Students speak about their unique sacrifices for Lent


Students and faculty wandering around campus with fasting mindsets and ashy foreheads signifies one thing: the season of Lent has arrived.

Lent is an observance of the 40 days before Easter and is meant to be spent in preparation for the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus. The season begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts until the start of Holy Thursday. 

Interfaith Coordinator for Wilkes University Kristin Osipower says Lent is usually a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a way to self-purify.

“Since Catholics especially focus on the penitential aspect of Lent, many will make a sacrifice of some sort for the duration of Lent,” Osipower said. 

Many young adults continue to practice the values of Lent that they were traditionally taught within their families. One such student is senior pharmacy major Leslie Shumlas, who said the Lenten season has always been a time of sacrifice in her household.

“When I was younger, I gave up candy or treats during Lent, but then I realized there are many more sacrifices than just giving up your favorite junk food,” Shumlas said. “This Lenten season will be my third year participating in Alternative Spring Break through Wilkes.”

This year, Shumlas will sacrifice her spring break for the third time and travel to Kentucky to volunteer through the Christian Appalachian Project. She and other Wilkes students will help families in need with home repairs and renovations that they wouldn’t be able to do or afford on their own.

During her time volunteering, Shumlas also gets to meet the families she is helping and learn about how they got into their current situation of need.

“I go back every year because each experience is more rewarding than the last,” she said.

Like Shumlas, senior Susan Gerencser is also using her Lenten sacrifice to benefit others. The business management major said her goal is to get at least five people to smile per day.

“The smile can be through something as simple as complimenting their response to a lesson during class,” Gerencser said. “I want to improve people’s daily lives, even if just in little ways.”

While Gerencser respects the practice of the Catholic Church, she also finds it somewhat limited. According to Gerencser, penance is an exercise in spiritual discipline, but it doesn’t actively improve anyone’s life in the tangible sense, which is what she is aiming to do.

“We are supposed to see Christ in all other people, so what better way to give to Christ than by refocusing our attention on others rather than ourselves?”

Many students see Lent as an opportunity to become more disciplined within their faith. Majoring in pharmacy with a heavy academic workload and busy schedule, senior Dylan Smith plans to finish reading two books, “When Christ Comes” and “The Discipline of Grace.” He started both books but has not made time for them during the semester, he explained.

Smith said the purpose of reading these books is to focus on the importance of Christ’s life and death.

“Personally, it helps me become more in tune with all Lent has to offer and why Christ’s sacrifice is so important for us as sinners.”

The Interfaith Office holds a complete list of Lenten opportunities available in the Wilkes-Barre community such as Monday evening confessions and Stations of the Cross on Fridays at local Catholic Churches.

“The University recognizes that many people feel deeply rooted in their faith, and they want to support that,” Osipower shared. “It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or agnostic–everyone is welcome here.”