By Jessica Easthope and Paula Katinas
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio delivered a message of love and encouragement to the priests of the Diocese of Brooklyn, telling the clergy at the annual Chrism Mass on June 19 to persevere in tough times and remember their commitment to Jesus Christ.
“This has been a time of suffering personally for all of us,” he said in his homily, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged priests to “take our suffering and offer it back to God.” Priests should always remember “the love we receive through the gift of our priesthood,” he said.
The bishop noted the pandemic’s toll on the diocese, but said the diocese appears to be coming through the ordeal. “We’re entering a new phase in the life of the church,” he said during the Mass, which took place at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in Prospect Heights.
The Chrism Mass, in which the bishop consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the other oils to be used in baptisms and other sacraments in churches in the diocese throughout the year, normally takes place during Holy Week. But the pandemic, which forced churches to close, also caused a postponement of the Mass.
While the pandemic forced the closure of churches, it did not dampen the religious beliefs of the faithful, according to Bishop DiMarzio. “I don’t think people prayed more at home than during this time,” he said.
The 2020 Mass coincided with the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a point Bishop DiMarzio made in his homily. The clergy must “consecrate this diocese and ourselves to the Sacred Heart,” said the bishop.
June 19 is also Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth celebration around the country took on additional meaning in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the protest demonstrations that followed.
Father Alonso Cox, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, said the bishop’s words were deeply meaningful to him, particularly at this moment in time. “For me, as an African-American priest, his message of love is what we need to hear,” he said.
The Chrism Mass is notable because it gives priests, bishops and deacons the opportunity to renew their vows. This year’s Mass was different in that attendance inside the cathedral was limited to approximately two dozen members of the clergy due to social distancing regulations.
The restrictions prevented another part of the Chrism Mass — priests who are celebrating significant anniversaries of ordination and who are normally invited to be among the special concelebrants of the Mass, could not take part in large numbers this year.
The 2020 Chrism Mass was perhaps Bishop DiMarzio’s last as the leader of the 1.5 million Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens. The bishop, who recently marked his 76th birthday, submitted his resignation letter to the pope last year, when he turned age of 75, as required by Canon Law.