By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Some car pooled, some chartered buses, some traveled long distances while others had a short commute. All together, 575 women, children and men made time to participate in one of the most special liturgical celebrations of the diocesan church, the Chrism Mass.
This year’s celebration on April 3 was unique for a couple of reasons. First, Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in northwest Davenport hosted the liturgy because Sacred Heart Cathedral, the mother church of the Davenport Diocese, is in the midst of construction of a diocesan center. Secondly, the pending retirement of Bishop Martin Amos gave the Mass a poignant touch. He is 75 and has submitted his resignation to the Vatican as required of bishops when they reach that age. His successor has not been chosen yet.
“The Chrism Mass has always held a special place in my heart,” Bishop Amos said in his homily. It has meant so much to him, he said, “to gather with representatives from the whole diocese; to be surrounded by the deacons, priests, religious, lay and especially catechumens, candidates and those preparing for confirmation. It is special to me that we bless and consecrate these oils that will be used in the next year in parishes throughout the diocese.”
Bishop Amos spoke movingly of the oils to be blessed and consecrated: the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumen and the sacred chrism. If his successor is a new bishop, he will be ordained with the sacred chrism oil. “The readings opened today with a proclamation by the Prophet Isaiah. ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.’ In a few minutes we will bless and consecrate oils that will be used to anoint, and in each case the spirit of the Lord will come to those anointed. Each anointing is different; each anointing confers special and specific graces.”
Deacon Chris Weber couldn’t help but reflect on the significance of oils in his life this year. In 60 days (but who’s counting?) he anticipates being ordained a priest. “To be at the Mass where the chrism that was blessed and consecrated will be used by the bishop to consecrate my hands at ordination is an incredible feeling.” The blessing of the oil of sick also moved Deacon Weber, as he imagines what it might be like to administer that sacrament.
Eleven eighth- and ninth-grade students from Church of the Visitation in Camanche anticipated being anointed with the chrism at their confirmation seven weeks from now. “It was really special, seeing the oils we’re going to be confirmed with. It’s an once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Ressa Meyer, 15. “I’ve never been to a Mass with this many people!” “I thought it was a cool experience,” said Erin Short, 13. “There was a lot of singing, really good singing, and I liked how everything was organized.” “It was cool to hear all of the music and people singing together and to see the procession of priests,” commented Markee Low, 15.
Nearly 80 priests were present at the Mass, coming together to pledge their recommitment to ministry as priests. They created a sea of white in a section of pews on the left side of the church. “It’s my first Chrism Mass back in ministry,” noted Father John Stack, who serves as sacramental minister at St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant. “It meant being with my brother priests again — a huge blessing. I haven’t done this for five years. It brings a tear to the eye.” Fr. Stack was reinstated to active ministry June 15, after a church trial outside the diocese found that accusations of clergy sexual abuse against him were not proven. The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith concurred with the judges’ finding.
While a few priests, deacons and laity said they missed having the Chrism Mass at the cathedral, Father Greg Steckel said being at Our Lady of Victory “was like a homecoming for me. This was my first assignment as a priest.” Now pastor of St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty, he hoped to see a few parishioners from his early priesthood. As he spoke, two women who remembered him approached and gave him hugs.
Among the groups that arrived in a bus were 25 people from Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington and the surrounding area. “I love this Mass. It’s such a special Mass,” said Sue Strause of the Burlington parish, sitting in a pew beside her husband Jerry. “We especially wanted to see Bishop Amos. It may be the last time we see him at a Mass like this,” she said.