Shown are the holy oils that are used in parishes throughout the liturgical year. During the Chrism Mass, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, and he also consecrated the Sacred Chrism.
Shown are the holy oils that are used in parishes throughout the liturgical year. During the Chrism Mass, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, and he also consecrated the Sacred Chrism.
Each year, the Monday of Holy Week in the Church of Trenton is an especially graced time for members of the diocesan family as they gather for the annual Chrism Mass, an event filled with splendor, rich symbolism and tradition.

Throughout the universal Church, the Chrism Mass is a time that highlights the unity and sacramental life of every diocese. However, as Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., observed, it is also the occasion when priests renew their priestly promises and recommit themselves to their vocation in service to God’s people.

Click here to read the Bishop's homily for the 2022 Chrism Mass.

Click here to view photo gallery from the 2022 Chrism Mass.

Gathered in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, April 11, hundreds of lay persons, religious, priests and deacons joined Bishop O’Connell for the annual Mass regarded as one of the most solemn and significant liturgies in the Church year. Since pandemic restrictions have been eased, many of the most poignant and inspiring aspects of the Mass were restored, from the long opening procession including hundreds of priests, to the musical liturgy from the Diocesan Festival Choir and the presence of the laity.

Giving a brief explanation of the Chrism Mass, Bishop O’Connell said, “With all the priests serving in the local diocese present before their bishop, they renew their fidelity and loyalty to him and to Jesus Christ. The bishop, in turn, asks for the support of their prayers. For the bishop, these moments together are profoundly humbling.”

In addition to the priests renewing their priestly promises, the Chrism Mass is also when Bishop O’Connell blesses the holy oils to be used in the sacramental ministry of priests and deacons in parishes and missions throughout the coming year. The Bishop blesses the Oil of Catechumens and Oil of the Sick, and he consecrates the Sacred Chrism, which is used for the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation as well as the Ordination of priests and bishops and consecration of churches and altars.

Steeped in Tradition

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell traced the historical roots of the Chrism Mass to the second century when the bishop blessed sacramental oils and consecrated sacramental Chrism during the Easter Vigil. By the fifth century, this ritual was transferred to Holy Thursday in a morning Mass separate from the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper due to the large crowds that gathered and the Church’s desire to commemorate the institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper. Eleven centuries later, Pope Paul VI established the ceremony now known as the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, Bishop O’Connell said.

At the Presentation of the Gifts, representatives from various parishes brought forth vessels containing the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and the Sacred Chrism to the sanctuary where they were to be blessed by Bishop O’Connell later during the Mass. Parish delegates then carried the blessed oils and chrism back to their faith communities to be used in sacramental rites throughout the year.

A Priestly Brotherhood

As the Chrism Mass highlights the role and responsibilities of ordained priests in relationship to their bishop – amid all the clergy, religious and faithful of the Diocese – Bishop O’Connell took the opportunity to focus on the words, hands and heart of a priest.

Priestly ordination, the Bishop said, “places on your lips the Word of God.

“When you speak, when you preach, when you teach, when you give counsel as priests, the faithful listen to God’s voice,” he said. “What an awesome language God has given you! What a sacred trust God has placed in you.

“My brothers, your words matter,” the Bishop asserted. “And not only what you say but how you say it, oftentimes your manner can be more instructive. Be thoughtful when you speak. Be careful when you speak. And be faithful in your words to truth.”

During the Rite of Ordination, the hands of a priest are anointed with the Oil of Chrism, “the same Chrism we consecrate tonight,” the Bishop said.

“Your hands were and remain anointed, to sanctify, to offer sacrifice,” he said. “Your hands are anointed with oil as both an instrument and a symbol. My brothers, your anointed hands have been consecrated. Use them carefully and only for what is good.”

The heart of a priest, Bishop O’Connell said, “gives the truest meaning to the words he speaks and how he speaks them.

“The heart of the priest gives the truest purpose and direction to his anointed hands and how he uses them. The heart of the priest gives the truest love to those for whom he was ordained and how he serves them – always.”

Meaningful Experiences

At the end of the Mass, clergy, as well as the faithful, were eager to share thoughts on what it meant for them to participate in the 2022 Chrism Mass. One priest, Father Eugene Savarimuthu, exuded joy as he noted the day marked the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

“It’s awesome that I was able to renew my vows with my brother priests,” said Father Savarimuthu, as he thought back to April 11, 1997, when he was ordained a priest in India. Father Savarimuthu is now a diocesan priest and serves as a military reserve chaplain while also assisting in several Monmouth County parishes – St. Leo the Great, Lincroft; St. Mary, Colts Neck; St. Gabriel, Marlboro, and St. Catharine, Holmdel.

Father Jim Grogan, pastor of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, echoed similar sentiments about the Chrism Mass, saying that “it’s a tender moment as a priest to be able to promise that obedience to the Bishop,” he said. Father Grogan added that the Chrism Mass is “such a unique liturgy and it really speaks to the scale of our Church even in the Diocese of Trenton.  We think of the parish as the center of the Church life. This is one of those events where we actually get to understand what it means to be part of a bigger diocese. It’s bigger than our parish. It’s so visible.”

For anyone who has yet to attend the Chrism Mass, Father Grogan urges them to “mark your calendars, next year, the Monday of Holy Week is when the Bishop celebrates.  [The Chrism Mass] is a remarkable thing.”

Ann Ervin of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, said she has been drawn to attend the Chrism Mass for the past couple of years even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

“It’s a part of our faith that not enough people take advantage of,” Ervin said. “But it is an absolutely beautiful presentation of our faith by the priests and the Bishop. “

Having the privilege to carry the Oil of the Sick, Ashley Albro, a registered nurse and member of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, said that during the Procession of Oils she thought about all of her patients and all the nurses who care for them, especially their prayers and petitions.

“It’ an amazing way to celebrate the beginning of Holy Week and to really concentrate on what the week means, Albro said. “Anything is possible in these days and that is driven through the Passion.”

As seminarian Kevin Hrycenko prepares to be ordained a transitional deacon May 21, he thought about the way the Chrism Mass brings all of the priests and seminarians of the Diocese together with the Bishop.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” said Hrycenko, who attends Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md.

“All priests are brothers with each other and having them together reaffirms to us seminarians that we are joining something that’s going to be really great. It’s a true fraternity and to witness that is truly special and enriching for us who want to be priests.”