By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Gratitude and longing. Sentiments expressed after this year’s Chrism Mass, celebrated inside Sacred Heart Cathedral with Bishop Thomas Zinkula presiding and just 14 priests concelebrating in person due to the diocese’s pandemic protocols.
The priests, who serve as deans and consultors for the bishop, sat two to a pew, like bookends, in a cathedral that holds around 800 people. They concelebrated from their pews and partook of the body and blood of Christ from a table placed in front of the sanctuary. The 14 represented their brother priests, who participated virtually, watching the livestreamed liturgy from home on March 29, the Monday of Holy Week.
During the Chrism Mass, the bishop consecrates the Sacred Chrism and blesses the oil of the sick and the oil of the catechumens for use in the local church’s sacraments during the following year. The diocese’s priests also pledge their recommitment to ministry as priests.
Last year, with the pandemic just beginning its tenacious grip on the United States, Bishop Zinkula celebrated the Chrism Mass in the Chancery instead of the cathedral. Just three other clergy participated in person because of the pandemic. Clergy and laity usually in attendance participated virtually last year, and this year.
Bishop Zinkula chose to reflect on St. Joseph in his homily this year, the Year of St. Joseph. “People call priests ‘Father,’” the bishop said. “They are spiritual fathers … Joseph is a good role model for priests, since he, foster father of Jesus, no doubt was closer to Jesus than any other man. In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God. It is instructive for clergy and laity alike to consider and emulate the good qualities of St. Joseph.”
The Gospels portray Joseph “as a tender, loving and compassionate presence in the lives of Jesus and Mary. He was accepting, merciful and humble. It is also clear that Joseph displayed creative courage in the midst of difficulties,” the bishop said.
“When Joseph experienced heartbreak, fear unto death, and a parent’s anxiety, each time he courageously put aside his feelings and trusted in the purposes of God. Each time God used Joseph’s tender love and courage to bring something good out of the situation. The same thing happened in the Paschal Mystery — new life, resurrected life, flowed forth from the loving and courageous suffering and death of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Zinkula asked the priests to reflect on several questions, including, “How am I being called to reflect the tender love of Joseph in my life? … Am I serving the people for whom I am responsible ‘with a Father’s heart?’”
Renewal of Commitment to Priestly Service followed. The bishop asked, “Beloved sons, on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?”
“I am,” the priests said resoundingly through their facemasks.
Concluding the renewal of commitment, Bishop Zinkula blessed the three flasks of oil, each of which rested on a cloth of a different color on the table below the sanctuary. After the blessing, Deacon Frank Agnoli, Deacon Dan Huber and Kay Temple, who assisted during the Mass, removed the colored cloths from the table and placed each on a basket filled with small bottles of the blessed oils. Other assistants packed the oils into brown paper bags for the priests to take back to their deaneries for distribution to the parishes.
As he left the cathedral, Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, said he liked this year’s Chrism Mass. “It is so simple and beautiful. That’s why I like it.”
“Shortest Chrism Mass ever,” said Father Rich Adam, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral. “I missed the singing, but Jesus was still there.”
“Very quiet,” said Father Marty Goetz, pastor of Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington-West Burlington and St. Mary Parish in Dodgeville. “It’s great to gather with some of our priests; it means a lot to us. But it’s different without all of our brother priests and the people of God.” Father Goetz said he appreciated the bishop’s homily. “It gave a lot of food for thought about how as priests we can imitate St. Joseph. Big challenge.”
“It was wonderful to come together with the priests who were able to come to the Chrism Mass,” said Father David Steinle, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Wilton. “I haven’t seen these priests for a year, not physically, since last March.”
“It was nice to be in the cathedral rather than in the St. Vincent Center,” said Father Jim Vrba, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. “I really miss the whole assembly being present and accompanying music. I’m looking forward to next year when we can do the Chrism Mass full blast.”
“It was good to be together in any capacity,” said Father Thom Hennen, the diocese’s vicar general and chaplain/director of campus ministry at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. “I recall watching the Chrism Mass from my office last year and feeling a little tearful, and feeling this sense of separation. To have some of my fellow priests here, and the bishop, this felt a little more real.”