By Jay Nies
Last spring, while celebrating the Mass of the Holy Chrism with the priests of this diocese, Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos noted that all other sacraments point toward or flow from the Eucharist, which unites the whole Church in communion with Jesus Christ.
Only God knew at that time that some of the Oil of Sacred Chrism that Bishop Gaydos consecrated at that Mass would be used to ordain his successor in February of this year.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, Bishop Gaydos’ recently ordained successor, will preside at this year’s Chrism Mass.
It will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, in the Cathedral of St. Joseph, 2215 W. Main St. in Jefferson City.
Lay people, especially those seeking sacraments of initiation at Easter, as well as confirmation candidates, seminarians and catechists, are encouraged to attend.
Each year in every diocese, the Chrism Mass solidifies the bond of unity among the bishop, priests, the sacraments and the people who receive them.
It unites the People of God in recalling and celebrating the gifts of the Holy Priesthood and the Most Holy Eucharist.
Bishop McKnight will bless the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick and will consecrate the Oil of Sacred Chrism.
The priests will take the oils back to their parishes and use them to administer the sacraments of baptism and anointing of the sick throughout the upcoming year.
Bishop McKnight will use the Oil of Chrism in administering confirmation and in the ordination of priests and the consecrating of churches and altars.
Because the bishop is the only person in the diocese who may consecrate chrism, the Chrism Mass highlights his ministry and the union of the priests with him.
It also symbolizes the unity among the priests and the people to whom they are sent to minister.
Together at the Mass, the priests and the bishop will renew the promises they made to God at their priestly ordination, when their hands were anointed with Sacred Chrism.
Bishop McKnight will ask the congregation to pray for the priests and to pray for him.
The priests and faithful will also acknowledge Christ’s priestly ministry manifested in Father Gregory Oligschlaeger, diocesan vocation director, who will celebrate his 25th priestly anniversary this year.
A year’s worth of blessings
The annual blessing of the sacramental oils dates from the early Church. It originally was part of the Holy Thursday Liturgy, since the Last Supper was not only the origin of the Eucharist, but also of the Holy Priesthood.
Bishop McKnight will bless the Oil of Catechumens, which is used for infants during the baptismal ceremony, and the anointing of catechumens during the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as they prepare to be baptized.
It designates all members of the Church as learners in the Church.
The bishop will bless the Oil of the Sick, which is used in the sacrament of anointing of the sick.
He will consecrate the Sacred Oil of Chrism, which is used in baptism, as well as confirmation and the ordination of priests and bishops.
It is also used to bless the walls and consecrate the altars of new church buildings.
Priestly prayer, fellowship
Throughout the day leading up to the Mass, the priests will spend time together at a day of recollection led by Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, to help them prepare to re-commission themselves and deepen their own Lenten renewal.
The theme will be: “Father Augustus Tolton’s Message for our Priesthood.”
Bishop Perry is the postulator of Fr. Tolton’s sainthood cause.
Born into slavery and baptized into the Church in northeastern Missouri six years before the Civil War, Fr. Tolton later escaped with his mother and siblings to freedom in Illinois.
Over time, young “Gus” came to know his priestly calling and pursue it singularly in spite of poverty, harsh racism and other obstacles.
In 1886, he became the Catholic Church’s first black priest in the United States.