Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki holds Ash Wednesday Mass

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Lenten season officially kicked off on Ash Wednesday, Wednesday, February 13th.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki kicked off the first day of Lent with a Mass Wednesday morning at the Pius XI High School gymnasium.  This is the third straight year he's held the Mass in front of hundreds of students.

Ashes places on worshippers' foreheads represent a public display of repentance.  The cross pattern in which the ashes are placed onto the forehead represents Jesus Christ.

The message Listecki gave to the youth is that the Lenten season is a time to strengthen their relationship with God through prayer, service and sacrifice.

"To ask themselves the great question as we start Lent:  What does God want from me? Oftentimes, we're pretty quick to tell God what we want from God," Listecki said.

"Instead of giving something up, I'm going to try to do a good deed every day," high school senior Dan Griese said.

Griese admitted this Ash Wednesday is one he won't forget.

"It's a really special way to start the holy season of the year, especially in transition from the old pope to the new pope," Griese said.

With Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation this week, a new pope could be announced by Easter.

"A wonderful gesture on the part of the Pope is the fact that's he's called all of us in a little introspection in what it means to be church," Listecki said.

While the timing of the Pope's retirement happened to be during the Lenten season, Listecki said he hopes it'll help others reflect and be drawn closer to the Catholic faith.

Lent runs for 40 days, representing the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert.  The Lenten season ends on Easter, which arrives Sunday, March 31st.