something up, said Deacon Charlie Baynes of St. Joseph Parish.
"I tell people, instead, to think of something they can do," Baynes said. "Mend a relationship or renew a relationship—do something good for another person."
During an Ash Wednesday prayer service at 4 p.m., he prayed that members of the congregation would be "armed with weapons of self restraint" as they made positive changes in their lives in the 40 days before Easter.
Hundreds then received ashes on their foreheads.
More 2,000 people were expected to attend a series of services at the parish on Wednesday, according to Father Kevin Schenning.
Did you observe Ash Wednesday this year? What changes are you planning to make in your life in honor of Lent? Tell us in the comments.