Father William Moorby has served in Tioga County for nearly two decades. Even though he’s situated well over 100 miles from Rochester, the distance hasn’t deterred him from regularly appearing at a special Holy Week liturgy.
"I have attended the Chrism Mass almost every year; it has been important to me ever since my days at St. Bernard Seminary," said Father Moorby, pastor of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes.
He was part of a packed Sacred Heart Cathedral on the evening of April 3. Bishop Matthew H. Clark served as celebrant for the Chrism Mass, blessing sacramental oils that will be used by parishes during the coming year. The bishop blessed the Oil of the Sick, reserved for the anointing of the sick; the Oil of the Catechumens, for baptism; and Sacred Chrism, for confirmation and ordination. Oils were then distributed to parish representatives from the 12-county diocese who brought them back to their faith communities.
Father James Jaeger, sacramental minister for the St. Mary, Bath/St. Gabriel, Hammondsport cluster, observed that the oils are used beyond church settings. He noted that he ensures delivery of oils to the veterans’ hospitals in Canandaigua and Bath "so that pastoral care is promoted and ensured in our ministry to veterans. Believe you me, our chaplains anoint and care for many in our two VA settings."
Another attendee from the Southern Tier, Michelle Johns, ended up being anointed with one of the Chrism Mass oils within a very short time. She took part in the Mass as a Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults candidate from Schuyler Catholic Community; four nights later she received Sacred Chrism at her local Easter Vigil Mass as she was welcomed into the Catholic Church. In addition, she carried the new oils during the cluster’s Holy Thursday procession that week.
The Chrism Mass also held special meaning for Tom Ruda, who is Johns’ RCIA coordinator as well as pastoral associate in the Schuyler cluster. He will return to Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 2 to be ordained a permanent deacon.
"I felt humbled to realize that I would be there for ordination, and that next year I would most likely be processing in with the deacons for the Chrism Mass. This was a powerful experience," Ruda said.
Ruda, who journeyed to the cathedral with several people from Schuyler, was attending a Chrism Mass for the first time. He was impressed by the meshing of numerous faith communities as well as another key part of the proceedings — the priests’ renewal of commitment to service that occurred midway through the liturgy.
"I found this Mass to be exceptional," Ruda said. "Having the priests renew their vows in front of all of us was exceptionally touching, as was the procession of oils and the liturgical dance. I truly felt part of the wider Catholic community."
Going back three decades in time, Father Moorby said that as a deacon he carried the Sacred Chrism at the Chrism Mass "and I knew that a few weeks after, the oil would be used at my ordination." He added that the importance of the Chrism Mass has remained a constant over the years.
"It is special to see people from all around the diocese, priests and laity celebrating with Bishop Clark," said Father Moorby, who attended this year’s Chrism Mass with Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick representatives Deacon Mike Donovan and Father Peter Adu Boahen Nkansah, parochial vicar.
Father Jaeger, also, values the gathering’s social benefits: "It is good to be with brother priests and deacons who I don’t get to see that often," said the priest, who took part in the April 3 liturgy with Deacon Dave LaFortune, pastoral administrator of the Hammondsport and Bath churches.
Father Jaeger added that the event — which occurs annually on the Tuesday of Holy Week — helps him to "focus on the Holy Week liturgies and Easter activities. The bishop and experience always uplift me and give me many things to be grateful for and to thank God for. It is a wonderful sight to see the cathedral full of people and full of love, peace and prayer."
One person who may have valued the recent Chrism Mass above all others was Bishop Clark himself, who is due to retire in July.
"I was reminded that this may be the last year we celebrate the Chrism Mass with Bishop Clark as bishop of the diocese," Ruda said. "It was so great to see his enthusiasm and love for us at the Mass. His smile spoke volumes."