Chrism Mass brings family of faith together

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By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Bernie Koch of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton took a personal day off from work to attend the Chrism Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on April 15. Her daughter, Erin Koch, also took the day off from work to attend the mid-afternoon Mass.

“It’s just one big family coming together to celebrate,” Bernie Koch said. “It’s a good start to Holy Week and I like seeing all of the priest friends we have here,” Erin Koch said.

That sense of a family of faith resonated with Bishop Thomas Zinkula, who presided at the Chrism Mass. He reminded the gathering of around 450 people – priests, deacons, women religious and laity — that the Chrism Mass is one of his favorite liturgies. “It’s the best representation of our local church. People from all throughout the diocese are here,” he said.

Fourteen eighth-graders from St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt were among that representation, and they took away a special message from the Mass: “You don’t have to choose sports over faith,” their religion teacher Lola Blaser said.

While obtaining permission slips for the students to attend the Mass, she learned that nine of them had a track meet in Maquoketa, Iowa, the same afternoon. The coaches from the public school were great, Blaser said. They offered to schedule her students for later events during the track meet. She and the students and two parent drivers sat in the back of the cathedral during the Chrism Mass so that they could leave after Communion to head to Maquoketa. Bishop Zinkula chatted with the group shortly before Mass, appreciative of the compromises made.

The Chrism Mass is celebrated every year in dioceses worldwide prior to the Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday evening through Easter Sunday evening). During this Mass, the bishop consecrates the Sacred Chrism and blesses the oil of the sick and oil of the catechumens for use in the local church’s sacraments during the following year.

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The diocese’s priests also renew their priestly vows, making a connection between the priests and the oils they use as “the tools of their trade,” Bishop Zinkula explained during his homily. Priests, he said, are not above deacons and the lay faithful. “They stand alongside them as together we worship and serve the Lord.”

Previously, the Diocese of Davenport celebrated the Chrism Mass later in the day, the week before Holy Week. But that meant one group was missing: the diocese’s seminarians. “This year, we’re celebrating during Holy Week so they’re able to be with us – a real blessing,” the bishop said. “So we are complete, we are one. That’s a great thing.”

He recalled his discernment to the priesthood, and how he felt called forth from the common priesthood of the faithful because “Jesus needs ministers to administer the sacraments and lead Christ on his behalf.” Although he felt unworthy to assume this role, he said he was happy to step forward and say “‘yes,’ thy will be done.”

Bishop Zinkula described the “sacred space” in which priests live – “between the love of God for his people and the love of people for their God. The ministerial, or hierarchical priesthood, is at the service of the common priesthood of the faithful. In our various roles, we all participate in the one priesthood of Christ.”

Some 70 or more priests concelebrated the Mass with their bishop, their voices projecting an audible show of unity with the Catholic Church and the man God chose to lead them in their ministry. Following each of three questions Bishop Zinkula asked the priests about their commitment to priestly service, they responded as if with one voice: “I am.”

Seminarians Cameron Costello, Ben Snyder, Grant Colborn and Isaac Doucette echoed their appreciation for the sense of togetherness the Chrism Mass conveys through rituals, sacrament and song. “It’s one of the most beautiful liturgies I’ve seen in the last four years,” said Costello, who will graduate next month from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo.

For Esther Urban of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield, “What’s amazing is to hear the echo of the priests concelebrating the Eucharist.” But she was also amazed to watch the bishop breathe the Holy Spirit into the Sacred Chrism. Urban and her traveling companions, Jeanie Palmer and Doris Meinert, had front-row seats for the Mass. “I could smell the fragrance of the oil,” Urban said. After Mass, Bishop Zinkula gave the 94-year-old Meinert a blessing.

“Our common baptismal call to the priesthood obligates all of us to serve God and the people of God, especially those who are outcasts and living on the peripheries … both geographical and existential peripheries,” the bishop said. “That is what Vision 20/20 is all about: anointed, Spirit-filled, Eucharist-fed disciples of Jesus Christ taking the Gospel out of their churches and into the streets … taking the Good News on the Road and sharing it with those they encounter along the way.”

“This is my second-favorite Mass, after the Easter Vigil,” said Sharon Groeper of Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, who attended the Mass with her husband, Randy. “I really feel the Holy Spirit is here.”

Msgr. Francis Henricksen, a retired priest of the diocese, cherishes the Chrism Mass; this was his 64th. “It always takes me back to my ordination day when I knelt before the bishop and made those promises.”


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