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Bishop blesses sacred oils, priests renew promises at Chrism Mass

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

For some, the ceremonies of Holy Week don’t begin until Holy Thursday, but for the bishop, priests, deacons and laity, Holy Week began with the Chrism Mass.

Bishop Walker Nickless presided at the April 14 Mass that was concelebrated by the diocesan priests at Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City. 

“Brothers and sisters, I welcome you as we gather to celebrate the Chrism Mass,” said the bishop. “I will bless the three oils that will be used in the sacraments throughout the diocese and our priests will, in a special way, renew their priestly commitment.”

This was the beginning of a week of celebrating great days of the Catholic faith – “Holy Thursday and the gift of the Eucharist, Good Friday and the gift and sacrifice of God’s only son on our behalf, the great Easter vigil on Saturday night and the resurrection on Easter Sunday,” said Bishop Nickless during his homily.

He thanked all the priests and deacons for being present. The deans of the diocese were seated in the sanctuary with the bishop.

“We have our religious, our candidates for confirmation, the elect and representatives from parishes throughout the diocese,” said the bishop. “Some of our seminarians are here as well as Deacon Frank Lona, who God willing, I will have the privilege of ordaining to the priesthood this June. It is a great day for the church of Sioux City.”

Bishop Nickless explained the title, Chrism Mass, comes from the Greek word for ointment or anointing.

“Christ is the anointed one. In confirmation, all of us were anointed to be more like Christ, the son of God,” he said. “Chrism is also used in baptism and the ordination of bishops and priests. It is used to consecrate altars and dedicate new churches.”

Priestly unity

Turning his attention to the priests, Bishop Nickless thanked them for their ministry, their leadership and their love of their bride, “the body of Christ, the church.”

“As priests, you are called upon day after day to do many things for the faithful,” said the bishop. “God has called and chosen each one of you because of the particular talents and abilities that he sees can be used for the good of the church.”

In this month’s issue of Magnificat, Bishop Nickless said, there was a series of things priests could be thankful for.

Sharing the items, he said, “We should be grateful for the privilege of serving your holy church, for the grace of preaching, for the honor of pastoring your people, for the capacity to teach the faith, for the miracle of being able to say, ‘This is my body;’ for the wonderful words, ‘I absolve you from your sins;’ for proposing me, despite my unworthiness, as an example of holiness. For these and so much more, we are grateful for being a priest.”

Renewing commitment

After his homily, the priests all stood and the bishop led them in their renewal of commitment. The bishop asked them a series of questions including, “Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?”

The priests answered, “I am.”

Addressing the congregation, Bishop Nickless said, “As for you, dearest sons and daughters, pray for your priests, that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them, and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest, so that they may lead you to him, who is the source of salvation.”

Sacred oils

Members of the community brought the balsam (perfume), Oil of the Catechumens, Oil of the Sick, Oil of Chrism, paten of bread and chalice of wine, to the altar for the bishop to pray over and bless. 

The bishop blessed the Oil of the Sick during the Eucharistic prayer. He blessed the Oil of Catechumens and consecrated the sacred chrism following Communion.

As Bishop Nickless prayed over the chrism, all of the priests extended their right hands. He prayed, "And so, father, we ask you to bless this oil you have created. Fill it with the power of your Holy Spirit through Christ your son. It is from him that chrism takes its name and with chrism you have anointed for yourself priests and kings, prophets and martyrs."

During the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Nickless thanked Father William Vit, rector of the Cathedral, the chancery staff and the seminarian servers for their help with the Mass. 

A reception was held in the basement of the parish at which refreshments were served and the oils were distributed to parish representatives. 

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