April 13, 2012

Catholics from across archdiocese participate in annual chrism Mass

Oils blessed and priests renew vows

Deacon Steven Gretencord, who ministers at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Terre Haute, gives blessed oils to Donna Dick-Hollingsworth, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Clinton, during the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass celebrated on April 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Deacon Steven Gretencord, who ministers at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Terre Haute, gives blessed oils to Donna Dick-Hollingsworth, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Clinton, during the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass celebrated on April 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher) Click for a larger version.

By Sean Gallagher

“I am so proud to be Catholic. … The rewards are so great. God provides everything for me.”

Donna Dick-Hollingsworth’s voice was filled with excitement as she made her way into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral on April 3 for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ annual chrism Mass.

A member of Sacred Heart Parish in Clinton in the Terre Haute Deanery, Dick-Hollingsworth began attending the chrism Mass in 1975 and hasn’t missed one since.

Celebrated annually during Holy Week, the chrism Mass is the occasion when holy oils used in the sacraments are blessed and priests ministering in the archdiocese renew their ordination promises.

Representatives from parishes and religious communities across central and southern Indiana receive the oils during the Mass then take them back to their faith communities.

Ordinarily, the archbishop of Indianapolis blesses the oils. But since Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein last September, Catholics in the archdiocese have been awaiting the appointment of a new shepherd.

“The chair of the archbishop is empty now, but the unity of faith and worship that it symbolizes still remains,” said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator, in his homily during the chrism Mass. “We continue to pray for the health and well-being of Archbishop Emeritus Daniel Buechlein, and we offer thanks for his more than 19 years of service to our archdiocese.

“We also pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, as he continues to discern who will be named our next archbishop.”

(Related: Photo gallery from the Mass | Listen to Bishop Coyne's homily)

Pearl Gelarden joined Bishop Coyne in that prayer. A member of St. Boniface Parish in Fulda, a few miles south of Archbishop Emeritus Buechlein’s home at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Gelarden made the three-hour drive to Indianapolis to receive blessed oils for her faith community.

“Something was missing,” said Gelarden after the Mass, regarding the empty cathedra. “We pray for the day that we get an archbishop.”

Jeanette Kannapel, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, received the oils for her parish. She said that she prays every day for a new archbishop, and hopes that he will be a man of prayer like Archbishop Emeritus Buechlein and her former pastor, Bishop Paul D. Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyo.

“I’m waiting very anxiously to have that announcement made,” Kannapel said. “We’re all very interested in who our new archbishop will be.”

While the absence of an archbishop was on Kannapel’s mind, she was also happy to be at the cathedral for the chrism Mass.

“I love this experience,” she said. “I think every Catholic should witness the chrism Mass sometime in their lifetime. You see how very special the oils are in the entire sacramental life.”

In his homily, Bishop Coyne reflected on the importance of the anointing that Catholics across central and southern Indiana will receive through the oils in baptism, confirmation and holy orders.

“The act of anointing calls us forth in power to serve the Church’s salvific mission,” he said. “In the Church, the believer is anointed with the chrism and is named a Christian, an anointed one, one with Christ. By our baptism and confirmation, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to the ministry of the Church and the proclamation of the Good News of salvation.”

Bishop Coyne also spoke to the approximately 120 priests present at the Mass who, after the homily, renewed their ordination promises.

He invited them to “serve the Church in its unity and in its fullness.

“We are ordained to be the servants of the Church’s liturgy,” Bishop Coyne said. “When the people of God walk through the doors of our churches, they are entitled to the Church’s liturgy.

“We are ordained to speak the truth of the Church’s teaching, no matter how difficult it is at times. How much more effective will our preaching and teaching be if we consistently do so within the unity of the Church’s teaching?”

Bishop Coyne also encouraged his fellow priests to “preach and act with humble and loving hearts.

“To have Christ’s loving heart within us,” he said, “is to seek to see each person we encounter as loved by God, as a child of God, as brother and sister onto ourselves … ”

Ordained in 1958, Father Francis Eckstein hasn’t missed a chrism Mass in his more than half century of priestly life and ministry. For him, it never gets old.

“Every year, it gets more emotional [for me],” he said after the chrism Mass. “It gets more meaningful to know that you can renew your promises for another year. It’s very impressive for me.”

Two days after he renewed his ordination promises for the 53rd time, Father Eckstein put his words into action on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of several members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Milan and St. Pius Parish in Ripley County, two Batesville Deanery faith communities where he continues to minister during his retirement.

“The washing of the feet translates for me as another year of serving [through] ministering to the sick, visiting people in the hospital and in nursing homes,” Father Eckstein said.

Transitional Deacon Jerry Byrd assisted at the chrism Mass. He looks forward to making ordination promises on June 2 when he is scheduled to be ordained a priest.

The anointing that he will receive on his hands that day was on his mind as Bishop Coyne blessed the chrism oil during the chrism Mass.

“I was really humbled to be the one standing there next to it, watching all that happen,” Deacon Byrd said. “It’s a lot to take in. The excitement kind of welled up a little bit more for me.” †

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