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Casey Christie / The Californian

Lois Brehmer has ashes in the sign of a cross applied on her forehead before the Ash Wednesday service at St. John's Lutheran Church.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

Theresa Perez, left, sits with her daughter Marie Loya, and her two children, Elias Siffing and Leslie Rivera during an Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in east Bakersfield.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

Many attend the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Baker Street Wednesday morning.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

St. John's Lutheran Church organist Liz Cervantes starts the Ash Wednesday service with organ music.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

The faithful attend one of several Ash Wednesday Masses at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Baker Street.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

Marie Loya holds her daughter, Leslie Rivera, during the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Baker Street.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

St. John's Lutheran Church pastor Dennis Hilken leads an Ash Wednesday service in Bakersfield.

Among the people making their way into St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Wednesday was Marie Loya, her 1-year-old daughter on a hip and her 5-year-old son's hand gripped tightly as they entered the church she hopes they'll learn from.

The Ash Wednesday ceremony she attended represents the start of the 40-day period of Lent -- excluding Sundays -- leading to Easter. Among Christians, Easter is the believed resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Numerous Bakersfield churches held additional Masses and services throughout the day to satisfy the needs of parishioners and others who wanted to attend.

"I bring (my kids) so they can learn their morals, what's good to do and learn what not to do," said Loya, who was at the 10 a.m. Mass. "To just help them find the path of the Lord."

Thousands of Bakersfield Catholics, Lutherans and others also celebrated Ash Wednesday, where at the Mass or service black ashes from the burning of the previous year's Palm Sunday palms were rubbed in the shape of a cross onto their foreheads. Among various denominations, different phrases symbolizing mortality are said when administering the ashes, which also serve as reminders.

"It's to remember that you're not going to be (alive) forever and that you're going to return to ashes. And hopefully that you'll go to heaven," said Connie Nieto, who attended 10 a.m. Wednesday Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

As a lifelong Catholic, Dolores Escalera said it was a tradition to attend Ash Wednesday Mass and it's something her parent's engrained in her. Escalera attended the Mass at St. Joseph's.

"To me it's an obligation to receive the ashes," Escalera said.

Rev. Dennis Hilken, of St. John's Lutheran Church, held three services on Ash Wednesday. The 7 a.m. service alone attracted more than 80 attendees.

Liz Cervantes, the church's pianist and organist, said Lent for her symbolizes a time for self-reflection. She played the organ at the 11 a.m. Wednesday service.

To her, the cross is a visible symbol on her face to share with those around her and to remind herself of her beliefs.