Apr 15, 2014

Annual Chrism Mass hosts nearly full cathedral for ancient ritual



Story and photos by Terence Hegarty

SPRINGFIELD – Celebrating the beginning of the holiest days in the life of the church, Holy Week, Catholics from the Diocese of Springfield participated in the annual Chrism Mass held in St. Michael’s Cathedral, here, on April 14.

More than 900 faithful from around the diocese packed themselves into the pews of the cathedral for the celebration of the ancient Holy Week ritual, an important part of the journey for those seeking to receive sacraments this spring.

Hundreds of teenagers who are preparing for confirmation joined those preparing to receive their sacraments and fully join the Catholic faith this weekend as part of the Easter Vigil liturgy.

Maddie Blanchard, a Southampton resident and member of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Easthampton, who is scheduled to be confirmed May 3, said she is looking forward to “embracing the sacraments” when she is confirmed.

“It’s a huge deal,” she said. “My faith is important to me. I talk to God every day. There’s not one day that goes by where I don’t pray to God.”

Blanchard told iobserve that seeing the cathedral and the number of people in attendance was inspiring. “This was amazing, this church is so beautiful and I’m very happy to be here,” she said.

Father Douglas McGonagle, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish, told iobserve that an impression like the one that Blanchard gained is important.

“I really wanted to make sure that my confirmation students were here,” Father McGonagle told iobserve. “To be able to come here and see all the other kids from all across the diocese who are also preparing for confirmation and to be part of the larger church I think is so very important.”

Ben McKiernan, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Agawam, who is to be confirmed in October, told iobserve that participating in the sacrament of confirmation, “shows that you’re committed” to the faith.

Speaking of the Chrism Mass itself, McKiernan said, “I thought it was amazing. I didn’t know how the Chrism Mass worked before tonight and that was really interesting to see that and be a part of it and witness it.”

Nearly all of the diocese’s priests participated in the Mass and renewed their priestly commitment as part of the ceremony.

The Mass was also signed in American Sign Language for the deaf and hearing impaired by Father Matthew Alcombright.

Chrism Masses are held around the world on the Monday of Holy Week. The key ritual of the Mass involves the blessing by the bishop of all of the oils that will be used in his diocese for the rest of the year.

Three types of oils are used for sacraments in the church, the oil of chrism, the oil of the sick and the oil of catechumens. The oil of chrism is used primarily for those Catholics who will be receiving their confirmation. The oil of the sick is used in administering the sacrament of the sick to Catholics throughout the year and the oil of catechumens is used primarily for baptisms.

As part of the key rituals during the Mass, three large silver vessels of oils were brought forward to Bishop McDonnell at the altar, the Presentation of the Oils.

“This oil will be blessed and carried to every parish,” the bishop said of the oils. As part of the Rite of Blessing of Oils and the Consecration of Chrism, Bishop McDonnell then blessed the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens, and consecrated the oil of chrism.

Following the Mass, the oils were distributed to parishes and missions in the diocese for sacramental use throughout the year.

For those in Berkshire County, Bishop McDonnell will celebrate the Mass of the Presentation of Oils April 15 at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield.

For a video version of this story, tune in to the April 19 edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.