HARTFORD – Archbishop Henry J. Mansell addressed a record number of Catholic school students during the Chrism Mass April 3 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, where more than two dozen concelebrating bishops and priests signified close unity with their archbishop.
As Archbishop Mansell noted in his homily, the purpose of the Mass, celebrated in every diocese during Holy Week, is to consecrate the sacred chrism and bless two other oils. A fragrance is added to the oil that is then consecrated as sacred chrism, which is used in baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and to consecrate churches and altars.
The archbishop also blesses the oil of catechumens, which is used to anoint people before baptism; and the oil of the sick, used during the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.
The cathedral can seat 1,750 people, and, according to the Office of Catholic Schools (OCS), 1,634 children and adults from 33 Catholic elementary schools and four high schools filled most of the pews. Since that office began keeping records in 2009, the next highest number of Catholic school children and adults at a Chrism Mass was 805, in 2010.
"This is a special day for the priests of the archdiocese and across the world to renew their priestly commitments. We are so grateful for all they continue to be and all they continue to do," Archbishop Mansell said.
During that portion of the Mass, he asked the priests – most of whom were marking 25, 50, 55, 60 or 65 years in the priesthood – if they were "resolved to renew, in the presence of your bishop and God’s holy people, the promises you once made." They answered, "I am."
In his homily, Archbishop Mansell reminded everyone that the cathedral will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its dedication this year. It was consecrated on May 15, 1962.
"Think of the Cathedral of St. Joseph as your mother church inside the archdiocese," he said. "We all have our own parishes, and the parishes are key to who we are as church. But the cathedral is the mother church, and every one of us is a parishioner of the cathedral. Every one of us can be baptized here, receive the sacraments here, be married here and be buried from here. This is where we come together to see who we are: we are family."
During the blessing of the oils, three vessels of oils were carried by deacons in a procession to the sanctuary.
After the oils were blessed or consecrated, the deacons delivered them to the lower cathedral, where volunteers from the archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women filled vials to be delivered to each of the 213 parishes.
"We have our own little box that we bring back every year," said Anita Iacomacci, a representative from St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Parish in Derby, who has been taking the oils to her parish for six or seven years.
"We put the vials in the box. We come here. We go to the Mass. We have the vials with us during the Mass, the empty ones from last year. And then we just follow the procession downstairs and hand in the old vials and get the new ones," she said.