FARMINGTON — Ash Wednesday is next week, ushering in the season of Lent. Local churches will be holding special services to celebrate the season.

"Lent is a time of devotion and looking into one's soul to remove obstacles for what will be the joy of Easter," said Father Guy Mackey, rector at St. John's Episcopal Church.

Father Timothy Farrell, pastor at Sacred Heart Parish, said the Lent season is the six weeks leading up to Holy Week.

Holy Week is the week ending with Easter Sunday. Farrell said it consists of Holy Thursday — which is the Mass of the Lord's Supper, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

"Lent is a season in which we repent, we strive to cleanse our hearts," Farrell said.

Mackey said the tradition of Lent dates back to the early Christian church. A lot of people were converting to Christianity from pagan religions. Mackey said before these converts were allowed to be baptized, they had to go through training and classes. This could sometimes take three years.

Mackey said baptism generally occurred on Easter and the period before baptism would be the most intensive training. Eventually, Mackey said, the whole church began to join the new members in this training.

The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, traditionally celebrated by the giving of ashes, in which a cross is drawn with ash on the member's forehead. Members also take the Holy Communion on Ash Wednesday.

St. Mary's Parish Youth Group will be holding its 14th annual Cheese Enchilada Take-Out for Ash Wednesday. The take-out will begin at 9 a.m. and run until 7 p.m. The price is $8 for a dozen and $7 per quart for extra sauce. Tickets may be purchased at the door or at the parish office ahead of time.

St. John's and Sacred Heart will both hold three services for Ash Wednesday.

On Tuesday, St. John's will be holding a pancake supper to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. Mackey said it used to be tradition to give up eggs and other dairy products during Lent. Episcopalian would make a large batch of pancakes the Tuesday before Lent in order to use up their eggs. The pancake supper will begin at 6 p.m.

Throughout Lent St. John's will be holding classes every Wednesday. Mackey said the classes will focus on "making spirituality something you practice in your daily life."

Each Friday throughout Lent, Sacred Heart will hold Stations of the Cross. Farrell said Stations of the Cross is an ancient tradition remembering the path Jesus took to the cross. The stations are artistic representations. Farrell said there will be 14 stations.

In addition, Rev. Alexander Masluk, from Saint Martha Rectory, which is part of the archdiocese in Philadelphia, will be coming to Sacred Heart to speak at the end of February. He will deliver a talk each night Feb. 25 through 27, followed by an hour set aside for confessions.

Mackey said Lent provides an opportunity to remove the obstacles that are blocking people from each other and from Jesus so that people can experience the full joy Easter has to offer.