GARY – Blessings and promises were highlights on Holy Thursday as Bishop Robert J. McClory celebrated the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels on April 14.
More than 60 diocesan priests were present to publicly renew their commitment to the priesthood and to the bishop and share in the joy of the Easter season, along with Bishop Emeritus Dale J. Melczek, two dozen ordained deacons and 11 seminarians.
Seventeen ministry leaders from the diocese also took part by processing to the sanctuary stairs carrying the vessels of the three holy oils used by the Catholic Church - the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens and the holy chrism oil. The vessels were presented to the bishop, who blessed the first two oils and consecrated the third.
“I was humbled and I was honored to have such a special part in the chrism liturgy,” said Mary Cusic, of Lowell, a choir member at St. Edward who carried one of the glass cylinders containing the oil of the catechumens. “I felt like I was an integral part of the initiation of the catechumens coming into the Church this year.”
Because of her role, Cusic chose the blessing of the oils as her favorite part of the Chrism Mass this year, along with the renewal of the priestly promises, adding that she most looks forward each year to the Easter Vigil Mass and the blessing of the Easter food baskets, both on Holy Saturday.
Victoria Perez of Holy Family Parish in LaPorte carried one of the vessels containing the oil of the sick in the procession after reaching out to the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adults just a day earlier to offer her assistance with Triduum services. “It was definitely a Holy Spirit moment when I was asked to carry one of the oils today,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Don’t drop it, of course,’ but I also said a prayer for all of those who the oil will touch. The Anointing of the Sick is really special, and I know our parish priest is always on the run, blessing so many people.”
Perez said her favorite part of the presentation of the oils “is when the bishop breathes into the chrism oil. It is such a unique tradition, and to see it up close was special.” Her favorite Triduum tradition, she added, is attending the Easter Vigil Mass.
“All of us in some way or another are touched by the oils that will be blessed and consecrated today,” said Bishop McClory in his homily. “This gift of the oils is connected to all of our readings today.”
In the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord God has anointed me … he has assigned me to bring glad tidings to the lowly … you yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God shall you be called,” (Is 61: 1-3, 6:8-9) repeated the bishop.
“Wow, if that’s true, am I supposed to be one who brings Good News to others? Is that part of my role? And the answer is a resounding ‘Yes,’ we’re all called to share the Good News of Jesus,” said the bishop.
Noting a tendency for humans “to see as valuable and measure our success according to how the world would measure it, very materially, but to measure it as to how the Lord calls us to, which is in the spiritual realm, to see that our treasures … are found in the spiritual realities that really matter, that that which is of value is our response to the love that God has for us, our sharing in his mission, our accepting of all that he has given us, our proclaiming Jesus as Lord and drawing others in to that loving relationship by what we say and what we do.
“How do we measure success?” queried Bishop McClory. “Not in material (things), but in the stocks of oil God has given us. Mother Teresa famously said: ‘God doesn’t call us to be successful, he calls us to be faithful.’ So if you will, our success is our faithfulness. The measure with which we will be measured is our faithfulness to what God has given us.
“To serve the Lord means that the results are his, but we do our part,” added the bishop.” After Jesus read that same passage from Isaiah, we are told that ‘the eyes of all those in the synagogue looked intently on him.’ Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
Father Frank D. Torres, associate pastor at St. Helen, Hebron, kept his eyes focused on the sanctuary as he enjoyed his favorite part of the Chrism Mass, the entrance processional. “It is splendid, from the robing room to the march into the cathedral to hearing the music,” said the Gary native.
He likened the annual renewal of promises by diocesan priests to couples marking wedding anniversaries at Mass. “I share in their joy when I see couples celebrating anniversaries in the parish,” he said. “This is my celebration of my priesthood every year. The bishop’s homily and the prayers of renewal call to mind how much holier I need to be, how much closer and more intimate I should be with the Lord.”
Listening to the priests renew their promises to the priesthood and fidelity to their bishop, seminarian Zach Glick said he hopes to “honor that life of service” when his turn comes. “I was thinking about what all those priests have given in service. It’s not easy, but they are still here. It is a lifelong commitment, even eternal, and today was the time to make it visible.”
Deacon Stephen Grandfield of Ogden Dunes, who serves St. Mary of the Lake in Gary and Nativity of Our Savior in Portage, said he appreciates the priestly renewal of promises and would like to see a similar rite for deacons, who are also ordained for life. “I said my promises to myself, but I’d like to see something formal for the diaconate.”
Noting that the 2020 U.S. Census counted 807,703 “souls” in the four counties of the Diocese of Gary, Bishop McClory said, “Not all of them are Catholics, but all of them need to know the love of Jesus, and … we have everything that we need to share the love of Jesus – to those who are brokenhearted, to those who are materially destitute, to those who feel defeated and crushed by the world, to those who feel like they have no friends, to those who feel they don’t know what love is, to those who feel been abandoned and discarded or on the margins – we’ve got great news, and the Lord wants us to set Northwest Indiana ablaze in his love.”