WILMINGTON — Dozens of priests from the Diocese of Wilmington gathered for a delayed and scaled-down Chrism Mass on July 16 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington. It was an opportunity for the men also to receive the oils they will use for the sacraments at their parishes over the next year.
In his welcome, Bishop Malooly noted that the Mass normally takes place in April at Holy Cross Church in Dover, with priests, religious and laypeople packing the church. Thanks to the coronavirus, the priests were almost without exception the only people in the pews. They sat one or two to a pew and wore masks throughout the service.
“This is more like the traditional route with the bishop and his priests,” the bishop said.
The readings, from Isaiah and Revelation, both dealt with the priesthood, and the gospel, from Luke, is about Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth, where he read from a scroll about why God had sent him: “to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Bishop Malooly said he uses that gospel at about half of the confirmations he celebrates. It applies today at least as well as it did in Jesus’ time.
“In a very practical way, this is probably more applicable in our diocese, throughout the country and throughout the world than it has been in a long time,” he said.
Addressing the priests, the bishop said God’s presence is with them as they follow their vocations.
“He doesn’t ask much of us,” Bishop Malooly said. “He wants us simply to share the good news that the father sends his son to suffer, die and rise that we might have eternal life.”
During the Mass, the priests renewed the vows they took at their ordinations. Afterward, they picked up bags containing the three oils blessed by the bishop. They are the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens and the sacred chrism.
He thanked the priests for the work they have done during the coronavirus pandemic to keep their parishioners engaged. As the severity of the virus became clear, the bishop and other diocesan leaders discussed how to approach the situation while dealing with differing realities in Delaware and Maryland.
“It became very clear that we do it through the leader in each parish. I just want to commend you for your creativity, the use of media. Taping, live-streaming Masses, trying to reach out to my age group and making them feel welcome and at home. And for the slow opening of your parishes,” he said.
That last point is important, he continued, because the deliberate approach has helped keep the coronavirus at bay.
Bishop Malooly also said the priests are helping their congregations follow God’s wishes, “especially in social distancing, encouraging people to live out that second great commandment, to love our neighbor, actually more than ourselves during this crisis.”