April 17, 2020

Priests, laity saddened by absence of chrism Mass, look forward to coming together again as community

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and some 140 priests serving in central and southern Indiana process on April 16, 2019, into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the start of the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass. This year’s chrism Mass was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and some 140 priests serving in central and southern Indiana process on April 16, 2019, into SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis at the start of the annual archdiocesan chrism Mass. This year’s chrism Mass was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

The chrism Mass of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is a hallmark liturgy each year for the Church in central and southern Indiana.

Gathered with the archbishop in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis are priests, deacons and religious ministering in the archdiocese and lay Catholics from its parishes. Priests renew the promises they made at their ordination.

The archbishop blesses oils used in several sacraments, in the anointing of altars and dedication of Church buildings. Representatives from parishes across the archdiocese receive those oils and take them back to their faith communities.

This liturgy has ordinarily been celebrated on Tuesday of Holy Week in the archdiocese. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been postponed indefinitely.

Cindi Voegele, a member of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, has participated in the chrism Mass.

“Not being part of it was just huge,” said Voegele of missing the chrism Mass during Holy Week this year. “You see all the parishes of the archdiocese coming together to celebrate the priests who give us the Eucharist and to bless those oils that we use for baptism, anointings and confirmations. It’s very poignant and [shows] who we are as a faithful Church.”

In a letter sent to priests serving in the archdiocese on April 7, the day on which the chrism Mass was to have been celebrated, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson said that it was “especially painful” that they were unable to gather for the special liturgy.

“Though physically separated from our people and one another, we remain united in and through our great high priest, Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Thompson said. “We are particularly united with one another through him by means of our daily celebration of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

“Eucharistic adoration, the rosary and other devotions further enhance that unity that we share with one another and those we serve. In this time of ‘social distancing’ and ‘stay in place,’ we need to hold one another in prayer more than ever.”

Father Vincent Gilmore, associate pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, was looking forward in a special way to the chrism Mass. Since he was ordained a priest last June, this would have been the first time he would have renewed his ordination promises with other priests serving in the archdiocese.

“There’s a certain sweetness in the sacrifice, I’ve come to find,” said Father Gilmore of the postponement of the liturgy. “It’s like Mother Teresa said, ‘Give us the grace, Lord, to give what you take and to take what you give with a big smile.’ ”

While he can’t participate in the chrism Mass, Father Gilmore has shown his continued commitment to priestly life and ministry as he reaches out to the members of his parish.

He, Father Todd Goodson, Our Lady of the Greenwood’s pastor, and the parish staff have been making phone calls to the more than 2,400 households of the Indianapolis South Deanery faith community “just to check in to see how they’re doing, what they’re struggling with, if they have any prayer requests or need any assistance from us.”

“A couple of them broke down and cried as they picked up the phone—and it wasn’t just because they had to speak with me,” Father Gilmore said with a laugh. “Just the gesture of a phone call like that made a big difference.”

He said the purpose of the calls were “just to check in to see how they’re doing, what they’re struggling with, if they have any prayer requests or need any assistance from us.

“Most importantly, we’re just letting them know that we care,” Father Gilmore said.

Voegele has seen how the members of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County care for their faith as they have shared photos of how they’ve decorated places in their homes where they gather to pray with livestreamed liturgies from one of the four campuses of the Batesville Deanery faith community.

“They’ve created altars, places with candles and statues,” said Voegele, who is liturgical musician and cantor in the parish. “This is an opportunity. We know what our churches look like. We can build a domestic church in our homes. Creating sacred spaces give people a great experience [of faith]. I don’t think God has abandoned us. He has opened up an opportunity to create that at home.”

Voegele, 67, has been involved in liturgical music since she was 8. So her Catholic faith means a lot to her, especially at this time when she can’t gather for worship with her brothers and sisters in Christ.

“This is who I am,” she said. “This is my life. It truly is.”

Beth Van Der Bergt similarly missed coming to the cathedral for the chrism Mass. A volunteer sacristan for the St. Andrew campus of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond, Van Der Bergt has received the blessed oils for the Connersville Deanery faith community for more than a decade along with sacristans from its other two campuses.

“It’s an honor to be able to receive the oils for our parish,” she said. “I find it such a beautiful and uplifting celebration of our faith.”

So, when Tuesday of Holy Week came around this year, it felt like “a big void” to Van Der Bergt.

“It was just like another day,” she said. “In the past, it would have been a whole-day event for us, coming from Richmond. It was something I really looked forward to doing.”

Voegele and Van Der Bergt have vivid images in their hearts and minds of what it will be like for them when the chrism Mass is able to be celebrated.

“I think there will be a tremendous joy, a tremendous appreciation for what we have through the priesthood,” Voegele said. “The cathedral will be packed. Maybe it will be standing-room-only. I can’t imagine people not wanting to be part of that when they see their mother church open and ready to celebrate that occasion. That’s what I hope to see.”

“It will just be overwhelming to be in a full church, worshipping with fellow Catholics from around our archdiocese,” Van Der Bergt said. “Some of us will be moved to tears. Not being able to worship together, you really realize how we experience worship as a community as Catholics. Being part of the body of Christ is more than just receiving the body of Christ.” †

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