“Beloved sons … are you resolved to renew in the presence of your bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?” asked Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted as the more than 100 priests standing in the pews of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral before him listened, then each answered in unison, “I am.”
Every year, the priests of the diocese express their unity with the bishop and reaffirm their sacred promises recited at ordination at the annual Chrism Mass.
During the April 15 liturgy, originally held Holy Thursday but moved up in many dioceses throughout the United States to earlier in Holy Week, the bishop blesses the holy chrism oil.
Bishop Olmsted stood behind the altar and faced the congregation, then bent over and breathed into a glass container filled with the oil — an act symbolizing both the infusion of the Holy Spirit to consecrate the oil and the life-giving, sanctifying nature of the sacraments for which it is used: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, as well as the dedication ceremony of a church.
The mixture of olive oil and balsam was blessed, along with two other oils that will be used at diocesan churches throughout the year. Also blessed were the Oil of the Infirm, used in the Anointing of the Sick, and the Oil of Catechumens, applied in Baptism. Following the Mass, the blessed oils were distributed to churches throughout the diocese.
This year, the diocese’s 50th anniversary, Bishop Olmsted urged the priests to reaffirm their vows “with even greater love for Christ and an even deeper awareness of our total dependence on His mercy.”
He emphasized the emergence of a new set of clerical scandals that rocked the Catholic Church over the past year.
“After the scandal … which has been so painful and so disturbing for us, all our people [laity] have a right to hear from us priests and bishops a public restatement of the commitment we made on the day of our ordination,” he said in his homily.
He also urged the priests to use their bonds as brothers in the cause for Christ and His eternal kingdom to build one another up, especially in times of testing.
“The community created by the Sacrament of Holy Orders provides a setting second to none for growing in holiness and sealing the support (of one another) in times of difficulty,” Bishop Olmsted continued.
Priests and deacons felt the encouragement from the Bishop and his words.
“There is a sense of fellowship. It’s a good reminder of why we serve, and, at the same time, it really strengthens us, having us come together,” observed Fr. Rolyn Francisco, pastor at Christ the King Parish in Mesa.
“Today, we need to share the truth and how the devil is always attacking. Right now, he thinks he’s winning. But Christ is triumphant. He has won it all, and we have to be faithful,” smiled Fr. David Kelash, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Cottonwood. Fr. Kelash and about 10 parishioners, made the roughly 90-minute, 100-mile trip from Yavapai County north of the Valley.
The reaffirmation of vows as well as the blessing of the oils were part of a two-hour liturgy, launched in an opening procession led by members of the Knights of Columbus and the Order of Malta. Throughout the Mass, when music was called for, the voices of the choir seemed to float from the loft softly downward upon worshippers.
Maggie Mazanowski, a parishioner in her 20s from St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix, was anticipating a moving two hours as she entered the cathedral for her first Chrism Mass.
“I just wanted to experience the beauty and the atmosphere, especially the blessing of the holy oils, to see and hear it,” she said.