A large delegation of priests from the South Bend area, as well as several deacons and seminarians, converged in a grand procession at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend on April 12 to join Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in celebration of the annual Chrism Mass.
During this Mass, which typically takes place during the first few days of Holy Week, the bishop consecrates the chrism oil that he and his brother priests will use in the Church’s ministry throughout the diocese for the next year. Bishop Rhoades celebrated Chrism Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on the day prior.
The Chrism Mass also affords concelebrating priests the opportunity to renew the vows they took at their ordination.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades addressed his brother priests regarding these promises, and expressed his hope that, even through the demanding periods of priesthood, they may still find ‘gladness’ in their ministry.
“My brother priests, everything I have said about Christian anointing obviously applies as disciples of Jesus, as baptized Christians. But we were also anointed with the sacred chrism a third time, at our ordination.”
“We were anointed again with the oil of gladness, the Holy Spirit, to serve God’s people as priests of His Son. I hope all of you experience the gladness, the joy of being priests, even during difficult and challenging times.”
“This joy from the Holy Spirit has its source in the love of God the Father. Jesus the Son wants us to have this joy, the joy that was in Him, even during His passion, the joy of His Father’s love and the joy of doing the Father’s will.”
After his homily, Bishop Rhoades led his brother priests in the renewal of their vows.
As Bishop Rhoades and the priests concluded this renewal, members of the community presented urns of new chrism oil to the bishop, who consecrated each oil for a particular use in the ministry of the Church to its people.
Among those who presented the urns were Catholic Charities CEO Dan Florin and Virginia Muñoz, principal of St. John the Evangelist in Goshen. After consecration, these oils would then be distributed to area parishes.
Priests will use one of these newly consecrated oils during the sacrament of anointing of the sick, when they anoint someone who has a serious illness. During his homily, Bishop Rhoades recalled Jesus’ healing ministry in the Gospels. He said that it is “one of the fundamental tasks Jesus entrusted to the Church.”
“Our priestly mission includes healing the brokenhearted, as mentioned by Isaiah in our first reading. We exercise this ministry of healing in the confessional, the healing of souls wounded by sin. But there is also the specific healing of sickness and suffering in the anointing of the sick, the sacrament which brings comfort to those distressed in body and soul.”
Priests throughout the Church use the oil of catechumens before baptisms.
Bishop Rhoades told his brother priests that they would “anoint infants and catechumens” with this second oil.
“The catechumens are people journeying toward Christ and you accompany them on this journey of searching for faith, searching for God,” Bishop Rhoades said. “By anointing them with the oil of catechumens, you show that it is not only they who seek God, but that God is searching for them. When you anoint them, you will pray that the strength of Christ our Savior will protect them.”
The third and final oil, known simply as the sacred chrism oil, will be used by priests both during confirmation and following baptisms.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Rhoades expressed his excitement at how many people would experience the sacraments in the coming year, and how the recently consecrated oil would be a part of those occasions.
“When I bless all the oils and consecrate the chrism, I think of all those thousands of people who will be anointed with these oils, and they’ll be distributed to the 82 parishes of our diocese, and also Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College. And the motherhouses, and the hospitals and nursing homes. And we think of all those people who will be touched by God’s grace through these sacraments.”
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