April 5, 2013

Oils blessed and priestly promises renewed at chrism Mass

Rachel Worden, a young adult member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, receives her faith community’s holy oils from transitional Deacon John Kamwendo during the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass celebrated on March 26 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Rachel Worden, a young adult member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, receives her faith community’s holy oils from transitional Deacon John Kamwendo during the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass celebrated on March 26 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

The 147 parishes of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis are spread out across 39 counties and more than 13,000 square miles in central and southern Indiana.

Yet all of that distance spiritually disappeared in a special way on March 26 during the archdiocese’s annual chrism Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Lay representatives from most of the parishes, some 120 priests and members of religious communities ministering in the archdiocese and scores of deacons came together to worship with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin at the annual Holy Week liturgy. (See a photo gallery from the Mass)

It was his first time celebrating the archdiocese’s chrism Mass since being installed as shepherd of the Church in central and southern Indiana last December.

During the liturgy, Archbishop Tobin blessed holy oils to be used in various sacraments and led the priests attending in renewing the promises they made at their ordination.

“My brothers and sisters, it is a real delight to welcome you to this unique celebration of the unity of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” Archbishop Tobin said. “We reflect in our assembly the richness of the Church and the joy of our vocation. The oil of gladness is poured out on us.” (Listen to the archbishop's homily)

In comments after the Mass, Archbishop Tobin likened this first occasion to celebrate a chrism Mass in the archdiocese to “going to a restaurant where you have good food and nice music and then eating with your family.

“To me, the chrism Mass … meant celebrating the Eucharist in close union with the presbyterate, which was gathered around the altar and with the faithful,” Archbishop Tobin said. “Even though I’ve only been here a short time, I have a real family feeling for the archdiocese.”

Deacon Rick Cooper attended the chrism Mass from St. Mary Parish in Lanesville. He was amazed by how many people from so many places came together for the liturgy.

“But it is still our Church, here in one place celebrating this joyous Mass,” he said.

As a member of St. Patrick Parish in Indianapolis, Myra Lopez, 22, only had to drive a short distance. But in another way, she came from very far.

She and her family immigrated to Indianapolis when she was 11. Now she is studying at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis to become a teacher. At the chrism Mass, she proclaimed the first reading in Spanish.

She and her family who attended the Mass appreciate how Archbishop Tobin values the Latinos in the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“We are very blessed to have him,” said Lopez. “It feels good that he is very into our culture. He wants to help us, and is interested in learning more about culture. He’s willing to help us to become part of the traditions of the American culture.”

Pam Deveary considers attending the chrism Mass a gift she gives to herself every Holy Week. The music director of Prince of Peace Parish in Madison, Deveary received the blessed oils for her parish.

“I get to listen to the music. It’s always wonderful. I get to see all of the priests come in and make their renewal of vows, which is always a very moving thing. It’s uplifting—and I’m not responsible for any of it,” said Deveary with a laugh before the Mass.

Benedictine Sister Antoinette Purcell, a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, also attended the Mass and has participated in it annually for years.

“It’s a celebration of the whole Church,” she said. “It’s a delight to be able to share in that.”

In his homily, Archbishop Tobin reflected on the meaning of the three oils—the oils of catechumens, the sick and holy chrism—that are blessed in the liturgy.

The oil of catechumens is used to anoint individuals before they are baptized. They are people, Archbishop Tobin said, who are searching for God. He encouraged those among his listeners who were already baptized to remain spiritually catechumens, always seeking after God.

“We might ask ourselves whether we remain truly restless for God,” he asked the congregation. “Have we been perhaps a bit resigned to keeping him in a box? Or do we seek simply to be self-sufficient, our own people?

“I don’t think we should let our humanity be diminished in this way because to try and live without God finally is inhuman. Let us remain constantly on a journey toward him, longing for him, always open to receive new knowledge and new love.”

In speaking about the oil of the sick, Archbishop Tobin said that healing is a vital part of the Church’s ministry, but that “the first and fundamental healing takes place in our encounter with Christ who reconciles us to God and mends our broken hearts.”

He also thanked the many religious and lay Catholics in the archdiocese “who bring healing and love to the sick, who comfort the aged, irrespective of their race or creed.”

In reflecting on holy chrism, Archbishop Tobin reminded his listeners that while this oil is used in conferring holy orders on priests and bishops, all of the baptized share in a common priesthood and are thus commissioned to make God known to the wider world.

“Are we truly God’s shrine in central and southern Indiana?” Archbishop Tobin asked. “Do we open up the pathway to God for others or, rather, do we conceal it? Have we allowed our faith to be so privatized as to be practically unrecognizable? A bell is not a bell unless it is ringing. And light for the world is not light unless it is seen.”

After his homily, Archbishop Tobin led the priests present in renewing their ordination promises.

Watching the priests during that moment was transitional Deacon John Kamwendo, who is scheduled to be ordained a priest on May 18 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

“It was so moving and so inspiring to see that,” said Deacon Kamwendo, a native of Tanzania and member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington. “I reflected that that is where I’m heading to. I look forward to it. At the same time, it’s something that, as a human being, I’m a little nervous about. I’m glad to have been able to see it, though. It was so inspirational.”

Also inspired by the liturgy was Luke Weisenbach, a 17-year-old member of St. Mary-of-the-Rock Parish in Franklin County, who attended the Mass to receive his faith community’s blessed oils.

“It was a great experience,” said Luke after the Mass. “I’m glad that I was able to be here and experience the Mass with the archbishop. It’s enlightening to be here with so many people from all over.”

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