Chrism Mass – Symbol of Unity – Renewal of Priestly Promises; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by more than 150 priests from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The Chrism Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with priests from throughout the Diocese and during which he consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the other oils, is among the principal manifestations of the fullness of the Bishop’s Priesthood and is considered to be a sign of the close bond between the Priests and their Bishop. For it is with the sacred Chrism consecrated by the Bishop that the priests are ordained, the newly baptized are anointed, and those to be confirmed are signed. It is with the Oil of Catechumens that catechumens are prepared and disposed for Baptism. Finally, it is with the Oil of the Sick that those who are ill are comforted in their infirmity.

This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,000 of the faithful, including 350 students from Diocesan Catholic schools, is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese.

The celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood by the renewal of Priestly Promises, but also presents 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, united with their Bishop, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi. This is the largest annual gathering of the clergy 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. He also called upon the faithful to continue to support the priests who bring the Sacraments into their lives.

“The Chrism Mass highlights the role and responsibility of the ordained in relationship with their Bishop, but primarily in their relationship to God and to Jesus Christ in offering that eternal sacrifice at the table of the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “My brothers, our hands were and remain anointed with the oil of Chrism, the same Chrism that will be instituted today; may Jesus always preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and in the Holy Office, in sacrifice to God.”

The anointed hands of a priest are sacramental instruments that baptize, confirm, bless, absolve sin, consecrate, offer the Bread of Life, the Chalice of Salvation; they are sacramental instruments that touch heads who ask for a blessing and at the end of life, open the door to eternity for many.

“Those are the instruments the Lord gives us,” Bishop Dewane said. “St. Teresa of Avila emphasized this point, saying, ‘Christ has no hands on earth but yours.’ Your hands are important in that role. They pray, they labor, they offer compassion and peace to those you meet. The anointed hands have been further consecrated, use them carefully for what God wants.”

While the priesthood can be challenging, the Bishop said that the heart of the priest “pulsates the lifeblood of the Body of Christ, the Church, keeping Her alive, active and sacred. Let it be part of who you are. That beating heart; let it be for Christ in every way.”

Pope Francis said the grace of the priesthood is for service, not for glory, as there is no recompense greater for a priest than the friendship with Jesus Christ. Seeking one’s own glory robs the priest, and ultimately the faithful, of the presence of Christ.

“We must all be careful of not letting our hearts and hands get numb to the repeated exercise of our service, but recognize them as a blessing and grace for those whom we serve,” Bishop Dewane said. “Be men of a priestly heart, so the faithful can approach and listen to you, as they yearn to be faithful themselves. Let them feel the presence of the Lord, through you as a priest, while they seek your companionship on their spiritual journey.”

During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Dewane recognized the seven Priests and four Permanent Deacons who are celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. Bishop Dewane also recognized Father Celestino Gutierrez, who is marking his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2024 and recently retired as founding Pastor of St. Jude Parish in Sarasota.

 

In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; Diocesan seminarians; Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Knights of Columbus, including those of the Color Corps; members of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; students from 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 and blesses for use by Parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane referred to the Gospel message which described the oils as being the oil of gladness, 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 both 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, 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 consecratory prayer for the Sacred Chrism, all the priests join the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concludes the prayer.

After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish throughout the Liturgical Year.

Priest and Deacon Jubilarians

A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2024.

Reverend Mark Svarczkopf spoke for the golden jubilarians. Father Svarczkopf is originally from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and currently assists in the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese of Venice, primarily at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, but also at St. Catherine in Sebring, Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park and St. James in Lake Placid. Father said a key part of being a priest is having the grace to soften the hardest of hearts.

Father Anthony Hewitt spoke on behalf of the silver jubilarians. Father Hewitt spoke about the importance of Holy Week to priests. “The totality and the very reason we exist on this planet – Jesus Christ – that Holy Hour where He goes to glorify His Heavenly Father; where He goes to die and rise on Easter Sunday.” Father prayed that the faithful find the beauty of the Paschal Triduum, because many “don’t see the joy of Holy Thursday; the magnificent beauty and the glory that is Good Friday; and they never ever come to Easter Vigil.” Father Hewitt is currently Pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande.

Also celebrating 50 years were Father Richard Bondi, who assists at Ave Maria Parish and University in Ave Maria; and Father Brian Manning, who assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Additional priest silver jubilarians were Father Victor Caviedes, who is Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota; Father Anthonio Jean, who is Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton; and Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju, Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Deacon Michael Leahy, a golden jubilarian, is retired. Celebrating their silver jubilees are Deacon Edward Gwiazda, who assists at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres; Deacon William Hickey, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and Deacon Alfred Mauriello, who assists at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples.

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