Anne-Marie Welsh

Left to right: Diane Wisinski of Sacred Heart Parish, Erie; Michele Inter, director of Disabilities Ministries; Sharon Bond, Sacred Heart Parish; Deacon Nick Cirell, Deacon Jim Moss, and Matthew Clark, administrator of the Office of Worship, at the April 15 Chrism Mass, St. Peter Cathedral, Erie.
Photos by Anne-Marie Welsh

It’s always a dramatic site as deacons carry large urns of oil forward at the annual Chrism Mass during Holy Week at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie.

Accompanied by a handful of people representing those who will receive the oil, the deacons bring the urns to Bishop Lawrence Persico. The Mass offers worshippers a moment of unity with parishioners throughout the diocese, the nation and the world—all of whom are experiencing the same rite this week. 

Bishop Lawrence Persico pours balsa into the oil, creating sacred chrism that will be used for the sacrament of holy orders, and at all parishes in the Diocese of Erie for baptisms and confirmations this year.

On April 15, once all of the oils had been brought to the altar, the bishop blessed the oil of the infirm and the oil of catechumens. When he approached the sacred chrism — used in baptisms, confirmation and holy orders — he invited the priests of the diocese to join him by extending their hands in blessing. This created a powerful moment as the assembly witnessed priests in unity with the ministry of the bishop.

All priests of the diocese are invited to attend the Chrism Mass each year, as it includes a ritual during which they renew their commitment to priestly service. It was particularly meaningful this year, as they have weathered the effects of the 40th Statewide Grand Jury Report.

“Beloved sons,” Bishop Persico asked, “on the anniversary of that day when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood on his Apostles and on us, are you resolved to renew, in the presence of your bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made?

“I am,” they affirmed.

“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?

Priests of the diocese join Bishop Persico in blessing the sacred chrism.

“I am.”

“Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the Holy Eucharist and other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the head and shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls?”

“I am.”

The bishop then asked the people to pray that the Lord would pour out his gifts abundantly upon their priests and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the high priest. Finally, he asked for prayers for himself, that he might be faithful to the apostolic office entrusted to him, and that he might be made a more perfect image of Christ, the priest, the good shepherd, the teacher and the servant of all.