ROCHESTER — All were welcome, indeed.
With participants “from every part of our wonderful diocese,” as Bishop Matthew H. Clark observed, the opening hymn of “All Are Welcome” was right on the mark for the annual diocesan Chrism Mass. The liturgy took place Tuesday evening, March 22, in the newly renovated Sacred Heart Cathedral as more than 1,000 people watched Bishop Clark bless holy oils to be used at diocesan parishes for anointing of the sick, baptism, confirmation and holy orders.
“I think exuberant is not too strong a word,” Bishop Clark said of the festive atmosphere.
People of several ethnic backgrounds united for the Mass. Uplifting music emanated from the Diocesan Festival Choir, while dancing was provided by Clyde Alafiju Morgan, an African dance specialist and professor at SUNY College at Brockport. Another significant component, the commitment to priestly ministry, took place at the liturgy’s halfway point, with numerous concelebrating priests renewing their pledges to their vocation.
These highlights enhanced the Chrism Mass’s primary purpose, the blessing of the oils. Bishop Clark first blessed the Oil of the Sick, used for the anointing of the sick, near the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. After Communion he blessed the Oil of the Catechumens, for baptism; and Sacred Chrism, for confirmation and ordination. From there, the oils were distributed to parish representatives from the 12-county diocese, who brought the oils back to their faith communities to be used throughout the year.
The Chrism Mass, which always takes place during Holy Week, was formerly held on Holy Thursday. In recent years it has been moved forward by two days to avoid conflict with parishes’ Holy Thursday services. Last year the liturgy was held at St. Michael’s Church in Rochester while the cathedral was being renovated.
The overflow crowd on March 22 was fueled by bus loads of Catholics who traveled from such communities as Bath, Steuben County, and Auburn, Cayuga County. Vivian and Frank Sinicropi, parishioners of St. Mary’s in Auburn, noted that they began attending the Chrism Mass 15 years ago and haven’t missed one since. They said that watching Bishop Clark bless the oils sparks deep personal reflection on their significance.
“You never know who’s going to use the oils,” Vivian said. “I never thought about it until I started coming,” Frank added.
The Sinicropis also said they were impressed by Sacred Heart Cathedral’s many new and restored features — such as the spacious yet crowded new narthex, or entrance area, where they stood during refreshments following the Chrism Mass. “They’ve done a beautiful job here, beautiful,” Frank said. Meanwhile, Bishop Clark remarked that the inaugural Chrism Mass in the renovated cathedral served as “a symbolic reminder of the renewal we seek every day of our lives.”
Equally impressed with the cathedral was Maria Carisetti from St. Mary’s in Bath, who had also attended the last Chrism Mass there two years ago. “It seems a lot bigger and the sound is a lot nicer,” she remarked.
Maria and Emily Sokolowski, both 13, were among the younger Chrism Mass attendees from St. Mary’s Parish in Bath. Emily said she was energized by the heavy diocesan-wide participation. “It’s great to see everybody here,” she remarked. “It’s like one big family.”
Bishop Clark echoed those sentiments, saying, “It gets a holy people together and reminds us that we’re graced and blessed.”
“I love it. It really makes you feel like you are one church,” Vivian Sinicropi said.