By Bob Reddy Florida Catholic
The Communion of the priests of the Diocese of Venice was represented in all its unity during the annual Chrism Mass held April 11 at Epiphany Cathedral.
More than 120 priests gathered for this Holy Week tradition where the priests renew their priestly promises which they made at the time of their ordination. This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,200 of the faithful, marks the institution of the priesthood by Christ and is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese.
During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane also blessed and consecrated Holy Oils to be used in Parishes across the Diocese of Venice for the sacramental life of the Church throughout the coming year.
The Chrism Mass not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood but is also an opportunity for the priests to see the Church of the Diocese beyond their own parishes. Having all the priests of the Diocese come together at the Chrism Mass, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ ‚Äď In persona Christi.
During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice saying, ‚ÄúI am,‚ÄĚ three times in response to questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them during their Ordination to the Priesthood.
Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice for what they do each day. He went on to remind them that the ‚ÄúHoly Spirit works through us in different ways, but in unity. This is a unity that makes us ‚Äėone of mind‚Äô and ‚Äėone of heart.‚Äô Together we represent the Word of God and the teachings of the Church.‚ÄĚ
While no one is perfect, and each strives to live a good life, Bishop Dewane noted that the priests must work to become the more the Lord has called them to be.
‚ÄúTake the Grace of God, as abundant as that is, and let it fill your lives and fill your hearts,‚ÄĚ the Bishop continued. ‚ÄúThe strength of your faith life is built through your relationship with Jesus Christ‚Ä¶ One way to grow in your relationship with Christ is through a prayerful life – say what is in your heart – develop that closeness and connection to the Lord.‚ÄĚ
The 11 priests and three deacons serving or living in the Diocese celebrating their 25th and 50th anniversaries were individually recognized by the Bishop for their years of service to Holy Mother Church.
While the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens are blessed, the Sacred Chrism is consecrated; and each will be used at Parishes throughout the year in the administration of the Sacraments.
From Jerusalem to Rome, and to Dioceses around the world, Pope Francis and local Bishops carry out the annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on or before Holy Thursday. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel great distances.
In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; seminarians; the Color Corps of the Knights of Columbus; the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta; the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem; approximately 300 students representing most of the Diocesan Catholic Schools; as well as the faithful of the Diocese of Venice.
Sacred Chrism Oil
The Chrism Mass takes its name from the Sacred Chrism Oil, the most eminent of the three holy oils which the Bishop consecrates for use by parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane described the oils as ‚ÄúOils of Gladness‚ÄĚ which represent the indelible mark each bestows.
The blessing of the oils take place at different times during the Chrism Mass. Vested in white, Bishop Dewane, raised hands over the urns on a table near the altar and first blessed the Oil of the Sick at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. Following the Prayer After Communion, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens.
Next, the final portion of the Rite is the consecration of the Sacred Chrism Oil. First balsam is poured into the oil and then mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the ‚Äúodor of sanctity.‚ÄĚ All of the faithful are called to strive for sanctity. The Bishop then breathes on the Sacred Chrism ‚Äúto symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down.‚ÄĚ The Rite is brought to closure with a concluding prayer.
The Oil of the Sick is used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are simply “blessed,” by the Bishop. the Sacred Chrism is “consecrated.” The Bishop then extended his hands toward the vessel containing the oils and said the prayer of consecration.
After Mass, the thee oils were divided up and given to each pastor to use in the Parish.
The newly blessed and consecrated Holy Oils from the Chrism Mass were first used for the Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday. At that time, 388 catechumens and candidates entered fully into the Catholic Church at Parishes throughout the Diocese and receive one or all the following Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist ‚Äď which some received for the first time.
A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2017.
Diocesan Vicar General and Pastor of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers, Msgr. Stephen E. McNamara, represented the jubilarians celebrating their 50th anniversaries said ‚Äúit has been a great, great 50 years of the priesthood serving the people on the West Coast of Florida.‚ÄĚ
Father Jose del Olmo, a Parochial Vicar at Jesus the Worker Parish and San Jose Mission in Fort Myers, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary, echoed those thoughts saying that each assignment has provided its own blessings.
Representing the Deacon Jubilarians, Deacon Joseph Mercurio, who assists at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice, said that his call to the permanent diaconate came from the Gospel of Matthew, which reflect on the tax collector who is called to follow the Lord. A former IRS agent, the similarities to his own life were too obvious to ignore. ‚ÄúBeing a Deacon has provided me and my wife blessings beyond words.‚ÄĚ
Celebrating 50 years were: Msgr. Stephen E. McNamara, Diocese Vicar General and Pastor of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers; Msgr. Gerard Finegan, Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Longboat Key; Msgr. Joseph Ferraro, assists at Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto; Father James Archambault, assists at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton; Father Thomas Wantland, assists at several Parishes in Lee and Charlotte counties; Father Luis Albarracin is Parochial Vicar at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; Father Arthur Schute, assists at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte and Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande. Celebrating 25 years were: Father Andrew Malarz, Parochial Vicar at Ascension Parish in Fort Myers Beach; Father Juan Lorenzo, Parochial Vicar at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle; Father Pablo Ruani, IVE, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota; and Father Jose del Olmo, Parochial Vicar at Jesus the Worker Parish and San Jose Mission in Fort Myers. Deacons celebrating 25 years were: Deacon Frank Barone, St. Therese Parish in North Fort Myers; Deacon Joseph Mercurio, Our Lady of Lourdes in Venice; Deacon Ronald Nevinger, retired and most recently served at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples.