Main Site Navigation
Louise Rohrig has been going to the archdiocese’s annual chrism Mass since 1980.
The 73-year-old member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Osgood kept her streak intact by participating in this year’s Holy Week liturgy at which holy oils are blessed and priests renew their ordination promises.
“It’s so holy,” said Rohrig. “It’s beautiful. It’s good to connect with the archdiocese, and to see all the other parishes [represented] and all the priests and everybody come together.”
Rohrig was joined at the liturgy by approximately 1,000 people who packed the cathedral to worship with Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, Benedictine Archabbot Justin DuVall, some 130 priests and many deacons, seminarians, religious and representatives from the 151 parishes across central and southern Indiana.
But there was a special guest that made 2010’s chrism Mass stand out among the 30 that Rohrig has attended: Bishop Paul D. Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyo. (Related story: Bishop Etienne experiences joy in episcopal ministry in Wyoming)
Bishop Etienne, who was pastor of St. Paul Parish in his hometown of Tell City when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the shepherd of the Church in Wyoming last October, was invited to be the principal celebrant and homilist at this year’s archdiocesan chrism Mass.
At the start of the Mass, Archbishop Buechlein welcomed the special guest.
“Our local Church in central and southern Indiana rejoices at the ordination of Bishop Etienne, the eighth bishop of Cheyenne in Wyoming,” he said. “Tonight, we thank him for his 17 years of service to us as a priest. And we assure him of our prayers for his new ministry as bishop.”
Bishop Etienne, who was ordained a priest just a few months before Archbishop Buechlein began his ministry as shepherd of the archdiocese in 1992, thanked him and invited the congregation to show their gratitude for the archbishop as well, which they did with prolonged applause.
“For the last 17 years, I always looked with great excitement toward this chrism Mass, to come here to renew my priestly promises and to come here to be inspired by then my own archbishop,” Bishop Etienne said. “And I certainly felt that pressure to inspire the people of the Diocese of Cheyenne as we celebrated our chrism Mass on Thursday evening.”
The inspiration that Bishop Etienne sought to provide in his homily focused on the mission of the Church as proclaiming Jesus Christ and carrying on today the ministry he performed 2,000 years ago, a ministry which he handed on to his Apostles.
They did this, he said, through preaching, teaching, celebrating the sacraments, ministering to the sick and drawing others into friendship with Christ.
“All of this, my dear people, is safe-guarded, administered and shared with you today through these, your priests gathered here with us this sacred evening,” Bishop Etienne said.
Supporting priests was on the minds of many people attending the Mass that evening. Hospitality ministers wore pins that read, “We love our priests.”
Members of the Knights of Columbus hosted a meal for priests and seminarians at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center before the Mass.
Patty Squibb said supporting priests was why she drove nearly two hours to attend the liturgy from her home in Lawrenceburg, where she is a member of St. Lawrence Parish.
“I think it’s one way to support our priests,” she said. “It’s what it’s all about, from St. Peter on down.”
This was the first chrism Mass that Father John Hollowell participated in as a priest. Ordained last June, he expressed his admiration for the support shown to him by so many Catholics.
“To be affirmed by people from all corners of the archdiocese who have no idea who I am, but are just thankful for my priesthood, was very cool,” said Father Hollowell, the chaplain of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis and a sacramental minister at St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.
Bishop Etienne echoed Father Hollowell’s gratitude in his homily.
“I am sure I speak for all of your priests when I acknowledge how good you, the people of God, are to our priests,” he said. “Continue to love your priests. Support them and encourage them, and know of their gratitude for your many kindnesses. You are truly a blessing to the priests who serve you.”
But Bishop Etienne was also honest about how he and all priests, in the face of the great mission given to them by Christ, are conscious of their own inadequacy.
“It is far easier for me to be aware of my humanity, of my sinfulness, than it is to be aware of the sacramental truth and mystery and reality that I now stand in the midst of God’s people in the name and person of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Bishop Etienne said that it is ultimately Christ himself who is serving his people as priests celebrate the sacraments and minister in so many other ways.
“When the priest walks with you in times of sorrow, grief and distress, it is Christ who consoles and comforts you,” he said. “When the priest celebrates the milestones of life and the accomplishments of faith with you, it is Christ who smiles and rejoices with you.”
Paul and Kay Etienne, Bishop Etienne’s parents who are members of St. Paul Parish in Tell City, have shared many of those moments with their son.
They were at the chrism Mass, sitting in the front row.
“It was awesome,” said Paul Etienne. “This cathedral is so lovely. And this kind of service is the Church at its highest glory, with all of the frills. It was just great.”
“I’m praying really, really hard that I’m not too proud because my kids are really doing God’s work,” said Kay Etienne. “Nobody’s more in awe than we are.”
Further back in the congregation were other people who have known the ministry of Christ through the service of Bishop Etienne.
Chris Flanagan and his family drove some two hours to the cathedral from their home in New Albany, where they are members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, a faith community once led by Bishop Etienne.
“It was really great that the whole archdiocese gets together,” Flanagan said. “It’s like a homecoming for us, especially a homecoming, too, to have Bishop Paul back. It was really, really special for us. It was a great time to acknowledge him and what’s done for the archdiocese.” †