ROCHESTER — “I hope you are touched by the Lord in some unexpected, deep way tonight,” Bishop Matthew H. Clark told the packed congregation for the diocesan Chrism Mass March 18.
He could well have been speaking directly to Gretchen Garrity.
“I was on the verge of tears most of the evening,” the Corning resident remarked shortly after the stirring Mass concluded with the Diocesan Festival Choir’s thundering rendition of “Jerusalem, My Destiny.” Garrity, along with her husband, John, and their children, Deborah and John Jr., served as gift bearers for the 90-minute evening liturgy at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week each year, is named for its pivotal moment — when Bishop Clark blesses the holy oils to be used at diocesan parishes throughout the year. Near the liturgy’s halfway point, he blessed the oil of the sick, used for the anointing of the sick; the oil of the catechumens, used for baptism; and the sacred chrism, used for confirmation and ordination. Then the oils were distributed to parish representatives from the 12-county Diocese of Rochester, who were to bring them back to their faith communities to be used throughout the year.
The night was enhanced by a sizeable number of concelebrating priests — from recently ordained to retired — who shortly before the blessing of the oils renewed their commitments to priestly ministry. Another highlight was the Chrism Mass’s multicultural flavor: the second reading, for example, was proclaimed in Spanish by Bienvenido DeJesus. A parishioner of Rochester’s Our Lady of the Americas Parish, DeJesus will be ordained to the permanent diaconate this year.
During his homily, Bishop Clark emphasized Jesus’ love for us as “the profound source of joy that characterizes this evening.” He also stressed the need for us to “share that precious gift with others who yearn for it so deeply,” saying that “we cannot enter a relationship with Christ without being related to one another in intimate ways as well.”
Bishop Clark observed that the event was made extra-special simply by the fact that so many people — including a number who rode to the cathedral on chartered buses — turned out on a weeknight from many parts of the diocese.
“I thank you for coming from here, there and everywhere tonight,” the bishop said, adding his hope “that this most holy of all weeks will find you coming even closer to the Lord. “
Gretchen Garrity, for one, was glad to have made the 110-mile trip from Corning and said she was in no hurry to leave the cathedral.
“I could stay all night,” she stated.
The liturgy was one aspect of a very special Holy Week for the Garritys. Not only were they selected to bring the gifts forward at the Chrism Mass, but three family members — Gretchen, John Jr. and Deborah — are part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at Corning’s All Saints Parish and will be welcomed into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil Mass March 22 at St. Vincent de Paul Church. Meanwhile, John Sr. said he is returning to his Catholic faith after having fallen away from the church while serving for many years in the United States Army.
John Jr., 16, said that bringing the gifts forward in front of the Chrism Mass’s large congregation was “very nerve-wracking.” He added, however, that it was “pretty exciting to see the bishop twice in one month,” having also met Bishop Clark during the Feb. 17 Rite of Election at Church of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads.
Deborah, 17, described the Chrism Mass as “amazing. It was so beautiful; the church was gorgeous.”
“I feel at home,” her mother added.