By Mary Woodward
If you have ever participated in the annual Chrism Mass at St. Peter Cathedral then you have seen how your Catholic Service Appeal donations assist the ministry of the diocesan office of worship.
The Chrism Mass or Mass of the Oils is a concrete example of how your sharing of your gifts builds up the prayer life of our diocesan Catholic family. Celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz on Tuesday of Holy Week (this
year on March 31), the Chrism Mass brings together the priests in the diocese, lay ecclesial ministers, representatives from the parishes and missions and our diocesan seminarians.
Preparation for the Mass begins weeks before with worship office staff members, yours truly as director, and Sue Anne Booth, coordinator of the oil team, counting bottles, bottle caps and boxes to make sure there are enough for the 100 units of three bottles per box. Booth coordinates a team of a dozen volunteers who mete out the blessed oils of the sick and catechumens and consecrated chrism into 300 individual bottles – all during the Mass so the representatives can take them back to their parishes at the end of the liturgy. She recently took over leadership of the team from long time coordinator, Lucy Lovertich, member of Pearl St. Jude Parish.
The volunteers are a great gift to our diocese as they are tasked with the important job of making sure each parish has its oils for the next year. These oils are used in baptisms, anointing of the sick, confirmations, ordinations and consecrations of new altars. The volunteers provide an essential service to our diocese and many have done this for years. We are very grateful for them.
Catholic Service Appeal gifts help the diocese purchase the materials for the Chrism Mass including 20 liters of extra virgin olive oil as well as boxes and labels to hold one bottle each of oil of catechumens, oil of the sick and sacred chrism. It may seem rather mundane but these material goods actually become sacred objects once the oils are blessed and consecrated.
The Chrism Mass begins with a beautiful procession led by incense and metered out to the majestic tempo of the Cathedral organ played by music director James Scoggins. Following the incense comes the processional cross leading in our diocesan seminarians who serve at the Mass. Next comes the Book of the Gospel carried by the deacon. Our priests follow, walking two-by-two as the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
The bishop, vested in the symbols of his office – miter, crosier, ring and pectoral cross – culminates the procession as it approaches the cathedral’s altar.
After his homily the bishop asks the priests to stand and renew their promises of service and fidelity made at their ordination. The Chrism Mass is one of the fullest signs of the church’s unity as the bishop is surrounded by his priests who are an extension of his ministry in the parishes and they are surrounded by the gathered assembly as the Body of Christ.
The oils are then carried in by individuals who are associated with the use of that particular oil. Normally a member of the St. Dominic pastoral ministry team brings in the oil of the sick. A member of the Elect who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil carries in the oil of catechumens. The oil that will be consecrated as Sacred Chrism is brought up by a seminarian who will be ordained in the upcoming year. The oil for chrism is accompanied by its “essence” which is a perfume poured into the oil.
Bishop Kopacz blesses the oils of sick and catechumens and consecrates the chrism using ancient prayers of the church. Each oil is processed out for distribution into the bottles and boxes. Following the prayer after Communion, the oils are given to representatives of each parish while the litany of the saints is sung.
The representatives then bring the oils back to their parishes for reception at the Mass for the Institution of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Many parishes display them in the church in an appropriate location so they may be seen and accessed for sacraments in the parish.
Your gifts through the Catholic Service Appeal provide some very necessary items for the beautiful celebration of the Chrism Mass.
Moreover, your gifts also help the diocesan worship office provide resources throughout the year for pastors, lay ecclesial ministers and liturgical ministers in parishes, including workshops for lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, answering questions about the bishop’s visit to parishes and helping plan special celebrations such as anniversaries and confirmations.
The diocesan office of worship coordinates all diocesan liturgies at which the bishop is the celebrant and we assist seminarians in planning their ordination liturgies. This year two of our seminarians, Jason Johnston and Joseph Le, will be ordained to the diaconate in separate celebrations.
We appreciate all of your gifts and we put them to good use as we strive to grow and build the prayer life of our diocesan church family. We are all connected to one another through the liturgy. The liturgy is what makes us who we are and what leads us along the path to salvation.
In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, the Church Fathers write:
“… every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.” (SC#7)
Our diocesan worship office works hand in hand with liturgical ministers throughout our diocese to make this vision a reality. Your Catholic Service Appeal gifts are vital to this mission.
(Mary Woodward is the Chancellor for the Diocese of Jackson and the head of the Office of Worship and Liturgy.)
By Mary Woodward