Renewal of Priestly Promises with Bishop; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils
Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by more than 130 priests from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass April 4, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.
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. 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 Dewane 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 celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood by the renewal of Priestly Promises they take, 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 Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice responding, “I am,” three times to a series of questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them at the time of 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.
The priest has an irreplaceable role in the leading of the faithful and non-believers, to the Lord. Still, this is taking place within a society in which many things have changed through the years and continue to change to this day, Bishop Dewane explained.
“Many of the functions the priests have exercised in the Church have been assumed by others – likely rightfully so in many instances. At the same time, many of the traditional social supports for the priests have been weakened along the way.”
Bishop Dewane understands that while each priest strives daily to do their best, “none of us is the perfect priest. That is Jesus Christ. But we must strive to follow His ways. This in his shown in the life of the priest, in his prayer life and reflection on the Word of God. This is further demonstrated in his celebration of the Sacraments, his pastoral care for the faithful, as well as the love and affection for those who call upon him.”
Addressing the younger priests, Bishop Dewane encouraged them to overcome any difficulties and not fall into the trap that they are alone and no one notices them.
“You are noticed by your brother priests and by your Bishop. It is the faithful who approach me and who may have a concern on an issue that is genuinely about your wellbeing and who you are. Know that not one of us is alone. I understand it can feel that way. But no one of us is alone. The Lord does not allow for that. He Himself is with you, with me, with our brother priests throughout the day. Yes, we will fail along the way but He is still there, with you and with me. The Lord has chosen each one of us knowing our strengths and our weaknesses, having made us. Christ asks us to allow His strength to enter into our lives, for that matter, to rule our lives.”
Bishop Dewane shared a reflection from Pope Francis from an address regarding priests who had lost the flame of their first love, and who may have become a little barren in their experience by stressing the “four closenesses,” that exist for each priest in their lives.
The first is a “Closeness to God,” which calls for priests to rely on the strength of Jesus Christ in the experience of both joys and sorrows. This closeness to God needs to be nourished in prayer, in the Eucharist and drawing closer to His flock.
Next is a call for a “Closeness to the Bishop,” which Pope Francis referred to as allowing priests to learn how to listen, to recognize God’s will in another, and to execute it in obedience to another. “The Holy Father tells us,” Bishop Dewane said, “a Bishop establishes and preserves the Church’s identity in a particular area – places upon you the consecrated oils at ordination and has an affinity for those oils (to be consecrated today). The Holy Father goes on to invite priests in this regard to pray for their Bishop. If we can persevere in this bond, we will advance surely along the way toward salvation. In addition to the Holy Father’s call, I also ask for your prayers.”
A “Closeness to other priests” is also important, according to Pope Francis. This refers to the virtue of fraternity, of living the eternal love for the priestly fraternity which involves deliberately pursuing holiness with others, not by oneself. In this context the Holy Father addressed the value of priestly celibacy which he calls on all priests to live. “Pope Francis refers to this gift that the Latin Church preserves and notes that it must be rooted in healthy relationships, and stress that these be found in the Presbyterate,” Bishop Dewane said.
Lastly, Pope Francis calls for a “Closeness to the People of God.” “This closeness to the faithful, in its proper place, is important for every priest, as it involves their daily life. Rather than taking shelter from people’s difficulties and misery, Jesus is the example for us in this task.”
Bishop Dewane concluded his remarks by noting that everyone who attends the Chrism Mass, regardless of their state in life (priest, religious, deacon, laity), must “hear the call of Christ and enter humbly and profoundly into the Sacred Triduum… into the celebration of the real summit in our lives, our faith, our spiritual calling, that is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Following his homily, and before the renewal of Priestly Promises, Bishop Dewane recognized the nine Priests and three Permanent Deacons serving or living in the Diocese celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. Bishop Dewane also acknowledged priests who have served more than 50 years, noting those marking 55, 60 and 65 years since their priestly ordination.
While the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens are blessed, the Sacred Chrism is also blessed and 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 throughout the world. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is historically 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 referred to the Gospel message at which described the oils as bringing “glad tidings” which represent the indelible mark each bestows.
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 at different times during the Chrism Mass. 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.
For the blessing and consecration of the Sacred Chrism Oil. In the Rite, the initial motion is to pour balsam into the oil, and then this is 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 prayer of the Sacred Chrism, all the priests join the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concluded the prayer.
After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish throughout the Liturgical Year.
A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2023.
Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples and Vicar Forane for the Southern Deanery, spoke for the priest jubilarians. Father Kantor marks the silver jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood in 2023 and described his journey to becoming a priest while growing up in a Polish-Catholic family in Buffalo, New York. Father described his priestly journey “as one that is blessed and graced by the people we encounter; may we be open to the lessons that they bring us that show true holiness.”
Deacon Humberto Alvia spoke on behalf of the jubilarian Deacons, also marking his 25th anniversary of ordination. Deacon Alvia, who serves at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, spoke about his own journey, shared by his wife, Pia. Born in Ecuador, the couple was living in Brooklyn, New York, when they were first encouraged to take part in different church groups. This expanded for the couple to become part of Pre-Cana retreats and ultimately being invited into the Permanent Diaconate program. Ordained in Brooklyn, Deacon Alvia moved to Florida and was invited to first serve at St. Martha Parish and then was part of the construction of St. Jude Parish. Deacon Alvia said he is grateful to his wife and family, for understanding his dedication and time he spent doing what he was ordained to do. “That is to do his duty to the Bishop, to follow faithfully the Church teaching, and to serve with love the people of God.”
Celebrating 50 years were Father Richard York, who is retired but assists at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City and Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande, and Deacon Robert Egendoerfer, who is retired after having served at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish.
Additional silver jubilarians were Father Jarek Sniosek, Pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, Father Murchadh O’Madagain, Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Myers, Father Remigious Ssekiranda, Parochial Vicar at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, Deacon Ripperton Riordan, who assists at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, and Deacon John Ruh, who assists at San Pedro Parish in North Port.