By Jessica Easthope and Paula Katinas
The brotherhood of priests and their common devotion to Jesus Christ was a thread running through the Chrism Mass that took place Holy Tuesday at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.
“Our priesthood is what joins us together,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio told the priests who gathered at the co-cathedral for the Mass.
The purpose of the Chrism Mass, which takes place every year during Holy Week, is for the bishop to bless the holy oils to be used throughout the year in the Diocese of Brooklyn for baptisms, confirmations, ordinations of priests, anointing of the sick, and other events in the life of the church.
The blessing was the centerpiece of the Mass, which was attended by approximately 200 priests, deacons, and laypersons, a larger crowd than last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the celebration to be postponed to June 19 and reduced the number of attendees.
Bishop DiMarzio has traditionally used his homily at the Chrism Mass to deliver an important message to his priests and this year was no exception.
“Priests need people as much as people need priests,” he said, urging them to “never forget what your sacred mission is all about.”
That includes evangelization. “We need to do new things. We need to keep growing,” he said.
The bishop, who marked his 50th anniversary in the priesthood last year, talked in his homily about past milestones in his life and also touched on his future. “Fifty years is a long time and a short time,” he said.
He recalled various homilies he delivered at important Masses throughout his life as a priest, including his first Mass in 1970, his 25th anniversary in 1995, his elevation to bishop of Camden in 1999, and his appointment as the seventh bishop of Brooklyn in 2003.
Bishop DiMarzio also offered a strong hint that his time as bishop of Brooklyn may be coming to an end. He turned 75 in 2019 and bishops are requested to submit their resignation to the pope on reaching that age.
“I have come to know and love all of you,” he told priests. “You must prepare to meet a new bishop. Welcome whoever comes.”
As they do at Chrism Mass each year, priests and deacons of the diocese renewed their promise of obedience to the bishop.
In addition, the Chrism Mass has also served as a salute to jubilarians — priests who are celebrating milestones in their priestly lives. There are priests in the diocese marking the anniversaries of their ordinations, including the 70th, 65th, 60th, 50th, and 25th anniversaries.
Father Félix Sánchez, pastor of St. Pius V Church in Jamaica, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary this year, said he relishes the brotherhood with his fellow priests. “We are nothing without each other. A priest alone is nothing. We depend on each other,” he said.
Father John O’Connor, director of Liturgy for the diocese, said the Mass gave priests the chance to reunite after the pandemic kept them apart.
“We haven’t seen each other. We’ve been isolating just as other people have been isolating. And while we’re been praying for each other, this is the first time we’ve been gathered in over a year. The priests are enjoying each other’s company. They haven’t seen each other in a while. It’s time to catch up. It adds to the promise of Easter,” he said.
Father Christopher Bethge, director of Vocations for the diocese, has been a priest for five years. He said it was a wonderful feeling to be back at the co-cathedral again after missing last year’s Chrism Mass. “I was ordained a priest in this cathedral. Anytime I can come and renew my vows, it’s a special feeling,” he said.