‘A really big diocesan celebration’ Chrism Mass draws hundreds to Sacred Heart Cathedral

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Emeritus Martin Amos pours balsam into the oil of Sacred Chrism during the Chrism Mass March 25 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. Deacon David Montgomery assists.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — The Chrism Mass holds a special place in the heart of Bishop Martin Amos, who returned to the Diocese of Davenport seven years after his retirement to preside at this year’s diocesan-wide celebration in Sacred Heart Cathedral. The diocese has been without a bishop since mid-October, when now-Archbishop Thomas Zinkula left to lead the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

As many as 400 people — including some 75 priests and 25 deacons, women religious, adults and children — attended the mid-morning celebration March 25. “The sheer number of people present at the Chrism Mass sends a message that this is the Church of Davenport,” Bishop Amos said. “That’s what this is supposed to be, a really big diocesan celebration.” 

During this liturgy, which holds a special place in the hearts of many in attendance, the priests renewed their commitment to priestly service and Bishop Amos blessed and consecrated the oils that the diocese’s parishes will use in the coming year. In his homily, the bishop explained what was about to transpire in the rite of the blessing of the oils.


“It is special to me as we bless and consecrate these oils that will be used this coming year and to witness the priests publicly renew their ordination promises,” the bishop said. “The readings today opened with the proclamation by the Prophet Isaiah: The spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. In a few minutes, we will bless and consecrate three oils that will be used to anoint. In each case the spirit of the Lord will come upon those anointed with these holy oils. Each anointing is different. Each anointing confers special and specific graces … May these oils and the outward anointings be the sign that the Spirit of God is indeed alive in the hearts of each one of us and is flourishing in the Church of Davenport.”

Following his homily, the priests — active, retired or from outside the diocese — rose in their pews on both sides of the cathedral and from chairs in the sanctuary to renew the promises they made at their ordination. Msgr. Francis Henricksen, the most senior priest in the diocese, made his first priestly promises 69 years ago. The two newest priests, Fathers Isaac Doucette and Duoc (Dominic) Nguyen, made their first priestly promises last June.

Afterwards, representatives from around the diocese asked the bishop to bless each of the oils. The oil of the sick strengthens, consoles and heals those who are infirm. The oil of catechumens strengthens and frees those preparing for baptism. The Sacred Chrism is used to ordain bishops and priests, to confirm, to anoint newly baptized infants, and to dedicate churches and altars. The rite stimulated the senses of seeing, hearing and smelling, particularly when the bishop poured and stirred the aromatic balsam into a large glass vessel of olive oil to make the Sacred Chrism.

Gratitude was the emotion expressed after the Mass as people entered the cathedral’s gathering space. “This was my first Chrism Mass as a seminarian for the Diocese of Davenport,” said Blake Riffel, a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Burlington, who worked as an engineer before discerning a call to the priesthood. “To see all of the presbyterate and the laity gathered together really gave a rich context to the people that the Lord is inviting me to minister alongside in the Church.”

Anne Marie Amacher
Around 400 faithful attended the Chrism Mass March 25 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

“It’s edifying to see the larger Church outside our home parishes come together to celebrate,” said seminarian Alfonso Pizano, who is serving a pastoral year at Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington-West Burlington and St. Mary Parish in Dodgeville.

Fifteen-year-old Claire Kenneavy of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, also had the privilege of serving at her first Chrism Mass. “It was a really good experience. It’s very different seeing all of the priests in the bigger Church,” she said. Fellow server Saul Xique Marcos, 15, also of Prince of Peace Parish shared similar thoughts.

Marlene Hilgendorf of Clinton, mother of Father Patrick Hilgendorf, wouldn’t miss an opportunity to attend the Chrism Mass (her 25th in 27 years) to see her son renew the promises he made at his ordination 27 years ago. “It’s special,” she said with emotion.

“It was nice having (Bishop Amos) back. He looks the same as when he left us,” said Father Jeff Belger, priest director of the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. Renewing the promises he made at his ordination 21 years ago was a different experience this year with the bishop vacancy in the diocese, he added.

“What impressed me was the number of people and the volume of the responses,” said Deacon Steve Barton, who serves St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf. “It was beautiful, so inspirational,” said Diocesan Administrator Father Ken Kuntz. “To see all the priests, deacons, women religious and laity and having Bishop Amos with us was a real blessing.”

Father Joseph Phung, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa and St. Mary Parish in Pella, echoed that comment. “It’s a very wonderful time to gather with the priests in the presence of the people to renew our priestly promises. It re­minds you of your call to love and to serve God and God’s people.”


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