‘Hearing’ the Holy Spirit: Celebrating Chrism Mass with a new bishop


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Bishop Thomas Zinkula made the Holy Spirit’s presence audible to everyone at the Chrism Mass on March 19. He inhaled deeply before blowing air from his lungs over the sacred chrism three separate times, emphasizing the Trinitarian symbolism of the ritual. “I wanted people to hear it,” the bishop said after his first Chrism Mass as presider.

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Thomas Zinkula pours balsam into the oil of sacred chrism during the Chrism Mass March 19 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

From the back pews to the front pews inside Sacred Heart Cathedral, the assembly heard the whistling sound of the Holy Spirit as Bishop Zinkula consecrated the sacred Chrism. This oil will be used in parishes throughout the Davenport Diocese to anoint individuals receiving the sacraments of initiation, men being ordained to the priesthood, and in the dedication of churches and altars.

“The Chrism Mass is one of my favorites because we’re all together,” the bishop told the assembly at the start of Mass. Priests, deacons, religious and laity from throughout the entire diocese, gathered in one place to celebrate the liturgy. “That’s the ideal. If we could pull it off every Sunday … (but) here, we get as close as we can.”


The Chrism Mass is unique from other Masses in two ways: the renewal of priestly promises and the blessing of the oils. Witnessing 70 or more priests, dressed in white, recommitting to their ordination promise in unison is a highlight for many who attend this annual liturgy that recalls the day Christ conferred his priesthood on his Apostles.

Blessing of the oils, which followed, is another highlight for many. Large glass vessels — one containing the oil of the sick, another containing the oil of the catechumens, and the third containing the sacred chrism — stood on pedestals near the altar. Bishop Zinkula had joked at the start of Mass that he was a little worried he might spill the oil! That didn’t happen.

Three individuals from the diocese were chosen to request the blessing and consecration of the oils. Semi­nar­ian Scott Foley requested the blessing of the oil of the sick, which is used to anoint those in the community who are seriously ill or infirm. They are united to the passion of Christ, granted strength, peace and courage, the forgiveness of sins and either the restoration of health or preparation for passing over to eternal life.

Deborah Jacobsen of the Clinton Deanery requested the blessing of the oil of the catechumens. That oil is used in infant baptism and in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to give wisdom and strength to those preparing for baptism.

Jason Oglesby of the Ottumwa Deanery requested the Sacred Chrism. It is used to anoint the head of the newly baptized, the forehead of the person confirmed, the head of a bishop at his consecration, the hands of the priest at his ordination and in the dedication of churches and altars.

Anne Marie Amacher
From left, Father Ron Hodges, Msgr. Francis Henricksen, Father Ed Dunn and Father Robert McAleer renew their commitment to priestly service during the Chrism Mass March 19 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

In his homily which preceded the rituals unique to the Chrism Mass, Bishop Zinkula reflected on the significance of “word” and “work” in Christ’s ministry. “When the Lord said the word, work happened,” the bishop noted. “People were healed, miracles occurred, demons were exorcised. There is no ministry of Christ, no work, that doesn’t follow his teaching, his word.”

During the Chrism Mass, “The word includes priests renewing their priestly promises. Work includes the blessing of holy oils and consecration of holy Chrism,” the bishop said. “At the end of the word and work that takes place at Mass, we are dismissed to take the Eucharist into the world … into our homes, into our workplaces, into our schools … wherever we might find others and we are to be it, do it, live it and share it.”

The oils blessed and consecrated will now be taken back to the parishes “so we can use them to anoint” individuals receiving the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil and throughout the year and men being ordained to the priesthood. “These newly anointed will then join us in continuing to listen carefully to the Word of God and in continuing to make Christ present in the world as we continue to exercise our discipleship.”

Attending her third Chrism Mass, Heather Tieman, director of Faith Formation and Evangelization for Divine Mercy Parish in Des Moines County, said this year’s Mass was special for a couple of reasons. “My brother is being baptized at the Easter Vigil. It means a lot to me to be here because of that, and because it’s the bishop’s first Chrism Mass.”

Tieman organized a bus trip to take 21 people from the parish to the Chrism Mass, including Bruce Brockway. “I love the Chrism Mass because all of the priests are here. It’s really powerful when they renew their promises.” He also loves seeing priests who previously served the parish.

Gary Johnson, a deacon aspirant from Divine Mercy Parish, attended his first Chrism Mass. “It’s wonderful to see all the priests and deacons gathered in one place. He also appreciates the personable Bishop Zinkua, who tells jokes and “comes across as a regular person.”
Nine-year-old Mary Huber of Sacred Heart Cathedral said: “I think it’s cool how all of the priests get to talk at exactly the same time (in renewing their promise and concelebrating the Mass). She also loves the procession and the privilege of sitting up close up because her dad, Dan Huber, is a deacon.

Father Jeff Belger appreciated the meditation on the Chrism Mass that the priests’ convocation speaker, Msgr. Russell Bleich, gave prior to the start of the Mass. The Chrism Mass, Fr. Belger said, “is one of my favorite Masses …. It’s great to see all of the priests, deacons, religious and laity … and to see the cathedral so full.”

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