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Sacrifice Common Theme in Many Religions

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LaToya Dennis
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Milwaukee is one of two test markets across the country for the "Don't Give up Chocolate for Lent" campaign

Today is Ash Wednesday. For practicing Catholics that means the start of Lent-- a 40 day period where the faithful have long followed the tradition of sacrificing something they enjoy. The ideas of sacrifice and discipline are themes found in many religions.

Driving around the Milwaukee area you may have noticed a few billboards urging people not to give up chocolate for Lent. An organization by the name of Dynamic Catholic out of Cincinnati, Ohio is behind the advertisements. Marichris Dizon is a spokesperson. She says the goal is to bring people back to the church – and help them build a stronger faith life.

“Deepen their faith in a different way. Yes, to give something up if that’s what they fill called to do. But we also feel it’s such a great time to reflect and do something,” Dizon says.

We headed over to Old St. Mary’s Church in downtown Milwaukee to ask weekday mass-goers about their plans for Lent. Even though it’s cold outside and Kerry Dettman is late, she’s willing to stop and talk anyway. Dettman wasn’t yet sure what she’d give up for Lent this year but knows it’ll be something substantial in her life.

“The last couple of years, and this was actually a hard one for me, I gave up TV, and that was challenging (be)cause I like watching TV. I might do that one again,” Dettman says.

Dettman says in recent years, she’s also given up chocolate and wine.

“That was hard (be) cause I’m like the kind of person that drinks a glass of wine almost every day with my dinner,” Dettman says.

Bob Simi plans to add a few practices to his life this Lent - volunteering and prayer.

“We’ve got a men’s group at our church and every Wednesday they make breakfast. A nice hot breakfast for the gentlemen over at the Guest House, a homeless shelter. So I’m committing to get over there at least once during Lent and help that out. For me it’s also about rejuvenation so to speak about my prayer and sacramental life. So a little bit more mass, confession,” Simi says.

Catholicism is just one religion that urges followers to step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves during certain seasons, according to Charles Cohen. He’s a religion professor at UW- Madison and specializes in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

“In Ramadan for example, the month long fast that Muslims undertake, they fast, and it’s a complete fast, and it should even include water in the middle of the summer from before sunup until after sundown. And that’s repeated for an entire month. For Jews, Yom Kippur is actually a complete fast from before sundown of one day until after sundown of another day,” Cohen says

Cohen says there are varying interpretations to the practice of sacrifice, but the goal is the same…

“A sense of spiritual growth through a kind of discipline that regulates individual behavior,” Cohen says.

Back in front of Old Saint Mary’s, Kerry Dettman says no matter what she gives up this Lent…

“It helps you to dig deeper,” Dettman says.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.