Celebrating the ‘young Church’: Nearly 40 Notre Dame-Burlington students attend Chrism Mass

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Thomas Zinkula breathes over the sacred chrism during the blessing of the oils at the Chrism Mass April 3 at Sacrad Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT —Watching Bishop Thomas Zinkula breathe the breath of the Holy Spirit into the vessel containing the sacred Chrism made an impression on clergy and laity gathered for the Chrism Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on April 3. Among them were two deacons anticipating ordination to the priesthood in June and 39 students from Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Burlington, some of whom will receive the sacrament of confirmation April 12. The bishop will use the sacred Chrism in the ordination and confirmation liturgies.

“We have a number of young people here,” bishop said with exuberance before giving the final blessing of the Mass. “Let’s have the ‘young Church’ stand.” The gathering applauded as the students rose from their pews.

The annual Chrism Mass is a favorite for many, including the bishop, because it celebrates the community of faith of the Diocese of Davenport, emphasizing unity through symbols and rituals. During this liturgy, the bishop blesses and consecrates the oils that all parishes in the diocese will use in the coming year. He blesses the oil of the sick, which strengthens, consoles and heals those who are infirm. He blesses the oil of catechumens, which strengthens and frees those preparing for baptism. He consecrates the Chrism, used to ordain bishops and priests, to confirm, to anoint newly baptized infants, and to dedicate churches and altars.


The faithful also witness priests — active, retired or from outside the diocese — renew their commitment to priestly service. This year, 68 priests responded in resounding unison, “I am,” to three questions Bishop Zinkula asked regarding their commitment.

Speaking to the Notre Dame students after Mass, Father James Flattery said, “You were able to see the Church is a lot bigger than Burlington.” The parochial vicar for Divine Mercy Parish-Burlington/West Burlington and St. Mary Parish-Dodgeville told the students that the witness of the priests to their vocation should give them the courage to respond to God’s call in their own lives.

He asked the students to name a highlight from the liturgy. Many, such as Mary Joyce, 15, chose consecration of the sacred Chrism “because Bishop Zinkula will use it at our confirmation.” She added, “It was also cool to see the number of priests because it makes you realize the Church is bigger than what you’re used to.”

Welcoming community

Community, unity and co-responsibility formed the framework of Bishop Zinkula’s homily for the Chrism Mass. “Prior to each of last year’s confirmation Masses, I met personally with the candidates and listened to what they had to say about their experience of the Church. The thing I heard most often was that young people love being a member of a community.”

“In our synodal listening sessions, one of the top three things people said was that we need to do a better job in our diocese of welcoming folks and engendering a greater sense of belonging, a greater sense of community, so the diocese has decided to focus on that theme during the next year.”

“Our common baptism places us in communion with Christ and one another. While each of us is called to a particular state of life, we all simultaneously share in the mission of the Church. The synodal listening sessions surfaced a desire for greater co-responsibility among the laity and the clergy. With that in mind, the diocese is asking the laity to assist the welcoming and belonging phase of our synodal process. This requires a call and a response. Pastors and principals discern and then invite promising candidates to be parish/school/cluster representatives for this year’s process.”

These representatives ought to “do what you say you want, which is what the Church truly needs, the age of the laity,” Bishop Zinkula said. “In the passage we read from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives

Anne Marie Amacher
Clergy and laity sing during the Chrism Mass April 3 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

us, the body of Christ, our mission — to bring glad tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free.”

“The communion of the baptized have the duty to go to the peripheries to proclaim the Gospel and care for those who are wounded and downtrodden. The Church is at her best when walking alongside those forced to the margins of society.”

He referenced the twin challenges of secularization and polarization. “If the Church is going to fulfill its mission, if it is going to attract people, especially young people, it has to strengthen its communion. It has to become more unified, hence the focus in the diocese on welcoming and belonging. It is a challenging time in the Church right now, but Christians are a people of profound hope,” Bishop Zinkula said.

Inspired participants

Among the hopeful Christians were Lindsay Barnhart of Jesus Christ Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton and her almost-9-year-old son, Walker, attending their first Chrism Mass. They were most impressed with Bishop Zinkula’s stirring of the sacred Chrism. “It was pretty moving,” Lindsay said. Walker appreciated the ritual because “I want to be a priest or a bishop someday.”

Deacon Duoc “Dominic” Nguyen appreciated the many people in attendance, including the group of youths Bishop Zinkula acknowledged. Hearing the priests renew their commitment to priestly service was especially meaningful to Deacon Nguyen, who anticipates ordination to the priesthood in June. The priests’ commitment serves as a reminder to “renew my commitment to the Church every day.” Deacon Isaac Doucette, also anticipating ordination to the priesthood in June, said this year’s Chrism Mass was special but “getting to see a full Church; that in itself is great.”

Father Nicholas Akindele, pastor of Holy Family and St. Alphonsus parishes in Davenport, spoke enthusiastically about the Chrism Mass renewing the union between the bishop and his priests. The laity’s participation further emphasized unity and community, he said, as did distribution of the blessed oils after Mass. The priests take the oils back to their parishes to “provide the sacraments joyfully, beautifully and freely.”

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