SCRANTON — A brilliant spring afternoon was matched by the radiant joy emanating from the Cathedral of Saint Peter for the celebration of the Diocese of Scranton’s Chrism Mass on April 4, 2023 – Tuesday of the holiest week of the Christian calendar year.
While the heavens provided a most comfortable day for the venerable gathering, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, as principal celebrant and homilist, warmly welcomed to the Mother Church of the Diocese the hundreds of worshippers of all ages who turned out for the annual Eucharistic liturgy concelebrated by the priests ministering in the 11-county local Church.
The traditional Holy Week observance and gathering of the priests of the Diocese — customarily the largest of its kind each year — celebrates their clerical brotherhood and shared divine vocation.
During the Mass, priests and deacons, along with lay representatives from Diocesan parishes, acknowledge the Bishop’s role as the unifying symbol for Church governance and pastoral guidance.
All of the priests also recommit themselves to their office by renewing the promises they made on the day of their ordination to the priesthood, including their vow of obedience to the Bishop.
Father Paschal Mbagwu, who serves as administrator of Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Pocono Pines, said prior to the liturgical celebration, “The Chrism Mass is so important since it shows the unity and communion in the Church. It is very symbolic of the oneness Christ prayed for under one shepherd — our Bishop.”
Holding to age-old tradition, the Mass is highlighted by the blessing of the Holy Oils used during the conferral of sacraments throughout the Church year. They include the Sacred Chrism, the Oil of the Sick, and the Oil of Catechumens, which are used in the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Rites of the Catechumenate.
As he joins Bishop Bambera in celebrating his 40th anniversary of ordination this year, Father Don Williams, pastor of Saint Matthew Parish, Stroudsburg, noted, “By being here today we bring everything together in this beautiful gathering of clergy, deacons, women and men religious, and laity.”
Father Williams continued by emphasizing the importance of the renewal of priestly vows that the Chrism Mass affords the concelebrants.
“It is always very special how the blessed oils go out to the four corners of the Diocese with the priests, who are sent forth to return to their parishes for the Sacred Triduum and the celebration of Easter,” he added.
In addressing the faithful during his homily, Bishop Bambera implored all to heed Jesus’ words from Saint Luke’s Gospel that had just been proclaimed: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”
“The good news for us, brothers and sisters, is that the same Spirit that set Jesus apart for mission during his inaugural address in the synagogue of Nazareth rests upon us as well,” the Bishop imparted. “We are not alone on this journey. Every experience, no matter how hopeful or challenging, is an opportunity for growth and a deepening of God’s life within us.”
Among the lay faithful in attendance was Jennifer Dunn, a member of Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish in Wilkes-Barre, who arrived early to participate in her first Chrism Mass.
“I am here to support the Diocese and our pastor, Father Richard Cirba, who has done so much for our parish and our community,” she said. “I’m honored to be here to support our Bishop. It is really humbling to be in the presence of all these great priests.”
Currently in his second year of formation for the Permanent Diaconate program, Frank Fanelli of Lackawaxen was invited, along with his wife Nancy, to be at their first Chrism Mass last year. “This Mass is just so impressive,” he said. “Even if we weren’t invited we would be coming back this year.”
Nancy added, “We’re just so honored and privileged to be here for such a great celebration, with all of the beautiful music.”
Sara Jenkins of Larksville and a parishioner at All Saints Parish, Plymouth, remarked, “It is really impressive to be able to see all the priests of the Diocese come together as one. It’s always great to experience the loud round of applause they receive on their way out of the Cathedral after Mass.”