Bishop Powers is assisted by Dcn. John Grek as the bishop addresses his priests and invites them to renew their priestly promises after the Chrism Mass homily. During this renewal, priests serving in the Diocese of Superior resolve “to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him,” to deny themselves and take up the sacred duties they pledged to undertake the day of their priestly ordination and to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the sacraments and liturgical rites as well as be faithful teachers following Christ, “moved only by zeal for souls.” (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Despite the drizzly rain and cloudy day, there was great joy in Bishop James P. Power’s introductory greeting for the 2021 Chrism Mass on Tuesday, March 23.

Welcoming those participating both in person and online, the bishop described the sensation of struggling to find words to describe “the joy, the laughter, the voices, the life back in our cathedral.”

He noted it was hard to believe it had been two years since the Diocese of Superior had been able to celebrate what Bishop Powers called the “high point” of the sacramental life in the diocese.

In the homily, the bishop gave special recognition to his “new best friend,” Fr. Andy Ricci’s cell phone that has made the livestreaming of Masses and events from the cathedral possible.

Not dwelling on the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Powers focused on the blessing of the 2021 Chrism Mass having the best attendance ever with the addition of livestream viewers.

While the empty baptismal font, empty pews and masked attendees were visual reminders of pandemic limitations, the celebration was extending far beyond church walls.

David Dusek, bookkeeper assistant for the cathedral parish, has also been using his talents to assist with background duties associated with the livestream events. He posted comments asking watchers to share where they were viewing from. The list included locations across northwest Wisconsin as well other states: South Carolina, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, Missouri and even Alaska.

The video of the Mass has been viewed almost 1,500 times.

One of the most significant facts Dusek noted was the number of viewers who shared they had never attended a Chrism Mass, and the livestream was their first opportunity to participate.

“Our gathering together to celebrate this Chrism Mass is that greatest sign of unity” as one diocesan church, the bishop said.

Connecting the Gospel reading of Luke 4: 16-21 to the first reading from Isaiah, chapter 61, Bishop Powers described the “litmus test for all who proclaim to be” disciples.

“Each and every one of us by the virtue of our baptism and those who have been confirmed… are sent forth as co-workers in the mission of Isaiah, in the mission of Our Lord Jesus himself” – to bring glad tidings to the poor and proclaim the love of God to all.

Bishop Powers explained how each of the oils blessed and consecrated at the Mass would be used to prolong and enliven the life of grace in the faithful.

The oil of the sick will be used throughout the diocese, taken by priests into hospitals and nursing homes, where people suffer in body, mind and spirit. At all times of the day and night, it will be given as a “spiritual ointment by which the Holy Spirit heals and comforts those who suffer,” Bishop Powers explained, “strengthening them … removing fears, reinforcing that hope and that promise of eternal life.”

The oil of catechumens will be used to anoint infants, children and adults in baptism – cleansing them in the waters of baptism and strengthening them against sin and temptation.
The sacred chrism seals those who receive it in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders.

“Sacraments where those who receive them are changed forever, through the power of the Holy Spirit,” he affirmed. It symbolizes rebirth and the invitation to share in Christ’s mission, forever changing the person. It seals with the gift of the Holy Spirit, receiving the fullness and power of his gifts.

During ordination, the sacred chrism is rubbed into the hands and palms of the man being ordained while the bishop prays that the man will be guarded and preserved to sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifice on their behalf. Those hands – through the words of the bishop and power of the Holy Spirit – will consecrate the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The bishop also mentioned the permanent deacons present in reference to the renewal of vows of the ordained, as they share in the divine mission of ministry to God’s people.
“The truth of the fact (is) that God has first called us by name, and anointed us not for some special privilege or favor for ourselves, but anointed us and sent us forth as a gift that we might take and share with others.”

Addressing the priests, he thanked them for their generous response and daily renewal of their calling.

“Brothers, we know that it isn’t always easy, it’s not always fun,” Bishop Powers said, and acknowledged the many needs and extra challenges of the past year, “the limitations of being able to reach out to those that you so, so wanted to.”

He begged them to never forget that God chose them, and they responded “yes.” He encouraged them to never lose sight that God will sustain them if they let him, and that prayer is an important element of that sustenance.

Sharing comments he’s heard and personal experience of how difficult prayer has been this past year, the bishop continued, “Without it I don’t how any of us could’ve survived … that importance of allowing our God to love us, to lift us, that we might be able to work his miracles in our world.

“And in the time of prayer, how important that relationship to our Blessed Mother, who walks daily with her beloved priests. Let her who bore the son of God into the world help you bring Christ to the people that you minister to. … as you lead the communal prayer of your people, know how important it is that you receive the sacraments yourselves.”

The bishop spoke of frequently receiving the sacrament of confession, bringing that experience of personal forgiveness into their ministry in the confessional. He prayed for their energy, enthusiasm and zeal from their early priesthood.

Then to the faithful, to all the faithful of the Diocese of Superior, Bishop Powers said, “I beg you, love your priests. Pray for your priests, as they love and pray for you. I also ask for your love and prayers for myself as well.

“How important it is that we love one another. How important it is that we pray for one another, because there’s not a one of us that’s going to make it through on our own … Not a one of us that God wants to make the journey on our own,” he added.

“He’s created us as family, as his family, and he calls us to journey together as family,” the bishop emphasized and said that as such, we are called to loving, forgiving, nurturing and sustaining one another as God loves, forgives, nurtures and sustains us.

“We stand as a reflection of that light of Christ shining brightly for all to see. And the darker the world may seem, if we stand together, how much brighter the light of Christ shines through us.”