April 16, 2023
By Marlene A. Zloza | Northwest Indiana Catholic
“Pour out in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit on our brothers and sisters anointed with this oil; adorn with the splendor of holiness the places and things signed by sacred oils; but above all, by the mystery of this oil, bring to completion the growth of your Church.” – Order of the Blessing of Oils, no. 25-2
GARY – Dozens of priests, deacons and seminarians joined Diocese of Gary Bishop Robert J. McClory at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels to open the Easter Triduum with the annual chrism Mass on April 6.
Sunshine brightly illuminated the stained glass windows as hundreds of the faithful joined the Diocesan Choir in the processional hymn, “To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King,” while the clergy proceeded through the nave and into the sanctuary.
“Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect,” said the bishop, quoting Romans 12:2 to highlight the theme of his homily.
“TPP – Trust in God, Pray to know his will and Plan how to respond to what God asks of us,” Bishop McClory instructed his flock.
“When I breathe on the chrism Oil today, part of what I will say is, ‘By the mystery of this oil, bring to completion the growth of your Church.’ Today is the day to celebrate that the Lord will accomplish this,” said the bishop, adding that the Catholic Church is still experiencing the loss of some faithful at Mass resulting from the pandemic.
Mass attendance remains down by about one-third overall in the Church, while in the Diocese of Gary attendance remains about 27% down. “Some parishes are down, some are about the same (as before) and some are up. I will say that donations remain about the same as before COVID-19,” the bishop said.
The purpose of the annual Chrism Mass is twofold, to bring the priests and deacons of the diocese together to renew their vows, and to bless oils for sacramental use over the coming year throughout the Diocese of Gary. The bishop consecrates the chrism oil through which the newly baptized are anointed and confirmed, and blesses the oil of catechumen, by which candidates for baptism are strengthened to renounce sin and the devil, and the oil of the sick, through which the sick receive a remedy for illness of soul and body and receive the strength to bear suffering, resist evil and obtain forgiveness of sin.
John Mearns, an active parishioner at Sacred Heart church in LaPorte’s Holy Family Parish, got to see a new perspective by attending his first Chrism Mass. “I was very impressed; participating in a special Mass is always a treat,” he said. “I am (usually) very involved in the Triduum as an emcee at my parish, so when the oils are brought to the parish, I make sure they get into the correct vessels for the Holy Thursday Mass, but today I get to see things from the other side. The amount of oil (for the whole diocese) is amazing.
While her husband focused on the liturgy itself, Georgette Mearns noticed the people. “What I loved is to see all the priests and deacons together, and to see the whole church filled with all kinds of worshippers – orders of religious sisters in different habits, and Franciscans in their brown robes, and all ages; people from all over the diocese together,” she said.
All 12 of the diocesan seminarians participated in the Chrism Mass, assisting the bishop and concelebrants. Watching closely was Nellie Marcotte, younger sister of first-year seminarian Leo Marcotte of St. Mary in Crown Point. “This is my first Chrism Mass, and it was really beautiful,” she remarked. “I love sacred music. (Listening to it) feels like you are in heaven; it blurs the line between here and heaven.
A homeschooled high school junior, Marcotte is undecided on a career, but knows her brother made the right choice. “He’s just so happy that he glows when he comes home from seminary. He talks and talks about it, and it’s lovely to see.
She also sees an advantage in someday being the sister of a priest. “He gives the best advice; he is very impartial. Once you add the spiritual element, I’ll be able to ask him about things when I’m an adult and I’ll have an experienced advisor.”
At the end of the Chrism Mass, members of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women transferred the three different oils into small bottles in sets of three that are distributed immediately to pastors waiting to bring them to local parishes for the Holy Thursday Mass in the evening.
“It is amazing to see all the priests together,” said Sharon Surty, a member of St. Mary in Griffith, who is working to distribute the oil of the sick for the third year. “It makes me proud to be a Catholic, especially when you see priests that you know. I feel part of something big, which we are, by following Jesus.”
Kathy Siniawski, who moved to Griffith just two years ago and belongs to St. James the Less in Highland, made her first trip to the cathedral this year to attend her first Chrism Mass and to “pour chrism oil into bottles and cap them,” she said. “It’s an honor. These ladies, especially Sue Kresich who leads the project and invited me to help, are so organized.
“The cathedral is breathtaking! It is so beautiful, especially the stained-glass windows and the architecture,” Siniawski added. “What a nice introduction to the cathedral, seeing behind the scenes with the oils and enjoying Mass – what could be better?”