Renewal of Priestly Promises; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils
Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by 110 Priests and 30 Deacons from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass on April 12, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.
This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,000 of the faithful, including more than 350 students from Diocesan Catholic schools, 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 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, which takes place during Holy Week every year, is one of the most solemn and important liturgies of the Catholic liturgical calendar. The celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood but is also an opportunity for the priests to recall their ordination and to reflect upon their ongoing priestly vocation. 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 – In persona Christi. This is one of the few times that so many priests are gathered together for the Mass.
During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice saying, “I am,” 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. “We have to know the faithful People of God, the people for whom a priest is called to be anointed, and in turn for those he is set to anoint. Allow that joy to penetrate your life, allow it to go deep within your heart. This is a guarded joy –a sense of safety – guarded and guided by God, the Father.”
The Bishop spoke about the poverty, fidelity and obedience as the sisterly guards of priests.
The poverty aspect isn’t only related to money, but the joyful sacrifice each priest makes when answering the call of the Lord in their life by “giving up” – according to the secular world – much to become a priest. But Bishop Dewane said “a priest is given much in return. Don’t look at the poverty; look to the richness the Lord gives.”
The fidelity of a priest is solely to the one Bride, the Church. “It is who you are called to be, precisely the living Church. A priest must share his life, as shepherd of the Parish, day in and day out.”
Regarding obedience, it must always be to the Church, which was set up as a hierarchy. “All are called to live it, know it, and let it be a comfort rather than something else,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is something we must internalize in our life – a strength – called for in union with God. We need to be obedient with our service, our availability, our readiness to go out and allow the Lord to make us the servant we are called to be. It is not easy. No one said it would be easy.”
At their core, priests must be spiritual beings, by having an interior unity through being in Communion with Christ.
“This fundamental Union with Christ is our gift,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Anointed One has anointed us, to still anoint others in the sacraments. This union with the Anointed One must be the hallmark of the things we do. Our response to the filling of the Holy Spirit in your life, in my life, must come from within; allowing us, always in Communion with Him, to act as an instrument of the Lord.”
Bishop Dewane explained how young people are also in search of their own spirituality, a challenge for priests, parents and families. “It is my prayer that you (young people) will begin to live that interior unity of life – you are made in the image and likeness of God – finding idealism, generosity for life and a love for Jesus Christ and His Church.”
The Bishop then challenged the Faithful present for the Mass, and across the Diocese, to be close to their priests – through prayer, through friendship, through supporting him in any way – and in the expressions of proper affection. “This goes a long way in the life of the priest, to let them know that the gift the Lord gave them sometimes takes a lot out of them. It is my prayer that you make them feel that they are the gift – a gift to the Diocese.”
The six Priests and three Permanent Deacons serving or living in the Diocese celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination were individually recognized by the Bishop for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church.
While the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens are blessed, the Sacred Chrism is also blessed consecrated; and each will be used at Parishes throughout the year in the administration of the Sacraments.
The annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on or before Holy Thursday, takes place in every Diocese in the world. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel substantial distances.
In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; seminarians; the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem; the Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Color Corps of the Knights of Columbus; approximately 350 students representing most of the Diocesan Catholic Schools; members of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; 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 and blesses for use by Parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane described the oils as “Oils of Gladness” which represent the indelible mark each bestows.
The blessing of the oils takes place at different times during the Chrism Mass. Vested in white, Bishop Dewane raised hands and first blessed the Oil of the Sick at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer as it was held by the Deacon. Following the Prayer After Communion, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens.
Next, the final portion of the Rite is the blessing and 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 “odor of sanctity.” All of the Faithful are called to strive for sanctity. Next, the Bishop breathes on the Sacred Chrism “to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down.” At a particular point in the consecration of the Sacred Chrism, all the priests present joined the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concluded the prayer of consecration.
The Oil of the Sick, used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are “blessed,” by the Bishop. The Sacred Chrism is “blessed and consecrated.” The verb “consecrate” is applied to the action of making holy the chrism and indicates its use to spiritually separate, sanctify and purify its recipients.
After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish.
A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2022.
Father Hugh McGuigan, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, spoke for the priest jubilarians. Father McGuigan marks the silver jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood in 2022 and described his journey first for 23 years as an Oblate Brother before becoming a priest. He also expressed his gratitude to Bishop Dewane and the Diocese for the support of the Ministry of the Oblates as they serve the Diocese at four Parishes.
Deacon Raymond Barrett spoke on behalf of the jubilarian Deacons, marking his 50th anniversary of ordination, as part of one of the earliest diaconate classes in the U.S. Deacon Barrett spoke about how his service evolved through the years to include prison and hospital outreach and then assisting for two decades at a retired priest nursing home.
Also celebrating 50 years were Msgr. Joseph Stearns, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; Father Adrian Wilde, O. Carm., who is Prior of a Carmel at Mission Valley in Nokomis, Father David Foley assists at Parishes in Collier County.
Additional silver jubilarians were Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, Pastor of Jesus the Worker Parish and San Jose Mission in Fort Myers, Father Leszek Sikorski, a U.S. Navy Command Chaplain, Deacon Henry de Mena who serves at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, and Deacon Mark Miravalle, who teaches at Ave Maria University.