Bishop O'Connell preaches his homily during the April 3 Chrism Mass.
Bishop O'Connell preaches his homily during the April 3 Chrism Mass.
Ancient rituals. Dramatic symbols of unity and grace. Priests gathered from across the Diocese, recommitting themselves to their life’s ministry. A bishop, whose words and actions both teach and bless.

These are but some of the elements that defined the annual Chrism Mass -- one of the most solemn and significant liturgies in the Church year -- which unfolds during Holy Week in dioceses around the world.


PHOTO GALLERY: Chrism Mass Dinner

More than 1,000 members of the diocesan family -- including hundreds of priests and deacons, and representatives from 97 parishes – filled St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral in Freehold to capacity the evening of April 3.  Hundreds more of the faithful watched the Mass via livestream from their homes across Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Parishioners who traveled to the Co-Cathedral witnessed the beauty and tradition of the two-hour long Mass, listening intently to the homily delivered by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and watching with rapt attention as he blessed the holy oils to be used in the sacramental ministry of priests and deacons in Catholic churches throughout the coming year.

The congregation also expressed appreciation when all of the priests stood before Bishop O’Connell to renew the promises they made at Ordination and recommit themselves to their priestly vocation in service to God’s people in the Diocese.

‘Ministers of Truth’

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell explained that he blesses the Oil of Catechumens that is used to initiate the people into God’s Church and the Oil of the Sick that is used to comfort those who suffer on their path to God. The Bishop noted that he consecrates the Sacred Chrism which is used to baptize, confirm, ordain and to “make places of worship holy” as in the consecration of church altars.

During 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.

Bishop O’Connell also used his homily to remind the faithful that as Catholic Christians they must be rooted in the truth of Christ:

“My sisters and brothers, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who made us his Church, a community of believers, re-born in water, confirmed in the Spirit, nourished by his Body and Blood, anointed to serve him in one another, consecrated in truth.

“. . . the Christian must learn the truth, believe the truth, share the truth, live the truth – not as the world or society suggest but as Christ and his Church say.”

Turning to the priests, Bishop O’Connell said, “The Chrism Mass highlights the ministry of the bishop and your sacramental union with him from whose hands and by whose anointing you have received your ministry as priests.

“For reasons known only to Christ and his Vicar on earth, I am your Bishop,” he said. “Every day, I am more humbled by the mystery and ministry that Christ has given me in and for his Church, for you. And with similar humility and mystery, you stand with me at this time, in the midst of God’s people as his ministers, ministers of his truth.

“That is what we have been anointed to do because that is who and what we have been anointed to be: ministers of truth,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Those among us ordained and anointed with Sacred Chrism as priests bear living witness to the truth in our midst, Jesus Christ. The Oil of Chrism once traced on your hands by me or those who came before me can never really dry, can never grow old, can never wear away,” he said.

“Let it be a renewal in the truth that is Jesus Christ and a renewal that is a public witness to all who surround us in faith of the truth of our call to serve and not to be served.”

Enlightening Experience

Bob Morris, youth minister in St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, accompanied a group of 25 young people to the Chrism Mass. Noting that the youth are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the fall, he said he was happy that they could witness the Bishop consecrating the Sacred Chrism that will be used when they are confirmed.

“It’s a beautiful Mass, he said, “and to see the priests together, renewing their promises. It’s very emotional and moving.”

Youth group member and eighth grade student Elizabeth summed her thoughts about the Chrism Mass in two words – “so cool.”

“I was really excited to come today, I had never been to a Chrism Mass,” Elizabeth said, noting that she was happy to learn where the name ‘Chrism’ comes from and about the different oils that are used in the celebration of Sacraments.

“This was so cool,” she said.

Youth group member Lucy found it moving to see the many priests and deacons in attendance and praying together. She is also happy to have a better understanding about the holy oils.

“I’m glad I came,” said Lucy, who is also a freshman in St. Rose High School, Belmar. I learned a lot.”

Karen Sheppard of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, said the Bishop’s speaking about truth in his homily “really spoke to my heart.

“The only place you will find truth is right here, in our Catholic faith, in Jesus,” Sheppard said. “The world is a very scary place and is trying to mislead us. I felt the Holy Spirit already working on me to focus on this and to always apply this to my life, to remember it, to live it.

“I would encourage anyone who has never been to a Chrism Mass to try to attend,” Sheppard added. “It is so beautiful. It’s the perfect way to start Holy Week and prepare for the Resurrection of our Lord.”