The Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s annual Chrism Mass was held Tuesday, March 26, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee. (Photo by Edgar Danilo Batres)

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee was filled with worshippers from every corner of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Tuesday, March 26, for the annual Chrism Mass.

Worshippers began gathering an hour early, just to secure seats. The atmosphere was joyful, as people greeted friends and acquaintances from across the archdiocese, while the Archdiocese Choir and instrumentalists warmed up.

The mood turned reverent as the start of Mass approached.

In this annual liturgy, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki blesses the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens, and consecrates the Sacred Chrism. At the end of Mass, these three oils are distributed to parish representatives, to be used in the sacramental life of their churches in the coming year.

During the Mass, priests were seated in long rows behind and to the left of the altar, and deacons were seated opposite them to the right. The Mass began with a procession that included many of the Mass participants, including Auxiliary Bishops Jeffrey R. Haines and James T. Schuerman, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Sklba, Fr. Timothy Kitzke, rector of the cathedral, and Archbishop Listecki.

Nearly three dozen volunteers from the archdiocese staff assisted with setup, greeting and distribution of the oils. Seminarians served as acolytes.

In his homily, Archbishop Listecki reminded worshippers of the centrality of Jesus in our lives, and the truth that through Jesus we are made caregivers of the Church. “Without the Church there is no Christ, and without Christ there is no Church.”

Between the homily and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, there are two special parts that make the Chrism Mass unique.

First came the Renewal of Commitment. Each group at the Mass stood, in turn, and made their vocal pledges of renewed commitment to the Church and their role: first the laity, then the religious and consecrated, followed by the deacons and the priests, and then the bishops.

“There is no greater liturgical event in the year than this Mass,” Archbishop Listecki said. “Every aspect of the ministerial role of the Church is present, and each of us pledges vocally, reaffirming our commitment to the Church.”

After the Renewal of Commitment, the three oils were presented to the archbishop to be blessed.

First, he blessed the Oil of the Sick, which is used for anointing those who are ill or infirm, and which “implores God for a healing, but more so to express hope in the Lord who offers salvation,” Archbishop Listecki explained in an email sent out earlier in the day.

Next, he blessed the Oil of the Catechumens, used to anoint those who are about to be baptized, and “sets apart the anointed to the desire to be one with the work of Christ and His Church.”

Last, he consecrated the Chrism, the oil used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination. “It signifies that a person is set apart for sharing in the threefold mission of Christ to sanctify, proclaim and give Christian leadership through our witness to the world.”

To consecrate the oil, the archbishop mixed sweet-smelling balsam into the oil. Then he breathed over the oil, as a sign of the Holy Spirit’s action in consecrating the oil.

The Chrism was presented in numerous vessels. The people bearing the Chrism vessels were transitional deacons whose hands will be anointed with this Chrism at their Ordination in May, a teen who will be anointed with this Chrism at his Confirmation, and a representative from St. Charles Church in Hartland, where this Chrism will be used this weekend in the dedication ceremony for the new church.

Many of the laity in attendance were there to receive the sacred oils for their parishes. Others were there to experience the Chrism Mass, some for the first time. One gentleman, who had been to the Mass many years ago, said he attended again this year because he was “in need of some extra prayers.”

“The Chrism Mass reinforces for me that my priesthood comes from Christ, and also that I do not practice it or exercise it in some place of abstraction,” said Fr. Nathan Reesman, Vicar for Clergy. “I exercise it in the local church of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, under the authority of my bishops, with my brother priests, and for the faithful who surround me both inside the Cathedral and beyond its walls. I am a father in a local family that is together in good and bad times, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. I cannot ever forget these things, which is why I never allow myself to miss the Chrism Mass.”

“These oils are taken back to parishes, connecting us together to the universal work of Christ and his Church,” Archbishop Listecki said. “We are a family joined together by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.”