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Chrism Mass Celebrated at Cathedral of St. Mary


More than 1,000 gathered at St. Mary Cathedral as the Most Reverend Bernard Hebda, Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, presided at the Eucharistic Celebration with the Blessing of Oils and Consecration of Chrism on Tuesday, March 30. Bishop Emeritus Patrick R. Cooney and some 48 priests from throughout the diocese concelebrated. The annual Chrism Mass is one of the occasions when the entire Church of Gaylord gathers as one with our shepherd, highlighting our common ministry and union with Jesus Christ and one another. Opening his homily, Bishop Hebda shared his enthusiasm for the large number present exclaiming, “I can’t even begin to tell you how thrilled I am to see all of you here – to see this cathedral filled!” Applause followed as Bishop Hebda added, “Most especially, what a great privilege it is to also have Bishop Cooney here. Somehow it feels like our family is complete when he’s here, so we’re hoping we’re going to see him more often.” Continuing, Bishop Hebda recalled that the last time the Church of Gaylord gathered in this way was for his own Episcopal Ordination. He reminded the assembly how Archbishop Vigneron held up his hand to demonstrate how those who reside in Michigan give directions. Bishop Hebda commented that even now, some four months later, the scent of the Sacred Chrism used to anoint his head during his ordination still permeates the zuchetto he wore that day, as well as the drawer in which it is stored – the aroma being a sweet reminder that he is Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord. “We’re going to see lots of hands from my brother priests today – not maps of Michigan -- but priestly hands consecrating the Sacred Chrism,” Bishop Hebda noted. “At least for today, I ask you not to think of Michigan geography, but of the great gift that the Church has received – that we have received – in the priesthood. He invited the assembly to consider “How many times have those priestly hands poured the water of new life at Baptism? How many times have those hands offered the Eucharist -- broken the Eucharistic bread that sustains us? How many times have they been raised to absolve us of our sins? How many times have they anointed us or our loved ones, or sprinkled holy water as we buried our dead? Those hands are a wonderful gift. . . . We don’t find better priests than these priests with whom we have been blessed here in Gaylord,” the Bishop stated. Addressing the priests directly, Bishop Hebda made a request: “When you, my brothers, see your hands lifted in prayer today, I ask you to recall that the gift you received on the day of your ordination was a gift for you, but also a gift for the whole Church. You probably can’t still smell the Chrism on your hands, but remember that it poured down your hands and changed your lives – changed your life – so that you would be able to act in the very person of Christ.” Applause broke out again, this time started by Bishop Hebda, as he ended his homily by turning toward the priests. “In this year for priests, I join the faithful of this great diocese in thanking you for all that you do as priests to build up God’s kingdom in these 21 counties,” the Bishop concluded. The priests of the diocese were then invited to recommit themselves to the promises made at their ordination. The people in the assembly also offered prayers and support for the priests and the Bishop. A highlight of this particular liturgy is the Blessing of the Oils and Consecration of Chrism. The Oil of the Catechumens, imposed on those preparing for baptism, and the Oil of the Sick, which is used for those who seek anointing, were brought forward by parishioners from the diocese and “blessed” by the Bishop. The Oil of Chrism, to which the scent of balsam is added, was also brought to the sanctuary and “consecrated.” Bishop Cooney and all the priests present joined Bishop Hebda by extending their hands toward the vessel containing the Chrism during the prayer of consecration. The Sacred Chrism is the fragrant oil used for baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, and the consecration of altars and blessing of churches. Those gathered continued to be nourished and strengthened for their mission and ministry through the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Upon entering the Cathedral, each parish gave their emptied vessels to volunteers in order to receive a portion of each of the new Holy Oils to take back to their churches. These replenished oils will be used in local celebrations throughout the year, further recalling our connection to a Church much larger than our own parish. The vessels were filled while those in attendance gathered in the Cathedral Parish Hall for a reception. Approximately 300 had also purchased tickets in advance to enjoy a luncheon in the Diocesan Pastoral Center while they awaited preparation of their oils. Bishop Hebda concluded the Chrism Mass by thanking everyone for their participation, with a special thanks to the liturgical ministers and those who had worked to prepare the liturgy. The next diocesan celebration is expected to be when the faithful gather for the Priestly Ordination of Transitional Deacons Sylvestre Obwaka and Gerald Okoli at St. Mary Cathedral on June 12.

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