Masked, distanced priests take part in postponed chrism Mass

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – This year’s chrism Mass in the Diocese of Jackson did not take place during Holy Week as usual and instead was celebrated on June 17 with a crowd of socially distanced, masked priests from around the diocese.
The special Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter Jackson was rescheduled due to churches being closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a restriction that continued up until Pentecost on May 31.
“The chrism Mass is a ‘manifestation of the priests’ communion with their Bishop,’ so it is very important for clergy to participate in that Mass even if a congregation of any size may not be able to gather,” explained chancellor, Mary Woodward. “Though not technically close to Easter as we would have wanted, the Mass nonetheless had a great fraternal spirit with the clergy gathering albeit six feet apart in masks. Much care was given to keep the clergy safe and to maintain the integrity of the liturgy.”
Bishop Joseph Kopacz welcomed all clergy present and those watching the live stream presentation on Facebook under the “unusual circumstances of worship.”
The masked and socially distanced Diocesan priests, who joined Bishop Kopacz for the Mass renewed their priestly promises. Bishop Kopacz blessed them and blessed the holy oils to be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year.
The oil of the sick is blessed to bring the strengthening and healing power of Christ in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. The oil of catechumens is used at Baptism to purify candidates before baptizing with water. The sacred chrism is used to anoint individuals after baptism, seal those who are to be confirmed with the Holy Spirit, and in holy orders for priests on the hands and bishops on the head. It is also used to anoint altars and churches during their dedication.
During his homily, Bishop Kopacz reflected on the pandemic and how different congregations look now with “people looking back with masks on. Just seeing the eyes.” Even with masks, few congregants and being socially distanced, Bishop Kopacz said that, “it is our way of coming together in spite of all of the obstacles to say that we are the body of Christ.”
The faithful throughout the diocese were invited to take part in the livestreamed Chrism Mass through Facebook Live. After the Mass, priests received their oils and brought back to their parishes.