The Chrism Mass on Monday, March 21, 2016 at SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, AZ. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted pours holy oils during the Chrism Mass at SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral March 21. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

Priests, deacons, religious and laity from across the diocese packed into Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral March 21 for the annual Chrism Mass.

Each year, the bilingual liturgy draws hundreds to witness the blessing of the oils that will be used in the Church’s sacramental celebrations such as Confirmation, Ordination, Anointing of the Sick and Baptism.

Several days before the cathedral fills up with the faithful, Fr. Kieran Kleczewski, director of the diocesan Office of Worship, mixes the large containers of olive oil and fragrance that make up the sacred oils.

The Oil of the Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and Holy Chrism are then brought forward in procession at the offertory of the Mass to be blessed by the bishop and later distributed to individual parishes.

The Mass is also the occasion on which priests renew their vows of priestly service.

Just before standing to do so in the incense-filled cathedral, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix called on them to embrace their roles as missionaries of mercy, imitating the example of St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests.

The 19th-century French saint is renowned for his fervent devotion to the Eucharist and the countless hours he spent in the confessional, drawing many souls to Christ through the sacrament of penance. St. John Vianney, Bishop Olmsted said, “faced a crisis of this sacrament more serious than what we face in America. He faced the crisis by deepening his personal closeness to Jesus and by giving attention first to preaching and the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice.”

Urging his brother priests to “give generously” of their time in order to be “missionaries of mercy like St. John Vianney,” Bishop Olmsted noted that, “a priest is most truly himself when he brings people close to the source of mercy, in other words, when he brings them to Jesus.”

Dcn. David Loeffler, who, God-willing, will be ordained to the priesthood this summer, served on the altar at the Mass. He said he enjoys seeing the wide-ranging mixture of clergy and laity, young and old and religious at the annual celebration. As he watched Bishop Olmsted bless the oils, his mind turned to the impending ordination.

“It definitely occurred to me, paying attention to the prayer that he prays over the oil and then thinking that, God willing, that oil’s going to be on me pretty soon. That’s pretty striking to say the least,” Dcn. Loeffler said.

Fr. Hans Ruygt, pastor of St. Clare Parish in Surprise, said that to him, the Chrism Mass is a “sign of the unity of the Church and especially the presbyterate.” The moment in which he renewed his priestly promises was a highlight, too.

“It’s a powerful opportunity to renew my priestly commitment and to remember why I was ordained and to ask God for the grace and the blessing to be able to continue to share the sacraments, expressed partially through the oils that were blessed,” Fr. Ruygt said.