In the homily for his second Chrism Mass as shepherd of the Jefferson City diocese, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight made an urgent call for unity and more effective collaboration among priests and laity.
He said all of God’s people must work together to overcome the problems the Church now faces in this diocese, the nation and the world.
“We need each other, the clergy and the laity, to fulfill the mission Christ has given to His Church by the outpouring of His Holy Spirit,” Bishop McKnight insisted. “By supporting one another and having mutual respect for our different roles and responsibilities in the Body of Christ, our communion with God and one another is strengthened.”
Several hundred priests, deacons, religious sisters and laypeople from all over the diocese gathered in the Cathedral of St. Joseph on April 11 for the Chrism Mass.
“This is the expression of our unity as the Church!” Bishop McKnight stated. “The love of God poured out for us in the Blessed Sacrament, and also the love poured out for us by these, His priests, who give their lives in service to the Church.”
Each year at the Chrism Mass, celebrated in this diocese one week before Holy Thursday, the bishop blesses the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumens and consecrates the Holy Chrism that will be used to administer the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and anointing of the sick in the upcoming year.
The priests and bishops also renew the promises they made to God on the day of their ordination, when their hands were anointed with Holy Chrism, when the Holy Spirit came down and made them priests.
“What a great life and mission we have as priests; and what a blessing and privilege we all enjoy in the life of grace received in baptism, to share in the life and mission of the Church!” said Bishop McKnight. “Let us give thanks to the Lord!”
He spoke at length about how each of the three oils, and the sacraments they correspond to, point to Jesus’s ministry of teaching, healing and sanctifying — “words and deeds that manifest the new reality of the Kingdom of God.”
He said the Chrism Mass and the renewal of priestly promises “recapitulates all at once” Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension, the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the birth of the Church.
He pointed out that Jesus prayed at the Last Supper for all to be one, just as He and His Heavenly Father are one.
“We need to build a stronger culture of hope and mutual respect so that we may deal more effectively with the tragedy of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the declining number of active priests, the pressures on families, the challenges our young adults face, and the moral decay of our society,” the bishop said.
Joining him at the altar were: Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos, who led the diocese from 1997-2017; Father Dwayne “Bo” Ryan, who served in the diocese for many years and is noting his 65th priestly anniversary; Father Angelus Minj and Father Roberto Ike, who are noting 25 years of Priesthood; Father Louis Nelen, pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish; Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general; and Monsignor Frank Peter Lane, who led this year’s Priests’ Day of Recollection.
Assisting them were Deacons Dan Joyce and Louis Leonatti.
Students of Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City served in many of the liturgical roles, including as lectors and altar servers. They also helped carry the blessed and consecrated oils to the cathedral undercroft for sorting and distribution.
Deacons Al Brand, Christopher Baker, Paul Poulter and Ric Telthorst took part in the procession of oils.
Sisters Mary Rost and Bernita Wasinger, who are School Sisters of Notre Dame, presented the bread and wine at the offertory.
Before consecrating the Holy Chrism, Bishop McKnight summoned the faithful to “pray ... to God the Almighty Father, that He bless and sanctify this oil, so that all who are outwardly anointed with it may be inwardly transformed and come to share in eternal salvation.”
At the end of Mass, he prayed: “We beseech You, Almighty God, that those You renew by Your sacraments may merit to become a pleasing fragrance of Christ, Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen!”
Jesus’s all-loving heart
Earlier that day, the priests and bishops gathered for their annual Priests’ Day of Recollection.
This year’s presenter was Msgr. Lane, a retired priest of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, who was pastor of the parish Bishop McKnight served at as a transitional deacon 25 years ago.
Msgr. Lane spoke to the priests about “Sacred Heart Devotion and Priestly Ministry.”
“I basically approached it from the viewpoint of the relational nature of the human person and how that involves us in a relationship with God,” he said.
“The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a good way to comprehend the benevolence and care that God has for us and the generosity of the gift of His life to us,” he stated.
He observed that the priests of this diocese were very polite, attentive, gracious and responsive to his message.
He believes that because they share many unique goals, challenges and experiences, it’s important for priests of any diocese to cultivate fellowship and seek out one another’s support in order to continue ministering effectively.
He found Jefferson City to be a beautiful setting, and the priests he observed and spoke to exhibited good esprit de corps.
“I know Bishop McKnight’s talents and skill sets, and I think this diocese is a good match for him,” said Msgr. Lane. “I know he’s very happy here.”