Priests from across the Diocese renewed their priestly commitment April 6. Among them, priests from St. Paul Parish, Princeton, Father Carlo Calisin, parochial vicar, in front; Father Miguel Valle, parochial vicar, left, and Msgr. Joseph Rosie, pastor.
Priests from across the Diocese renewed their priestly commitment April 6. Among them, priests from St. Paul Parish, Princeton, Father Carlo Calisin, parochial vicar, in front; Father Miguel Valle, parochial vicar, left, and Msgr. Joseph Rosie, pastor.
On the Monday of Holy Week, when representatives of every parish would have normally gathered in one place for the annual Chrism Mass, priests across the Diocese of Trenton celebrated Mass from their respective churches, simultaneously, with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. 

On April 6, they renewed their priestly commitment, and, in addition to any special intentions already requested in their parishes, celebrated this special Mass for the people of the Diocese – all clergy, religious, seminarians and the laity.  They also included the intention of all those in the Diocese impacted by this pandemic: the dead; the infected and their loved ones; public officials; first responders; health care workers, and support staff. 

Photo Gallery: Mass for Holy Week in the Time of Pandemic

Officially titled The Mass for Holy Week in the Time of Pandemic, the event was announced by Bishop O’Connell April 3 in a letter of invitation to the priests of the Diocese.  He wrote, “I suggest this special Mass be celebrated simultaneously (at 7 p.m.) as a sign of our unity, fraternity and solidarity as priests during this time of pandemic.”

Reinforcing that the Mass cannot be open to the public, the Bishop advised that the priests, in observance of social distancing precautions, can be “together” in Masses celebrated throughout the Diocese on the same day and time.  The Bishop added, “We need to support each other in prayer.”

It was the decision of the local pastors to share their local Mass with the public in a live video stream. Parishioners should check with local parish websites.

Bishop O’Connell, who celebrated this Mass from his home, issued his homily early April 6. The homily is also available as a podcast HERE.

In the homily, Bishop O’Connell points to this unprecedented time, in which the Chrism Mass, which is a tradition with roots in the early Church, has been set aside due to the global pandemic and the shuttering of churches throughout the world.

He observes that in “another time, the Chrism Mass would have been celebrated – with the priests of the Diocese of Trenton gathered around their bishop – in the presence of the faithful, on Monday of Holy Week, to bless and consecrate sacramental holy oils at the Chrism Mass.  They would have stood with the bishop and renewed their sacred commitments as priests, together, before celebrating the Holy Eucharist together and distributing the Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful."

The Bishop continues, “Tonight, the priests are not together with their bishop, or with one another.  They are alone for the most part, scattered at the altars of empty churches throughout the four counties of the Diocese.  The faithful are not present and Holy Mass, this night, is celebrated in private, without a congregation. 

“What has changed ‘another time’ into ‘this time’ is the virus that has ravaged our world, our state, our Diocese,” he says.

Bishop O’Connell issued this reflection on the value of the presbyterate renewing their priestly commitment at this unprecedented time: 

Part of the annual Chrism Mass includes the “Renewal of Priestly Commitment” made by the priests serving in the Diocese with their bishop and in the presence of the faithful. This is always a special moment for the priests and an opportunity for them to express their desire to continue serving the faithful of the local Church in accordance with the promises they made at their ordination.  

Since the Chrism Mass and the blessing and consecration of new sacramental oils have been postponed until a date yet to be determined, I have invited the priests to join me in renewing their priestly commitments at the same time on Monday of Holy Week at private Masses they are celebrating throughout the four counties of the Diocese.  Although their parish churches will be empty, without their congregations present, the priests have enthusiastically embraced my invitation.  

I have heard from so many priests over the past weeks how they deeply miss the opportunity to be present with their people, especially in these stressful days. Their feelings have inspired me greatly during the current pandemic, and this poignant gesture of unity and fraternity confirms what I have always witnessed in the Diocese of Trenton: Our priests love their priesthood, love their brother priests and love the people entrusted to their pastoral care.  

Although we cannot be physically in their presence for now, we are never spiritually distant.  Until we are together again in our parishes, we hope that the symbolism of this “renewal” will be a reminder to us all – priests and faithful – of the reason the diocesan and religious priests here in the Diocese of Trenton, in imitation of the Lord Jesus, have come to serve and not be served (Mark 10: 45).

Bishop O’Connell’s homily for the Monday Mass ended with a prayer: “Dear God, deliver us all, and strengthen our faith.  We see the Cross ahead of you on your journey and with you, ahead of us all.  Help us carry it together.  This is not ‘another time’ we simply remember.  It is ‘this time,’ ‘our time.’  We see the Cross.  Help us not forget that the tomb will be opened, the stone will be rolled back.  And your beautiful light will shine once more.”          

During this COVID-19 crisis and until further notice, Holy Communion can only be distributed to the faithful as Viaticum for the dying.