Bishop O'Connell preaches on oil, service, priesthood during Chrism Mass in Freehold
By Rose O'Connor | Correspondent
A warm sense of community resonated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral March 26 as more than 1,100 faithful from throughout the Diocese – priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and lay women and men – joined Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for the annual Chrism Mass.
To the soaring sounds of the Diocesan Festival Choir, shepherds from all four counties processed into the Freehold church ahead of the Bishop as their congregants looked on with supportive smiles, some standing on tiptoes to get the best view possible.
“It’s nice to see these men living out their vocations,” said Ed Connelly of St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, one of many parishioners filling the pews or standing along the nave to show support for vocations.
Photo Gallery: Bishop celebrates Chrism Mass
Traditionally celebrated on the Monday of Holy Week in the Diocese of Trenton, the Chrism Mass reflects the communion of priests with their bishop. During the Mass, the priests of the Diocese who are gathered publicly renew their commitment to their service. The Mass is also when the Bishop blesses the oils to be used in parishes throughout the coming year. The Bishop blesses the Oil of the Sick, which brings comfort to the ill, and the Oil of Catechumens, which is used in the preparation of catechumens for their Baptism.
The Bishop also consecrates the Sacred Chrism, which is used to anoint the newly baptized, seal candidates for Confirmation, anoint the hands of priests and the heads of bishops at their ordination as well as in the rites of anointing during the dedication of churches and altars.
“It is, indeed, a most special night for our Diocese. Oil. Service. Priesthood,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily.
Watch the replay of the Chrism Mass livestream video
“I ‘bless’ holy oils because they are used to give sacramental grace to the people anointed with them. I ‘consecrate’ chrism because chrism consecrates an entire person or structure to God. For the priest and deacon, these three oils are, in a sense, ‘tools of our trade.’ For those anointed, they are channels of God’s grace.”
He also spoke of service, especially in reference to the vocation of the priesthood.
The Bishop continued by speaking of service, explaining how the power of God’s creative Spirit leads people, especially priests, to serve God. “As this service was Christ’s mission … it is ours as well, especially those among us who act ‘in persona Christi.’”
Speaking on the priesthood, he invited the congregation to listen to his words to his fellow brothers.
“Recall the deepest thoughts and feelings that were present in your soul when the bishop laid hands on your heads and anointed your hands with chrism. … What kind of priest did you hope to be then? What kind of priest have you become now? What kind of priest do you hope to remain until the day you die?… This evening, renew your priesthood; renew your commitment; renew your hearts.”
Following his homily, Bishop O’Connell invited the priests to renew their personal dedication to Christ. He also acknowledged those seminarians from the Diocese who have been called to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders this spring. The Bishop announced that Christopher Pinto will be ordained a deacon and that Deacons Christopher Dayton, Michael DeSaye, James Smith and Brother Patrick Dolan will be ordained to the priesthood in June.
The oils were blessed and the holy chrism was consecrated after all were presented to the Bishop. The Holy Chrism was presented by the four transitional deacons, the Oil of the Sick by members of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, and the Oil of Catechumens by elect from St. Aloysius Parish.
Prior to the final blessing, Bishop O’Connell thanked all those who helped organize the Mass, including the Diocesan Festival choir and its director, Shawn Mack; his brother priests and deacons, and the seminarians – “20 strong from the Diocese of Trenton.”
“We need these workers in the vineyard,” Bishop O’Connell said, asking the faithful to pray for vocations.
St. John the Baptist parishioner Josie Clark was present to do just that, explaining that one of the reasons she attended the Chrism Mass was for Father Brian Woodrow, pastor of the Allentown parish.
“I wanted to show him my support and support his ministry,” she said.
Father Dave Swantek, pastor in St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, said such signs of support contribute to the joyfulness of the celebration.
“We’re part of a brotherhood,” he said. “We are all so busy doing the Lord’s work, and it’s great to come back together. There’s a great fraternity in Christ.”[[In-content Ad]]