Chrism Mass Celebrates Gift of the Priesthood, Bishop Blesses Holy Oils for Sacramental Ministry

The priests of a Catholic diocese – men who dedicate their lives to serving God and to ministering to the faithful in their times of joy and in their times of need – are among its greatest assets.

It is at the Chrism Mass, celebrated each year on the Wednesday of Holy Week, where that fact is heartily acknowledged.

“We come together to give thanks for the gift of the Priesthood in our Church,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert at the Mass, at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown on March 27. “At this Mass, the priests are the guests of honor.”

The Chrism Mass takes it name from the Sacred Chrism, one of the holy oils priests use in their sacramental ministry. The Mass is a beautiful and solemn rite in which priests renew their commitment to priestly service. It is typically the largest gathering of priests all year.

Also at the Mass, the Bishop blesses the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, and he consecrates the Sacred Chrism, used for the Sacraments of Ordination and Confirmation, and for the consecration of altars and the blessing of churches. The Bishop adds balsam to scent the Chrism, then breathes on the vessel to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate it.

After the Mass, priests receive portions of the newly blessed oils for use at their parishes, and they bury or burn any leftover oil from last year.

The more than 100 priests – diocesan and religious, young and old, experienced and new on the job, born in local towns and in countries around the world – filled many rows in the Cathedral. Collectively, they have more than 2,000 years of service to the Diocese.

They were joined by deacons, seminarians, consecrated religious, and candidates for the permanent diaconate, and were escorted by members of the Knights of Columbus and by Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

The rest of the cathedral – its statues and sacred images veiled as a symbol of preparation for Easter – was packed with the faithful, including students representing the various diocesan high schools.

In his homily, Bishop Schlert addressed priestly fraternity, the support and care each priest provides for his fellow priests.

“My brothers, I thank you for the fraternity, for the steadfastness of your faith, and for the orthodoxy with which you present the Church’s teachings,” he said. “We are so blessed to have you.”

During the Mass, priest jubilarians – those celebrating a milestone anniversary of Ordination – were acknowledged. They are:

2024 Priest Jubilarians

70th Anniversary – Class of 1954: Very Rev. Luke Anderson, O.Cist.

65th Anniversary – Class of 1959: Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Coll; Rev. Harold F. Dagle; Rev. Vincent Freeh, M.S.C.; Rev. Joseph A. Sheehan; Rev. Leon Weisenberger, M.S.C.

60th Anniversary – Class of 1964: Rev. Thomas Burns, M.S.C.; Rev. Msgr. William E. Handges; Rev. Robert J. Potts; Rev. Msgr. Edward R. Sacks.

55th Anniversary – Class of 1969: Rev. Joseph P. Becker, O.S.F.S.

25th Anniversary – Class of 1999: Rev. Douglas C. Burns, O.S.F.S.

10th Anniversary – Class of 2014: Rev. James M. Harper; Rev. Daniel E. Kravatz Jr.; Rev. Mark R. Searles.

In addition, those gathered remembered priests and deacons who have died in the past year: Most Rev. Bishop Edward P. Cullen, Rev. Charles J. Dene, Rev. John J.L. Little, Rev. James J. Lofton, Rev. Msgr. David J. Morrison, Rev. Msgr. John P. Murphy, Monsignor Dennis A. Rigney, Rev. William N. Seifert, Rev. George R. Winne, Deacon Joseph H. Bogusky, Deacon Jose Gonzalez, Deacon John E. Quirk, and Deacon Kenneth L. Weiland.

Photos by Norm Steinruck.


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