By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Eighth-graders from St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt were amazed to see so many priests, deacons, two bishops and an abbot enter the sanctuary of Sacred Heart Cathedral for the Chrism Mass.
Bishop Martin Amos presided at the Mass, held March 22, and concelebrated by Abbot Marcel Rooney, OSB; Bishop William Franklin, bishop emeritus; and the deans, consultors, chancellor, judicial vicar and priests of the Davenport Diocese.
“We thought it was cool to see the priests here altogether at one time,” eighth-graders and confirmation candidates Emily Burke and Stephanie Schrader said following the Mass.
St. Joseph Principal Chris Meyer said it’s become a school tradition to bring eighth-graders to the annual Chrism Mass. In just a month, they’ll be confirmed with the Sacred Chrism, one of three oils Bishop Amos blesses and consecrates during the Chrism Mass.
These oils will be used across the Diocese of Davenport in the coming year: the Oil of the Sick for the healing of body, soul and spirit; the Oil of the Catechumens to give wisdom and strength to those preparing for baptism; and the Sacred Chrism which is used in the sacraments of initiation, for the ordination of priests and bishops, and the dedication of churches and altars.
St. Joseph eighth-grader Grant Henning said it was cool to see the Chrism Oil that he and other eighth-graders would be anointed with during their April 28 confirmation. He also thought it was cool to see his parish’s pastor, Father Paul Connolly, among the priests gathered to renew their promises of commitment to priestly service. The students weren’t alone in their appreciation for the Chrism Mass.
“What a great experience to see all of the parishes’ priests!” said Keith Porter, a member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine. “I was honored to have been asked to be a lector” at the Mass, he added.
“It’s an inclusive celebration of the diocese,” said Father Robert Lathrop, pastor of Church of All Saints Parish in Keokuk. He complimented the new Diocesan Ensemble, which “added another new dimension” to the celebration.
“One of the greatest things is the sense of community,” observed Deacon Bob McCoy. “We all come together and worship the same Lord.”
Bishop Amos referred to that sense of community in his homily during the Chrism Mass. “We are able to gather as a diocesan church — laity, religious, deacons and priests,” he said. “It is a time to spend with the priests of our diocese during our convocation, and lead them tonight in the renewal of their promises.”
With the blessing of the oils, “we remember those who will be ministered to with these oils: the sick and the dying; those being baptized and confirmed; the priests we will ordain. All these are here with us now, in the mysterious communion of saints that we share in. We hold them in our prayers and in our hearts as we bless and consecrate these oils.”
He reminded the congregation, gathered from throughout the diocese, that “as we celebrate this Chrism Mass, we remember: through the ministry of the bishop, whom the rite calls the high priest of his flock, we are connected to the rest of the church.” The connection “goes across time because of the unbroken chain of apostolic succession back to Jesus, and across space because of the bond of communion that joins us to the Bishop of Rome and the College of Bishops around the world,” Bishop Amos said.
“That connection is given tangible, sacramental shape in these oils, blessed and consecrated here and sent from here to every corner of our diocese. So that when the sick are anointed, when catechumens are exorcised and infants prepared for baptism, when those in the RCIA are confirmed, it is not only the priest who is there, but Christ is also there with you always. And so is the whole church — the body of Christ — that cannot be shackled by time and space. Christ, the faithful witness, promised to abide with us. These oils remind us that Christ’s promise is fulfilled in our hearing.”
Father Paul Appel, pastor of St. James Parish in Washington, appreciated Bishop Amos’ message. “He gave us good points to think about what our priestly ministry means.”
In a poignant moment after Mass, in the church breezeway, Bishop Amos blessed Tim and Sandy Welsh of Lovilia and their 2-year-old granddaughter, Bridget McIntyre. In turn, the bishop asked Bridget if she would like to bless him. The child was bashful, so Sandy Welsh said she would give the bishop a blessing, and she did as she held her granddaughter in her arms.