CHARLESTON—Through voices raised together in prayer and the renewal of vows, more than 120 priests offered a moving testament to their lives of service and ministry on March 31.
The annual chrism Mass, held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, is traditionally celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week. It is a time when clergy renew the vows they took at ordination and recommit themselves to their ministry. It is also known as the Mass of the Oils because sacred oils are consecrated by the bishop to be used in sacraments during the coming year.
Three large silver urns of oil were brought forward just before the offertory. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone prayed over them and consecrated them. The oil of catechumens is used in baptism; the oil of the sick is for anointing those who are ill; and the oil of chrism is used in blessing new altars, churches and other sacred items.
In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone described a regimen of spiritual reading he has done during Lent, focusing on all the Old Testament readings from the season’s daily Masses. He said reflecting on the diverse cast of characters, from kings and queens to prophets and priests, led him to realize how all of them responded to God’s call despite persecutions, challenges and doubts they might have had. Through their acceptance, he said, men and women of the Old Testament acted as heralds for Jesus, who took on the ultimate role of servant.
“Here we are gathered together to deepen our recognition that we have been anointed to that same task,” the bishop said. “Our call is to reach out to God’s people and make a difference in their lives, to show them God does make a difference and he calls them to lives of beauty and joy.”
He told the priests that, like everyone else, they will face spiritual and moral challenges.
“There will be times when we lack compassion and patience, or when we act as a judge,” he said. “These are the times we don’t live up to the challenge we are given by God. Pope Francis mentions these pitfalls, and some people think he is picking on his priests and his bishops. But he is not — the Holy Father is reminding us of who we are. Despite our weakness and vulnerability, God expects us to do our very best because the spirit of the Lord has anointed us.”
Bishop Guglielmone congratulated Father Javier Heredia, who was ordained in May 2014, on attending his first Chrism Mass as a priest. He also congratulated two priests who have special jubilees this year: Msgr. Christopher Lathem, who is retired, is celebrating his 50th, and Father Norbert C. Mendonca, parochial vicar at St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, is celebrating his 25th jubilee.
Father William S. Hearne, administrator of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Seneca, made one of the longest drives to get to Charleston for the Mass. He said the miles mean nothing next to a rare chance to share some time with his brother priests.
“Being so far away, this is one of the few opportunities I get to get together with everybody and establish some priestly fraternity,” he said. “It’s also a special thing to say our vows again. They really resonate when you hear them spoken by the entire group. It reminds me of how I felt making them on the day of my ordination.”