‘Taste of heaven’ as diocese’s priests renew commitment

By: By Jennifer Willems

A taste of heaven.

Sharon Torres of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington used those words not once but twice to describe her first experience of the Chrism Mass, which was celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on April 19.

The liturgy, which is traditionally offered early in Holy Week, brings together Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and the priests of the Diocese of Peoria to renew their commitment to priestly service. At this Mass, the bishop also blesses the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumens and the sacred Chrism, all of which will be used in sacramental anointing at parishes around central Illinois in the year to come.

“It was like a taste of heaven,” Torres told The Catholic Post. “I pray for (the priests) every day. This makes me appreciate the priests a whole lot more — and the bishop, too.”

She came at the invitation of Pat Pence, also of Holy Trinity in Bloomington, who has wanted to come to the Chrism Mass for some time. “I decided this was the year,” she said.

They were among the many permanent deacons, consecrated women and men, students, teachers and lay people who filled St. Mary’s Cathedral with song, prayer and applause, especially when Bishop Jenky invited them to show their appreciation for their priests. After several minutes of clapping — and even a loud whistle offered in cheerful support — the bishop prompted another round of applause when he said, “I guess we really love our priests.”

This year about 225 students from 10 schools around the diocese accepted Bishop Jenky’s invitation to join him at the Chrism Mass, including the second-graders and confirmation students from Visitation School in Kewanee. It was the second visit to the cathedral for the seventh- and eighth-graders, who were anointed with sacred Chrism when they were confirmed by Bishop Jenky in March.

He reminded them — and everyone present — that Holy Week and the annual Chrism Mass are given to the faithful to help them “renew a deeper understanding of the sacred reality of the church and the holiness of its priesthood.”

“The oils that we will consecrate today remind us in a tangible manner of the church’s core vocation to be holy,” Bishop Jenky said.

“Through the power of the Holy Spirit, holy oils truly heal and strengthen. Holy Chrism especially fills the church with the intoxicating perfume of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “And all of the holy oils signify the sanctity of the holy people of God.”

It can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of who God is and what God can accomplish through the church when “language inflation” has corrupted the meaning of once-powerful words such as “awesome,” Bishop Jenky said.

“A flavor of ice cream can be called awesome. A shade of lipstick can be described as awesome. A roller coaster ride, a CD, a video game or even a brand of chewing gum are all being identified as awesome,” he said.

“In those distant days before advertising, something awesome could never be trivial. Something awesome had to be wonderful . . . had to seize you, inspire you, change you, capture your soul and win your heart,” the bishop told his listeners.

“By definition, nothing is as awesome as almighty God, because God is like nothing else that is,” he said. “No human words can in the same way accurately describe everything else and almighty God.”

Bishop Jenky did use the word “awesome” to describe the Christian vocation, saying that through the Blessed Sacrament we become what we receive — “a part of Christ, children of God and heirs to his kingdom.”

“Today may our priests renew their vows with fervor and great generosity. And may the Lord bless the oils with the grace of the Spirit,” he said. “Let us worship and adore and love the God who loved us first. And then, more than ever before, let us determine to live our awesome Catholic faith.”

In the days that followed the Chrism Mass, Mary Colleen McKean of St. John the Baptist Parish in Bradford wrote to The Catholic Post to say that she had been moved by the experience. As an organist and cantor she appreciated the work of the Cathedral Choir, which is led by Dr. Sherry Seckler, the organist at St. Mary’s Cathedral and director of sacred music for the Diocese of Peoria, and the Pontifical Brass.

“More than even that, however, is the tremendous impression I had seeing the hundreds of priests in our diocese together as a body,” McKean wrote. “These men have given so much of themselves and even though their rewards are being piled up in heaven, they are still human and need our support and prayers.”

Offering them “a big thank you,” she assured them that “we love and support you.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: To hear Bishop Jenky’s homily from the Chrism Mass, go the website of the Diocese of Peoria, cdop.org, and click on the link for “The Bishop’s Podcast.”

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