The bishop greets students who received the blessed oils and consecrated Chrism to take back to their local parish church. Likewise, representatives from every parish across the diocese are invited to come forward before the Chrism Mass’s final blessing. Afterwards, the three vessels of blessed and consecrated holy oils are reposed in the side chapel, where they are kept at the Cathedral. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

The Diocese of Superior’s Chrism Mass takes place annually on the Tuesday before Holy Week. For 2024, it coincided with the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19.

Before Mass began, four Ojibwe women in traditional dress danced toward the altar accompanied by a tribal member chanting and keeping rhythm on a deerskin drum.

Once the dancers were around the altar, Sr. Felissa Zander, SSSF, recited a prayer to God the Creator highlighting the integration of Christian faith with Native culture, an homage to the Catholic presence among the region’s Ojibwe tribes.
“Creator and Maker, help us to walk straight the sacred path of life, and hear your voice and see your beauty in creation and creatures alike. Give us the strength and courage, O Creator, to perceive the sacredness of life,” Sr. Felissa prayed.
Then calling out the four cardinal directions with the women following the four-point turns, the sister reflected on the symbolism of each.

Facing the east, “May the rising sun remind us of you, who gives us great wisdom and strength.” Facing south, the Creator was thanked for sending soft winds and rain that bring to mind goodness and happiness. “O Great Power and Source of all Life, help us to walk with you always,” she prayed.

Turning to the west, “Creator of the setting sun, we send our voice up to you … We pray that we may look longingly toward the sunset of our life and feel your greatness and beauty within us.”

Lastly, facing the north, “Our eyes are turned toward you. When you speak to us from the North, you are power over the harshness of our lives, stormy winds and great snows. You are the Great One who calms our fears and anxieties. Give us strength and courage to walk the strong winds in life by walking with you … For the protection you provide us, we thank you, our Creator.”

To begin his homily, Bishop James P. Powers acknowledged the various groups present in the congregation – parish representatives, Catholic school children, the Diocesan Chorale and the clergy. He included those participating via livestream and noted, “How good it is to see the cathedral so full of joy.”

The bishop then reflected on the aspect of unity that has been stressed in all of the Maintenance to Mission meetings and efforts in recent years.

“We are one church, one diocese … made up of many different communities,” Bishop Powers said, “called to care for and about one another.” He noted that the Chrism Mass is the most visible sign of unity, faithful of all ages coming from all corners of the diocese.

He spoke of the two things that happen at a Chrism Mass that are not done at any other Mass during the year: the blessing and distribution of the sacred oils and the public renewal of the priests’ commitment to their ministry.

Reflecting on the liturgical readings from the beginning of Isaiah, chapter 61, and the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, verses 16 to 21, Bishop Powers stated that Jesus did not only repeat the words of the prophet, but he fulfilled the hope spoken of by Isaiah by healing and forgiving sins.

“We immerse ourselves in that same joy, hope and promise of Jesus’ fulfillment,” he said. “United as one Body of Christ here in the Diocese of Superior, we hear and we accept the fact that those words are fulfilled, also being an invitation to hear our own call to mission in the world.”

A mission, he continued, entrusted to each and every one by virtue of our baptism, by the anointings we have received to share in the work and mission of Christ, proclaiming God’s love and mercy.

He then explained the historical role and significance of each of the oils — the Oil of the Sick and Oil of Catechumens — that would be blessed and the Sacred Chrism that would be consecrated.

“As these oils are used throughout the diocese,” Bishop Powers affirmed, “they will unite us as one Body of Christ through the sacraments” of life and healing, accompaniment.

Turning to address his brother priests, the bishop expressed his deep gratitude and asked for prayers for them and for himself. He also invited those participating in the Mass to share in the renewal, “to the degree that we share in the common priestly role of our Lord as spoken of Isaiah.”

He encouraged the ordained priests to recall God’s first invitation and to renew their awareness of its gifting, freely received by them and to be freely given.

“With all my heart, I say thank you. For your generous response, for the daily renewal of it in your ministry,” he said. Acknowledging that it’s not always easy in such a broken world, he encouraged, “Don’t forget God chose you. Never lose sight that God will sustain you if you allow him to.”

Bishop Powers continued, “In your prayer also be close to our Blessed Mother, who walks daily with her beloved priests. Let her who bore the Son of God into this world help you bear Christ to the people you minister to.”

To the faithful he begged, “Love your priests. Pray for them daily.… Together we are God’s holy people in the Diocese of Superior, alive in faith and united by prayer, a reflection of the light of Christ shining bright for all to see.”