Those words of a familiar Ash Wednesday hymn, reminding us that Lent is a time to re-examine our hearts and rededicate ourselves to doing good, took on added significance this week. As the entire Prep community gathered in prayer in the gym, it marked the first time in over two years—fittingly, since the Ash Wednesday prayer service in 2020—that the entire school had gathered indoors in one place. The 735 days in between first saw campus closed altogether, then a year of primarily hybrid instruction but with assemblies and Masses generally being virtual, and then more recently a series of gatherings of some classes in the gym with others watching a live stream elsewhere on campus.

As Prep embarks on the journey of Lent, Mr. John Dougherty, Director of Campus Ministry, offered a reflection on the challenge set before us: beyond the temptation to do the wrong thing, there is also the temptation to do the right thing for the wrong reasons—to seek praise or attention for our good deeds rather than simply doing what is right for its own sake. “Rend your hearts, not your garments,” he concluded. “Do good, and let that be its own reward.”

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Prep’s president, Dr. Michael Gomez, Ed.D., ’91, took time to acknowledge the significance of gathering the full school in prayer under one roof, as was once so common but now seemed so extraordinary. “Any time folks gather as a Prep community…I would call it sacred. Today being together, for me, is a little extra sacred.” After acknowledging a number of recent events and accomplishments around campus, from sports and retreats to activities and academics, he added, “I point this out because I hope you join me in never taking it for granted, ever. Because when we did not have these things because of COVID, there was an emptiness here.”

Dr. Gomez concluded by repeating some words he had shared on February 26, 2020, during that last Ash Wednesday service before the pandemic forced the closure of campus a few weeks later—words that perhaps take on new significance in light of all that has transpired since:

Ash Wednesday is a humbling time. The ashes remind us that our lives have an end. We are limited. We have plenty of faults. We are imperfect. Sometimes we feel alone or sad, even in a crowded, joyful room. But at the same time I would remind you, as always, that you are extraordinary and rare and bright, and your mind is limitless, and your heart—while sometimes it hurts—is the most powerful tool in your toolbox. So this Lent, let’s remember to be humble and recognize our imperfections, but at the same time let’s remember that we are awesomely and wondrously made.

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