May 1, 2022 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Religious sisters attend the Diocese of Owensboro’s Chrism Mass on April 12, 2022. RILEY GREIF | WKC

Together again

Diocese celebrates Chrism Mass with faithful for the first time in two years


Looking out at the crowd filling the Owensboro Sportscenter on April 12, 2022, Bishop William F. Medley commented “what a beautiful sight.”

“Thank you for coming and joining with the Church to celebrate God’s blessings and his anointing of his holy people,” said the bishop in his homily that evening for the diocese’s Chrism Mass.

He said that until 2020, the faithful were always welcomed and encouraged to attend the Chrism Mass, a liturgy held during Holy Week to bless the Oil of the Sick and Oil of Catechumens and to consecrate the Sacred Chrism. The Mass also serves as the opportunity for the priests of the diocese to renew their commitment to priestly service.

But the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States in the middle of Lent 2020, causing churches to be closed and public worship to be suspended for several months.

When the 2020 Chrism Mass could finally take place, it did so in June, and was restricted to the priests, who were masked and socially-distanced among the pews in St. Stephen Cathedral. Chrism Mass in 2021 was able to happen during Holy Week, but it was still restricted to priests and leaders of religious communities.

 Bishop William F. Medley breathes into the Sacred Chrism while consecrating it during the Diocese of Owensboro’s Chrism Mass on April 12, 2022. TINA KASEY | WKC

“It is still painful to say that out loud,” said Bishop Medley.

But now, “it’s good that we are here,” he said, explaining that the Sportscenter – “our second cathedral” – is traditionally used since St. Stephen Cathedral is too small to fit a full Chrism Mass crowd.

The bishop said in coming together, the congregation could celebrate that “we believe the human race has once again turned back a formidable enemy” in COVID-19.

He praised the pastors for leading their flocks over the past two years, when pandemic restrictions often made liturgies and parish life difficult.

“Oftentimes priests had to be the ones to tell people what they did not want to hear,” said Bishop Medley. “To impose restrictions they did not want to observe. But they did it for the common good and because they believe they are instruments of God and God’s peace and healing.”

He thanked the diocese’s many international priests, and pointed out that without these pastors, “one out of every three parishes” would not be able to have Easter Mass that weekend.

The bishop reflected on the historic tornadoes that devastated the region during the night of Dec. 10 – a storm that destroyed Resurrection Parish in Dawson Springs and killed more than 80 people across Kentucky.

That day in the Diocese of Owensboro “will forever stand as a day of loss and tragedy,” said Bishop Medley. But within moments of the storms, “people of faith and compassion and concern were walking in the torrential rains to assist the hurting and the lost.”

These include leaders at St. Jerome Parish in Fancy Farm and Christ the King Parish in Madisonville, who rose up to help their neighbors.

“In a moment of unspeakable loss, human beings were called to find their core: their core being that we are all created in the image and likeness of God,” said the bishop. “But in a moment of tragedy we have the opportunity to be the image of God.”

Thanks to donations sent from across the nation, he said Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro is unfolding plans to rebuild 350 homes in the next four years.

Priests pray the prayers of the Consecration during the Diocese of Owensboro’s Chrism Mass on April 12, 2022. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

The music, readings and prayers included Spanish, Burmese and English, reflecting the growing cultural landscape of the Diocese of Owensboro. Dcn. Martin Ma Na Ling, a diocesan seminarian who will be the second Myanmar-born seminarian ordained in the United States this July, proclaimed the Gospel in English and Burmese.

Following the distribution of Holy Communion, Fr. Brandon Williams, co-coordinator of the diocese’s Office of Worship, read the names of all parishes and Catholic institutions in the diocese. Representatives walked up the aisle to receive their communities’ bottles of oils for the new liturgical year.

Joseph Hunt, who would be confirmed at the Easter Vigil this year, was one of the people chosen to receive the oils for Blessed Mother Parish in Owensboro.

“I had no idea what a Chrism Mass was,” said Hunt, who was attending it for the first time. “But it was such a blessing, especially after being unable to gather for two years. So many people from all over Kentucky were able to come together and worship and praise.”

Fr. Basilio Az Cuc, the parochial vicar at St. Thomas More Parish in Paducah, said it was “good to see people happy; God is with us and we could see it on the faces of the people and hearing them sing.”

“The Church is joyful,” he said.

Justin Ibeawuchi and his 10-year-old daughter, Maryanne, were the representatives chosen to receive the oils on behalf of their parish, Rosary Chapel in Paducah.

“It was very wonderful, seeing the different people from the different parishes,” said Ibeawuchi, calling it “significant” after the pandemic, adding that “seeing the turnout was wonderful.”

He expressed his gratitude toward the volunteers and diocesan staff who helped coordinate the Chrism Mass, especially the music ministry, which he described as “awesome.”

“This was my first time in Owensboro and I loved the welcoming spirit of the bishop, all the priests and the people,” said Ibeawuchi. “Coming here, I saw the show of love and acceptance – it means a lot to me.”

Originally printed in the May 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

Current Issue

Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
Layout |  Rachel Hall
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