Chrism Mass draws hundreds - Catholic Courier
Children stand in the choir loft during the crowded Chrism Mass April 19 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. (Click here to view a gallery of photos from the Mass.) Children stand in the choir loft during the crowded Chrism Mass April 19 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. (Click here to view a gallery of photos from the Mass.)

Chrism Mass draws hundreds

ROCHESTER — Hundreds of laypeople and dozens of priests and deacons from throughout the 12 counties of the Diocese of Rochester streamed into Sacred Heart Cathedral April 19 for the annual Chrism Mass, during which Bishop Matthew H. Clark blesses the holy oils that will be used for the sacraments of anointing of the sick, baptism, confirmation and holy orders.

Each parish in the diocese sent a representative and an empty vessel, and the blessed oils were poured into the small vessels and sent back to the parishes for use in the upcoming year. During the Mass, the many priests present also renewed their commitments to priestly ministry.

"When we come here tonight from all parts of the diocese, it’s clear that we gather in a spirit of great joy. You can feel it in the air," Bishop Clark said to those gathered in the packed cathedral.

The Chrism Mass is about more than the blessing of the sacramental oils and the renewal of priestly commitments, although those two moments are highlights of the evening, the bishop added during his homily. The Mass also represents the "incredibly beautiful intersection" of two realities, he said before asking those present to delve into a deeper examination of their own hearts and spirits.

"We will find the promise of life. We will find encouragement and hope and strength and healing," he said. "God speaks to us all as we need to hear that message of hope, and we all need to hear it in different ways."

The Mass provides a wonderful opportunity for individual prayer and reflection, but it also highlights the unity and shared faith of Catholics throughout the diocese, the bishop added.

"We also have a lovely sense that we are joined in prayer and concern for all of our brothers and sisters in the diocese. We are praying not only that God will bless the oils, but that God will touch the lives of everyone who experiences anointing in the year to come," Bishop Clark said.

Before the Mass began, the bishop spoke with two women, and he shared their stories during his homily. One had asked him to hold and bless a medal she’d recently purchased for her very ill young nephew. The second woman said she and her husband had recently lost their young child and hoped to soon conceive another child, and she asked Bishop Clark to remember and pray for them as he blessed the oils. These women’s stories serve as reminders of our frailty and incompletion, and our continual need for anointing, he said.

"We all know nobody in this church is where he or she finally wants to be, because there’s always another step to take, another depth to achieve, healing to be done. That’s OK, because when we come here, one of the foundational purposes of our gathering is to rejoice in everything God has done for us so far, and to express faith in the eucharistic promise," Bishop Clark said.

The bishop asked those gathered to join with him in prayer for all the priests serving within the diocese, and to keep the priests close to their hearts throughout Holy Week and the Easter season.

The Chrism Mass is a beloved part of Holy Week for many, which is why Dr. Gerry and Annette Gacioch, parishioners of Pittsford’s Church of the Transfiguration, decided to attend the liturgy this year for the first time.

"I just wanted to take part in Holy Week and experience all the different aspects of it," Annette Gacioch explained. "It was great. You could just feel the power and the community within the congregation. It’s just awesome."

Her sentiments were echoed by a group of parishioners from Catholic Community of the Blessed Trinity in Wolcott, Red Creek and Fair Haven. Several members of the group, including Georgia Pendleton, were there for the first time, while several had attended the Mass in previous years. Father Joseph McCaffrey, pastor at Blessed Trinity, invited the group to come to the Mass, and the parishioners were excited to be able to watch the bishop bless the oils that would be used throughout the year, said Jean Mrzywka.

"We also came to hear the organ," added Irene Bidwell, referring to the cathedral’s massive Halloran-All Saints Organ, which was installed in 2008.

"It was absolutely beautiful," noted Barbara Campbell, who along with her husband, Dick, had car-pooled to the cathedral with her fellow Blessed Trinity parishioners. Everything was beautiful, from the music provided by the Diocesan Festival Choir to the liturgical dancers from the Arco Iris Mexicano dance group, she said.

"I thought it was a very beautiful Mass, but it always is," added fellow parishioner Pat Younglove.

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