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Chrism Mass returns to Holy Week, bringing a sense of unity for diocese

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Bishop J. Mark Spalding celebrated the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Nashville in Sagrado Corazon at the Catholic Pastoral Center in June 2020. It was moved to the summer last year due to coronavirus restrictions.  Tennessee Register file photo by Rick Musacchio

This year, the annual Chrism Mass will return to its traditional time during Holy Week, and Bishop J. Mark Spalding hopes the Mass will bring together people from across the diocese – within the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic – in a sign of unity.

“A concern I have about society is how we separate ourselves from each other,” Bishop Spalding said.

“A bishop’s job is always to work for communion within the Church. That means within parishes and amongst parishes,” he said.

 “The Chrism Mass will be a great celebration of the unity we have in Jesus Christ,” Bishop Spalding added.

The Chrism Mass will be an opportunity to celebrate that communion while at the same time emphasizing the breadth and depth of the diversity of the diocese in terms of culture and language, among urban, suburban and rural parishes, and the various rites celebrated “week in and week out in the Diocese of Nashville,” Bishop Spalding said.

In 2020, the Chrism Mass, which is traditionally celebrated during Holy Week, was moved to June after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the temporary suspension of the public celebration of Masses. This year, the Chrism Mass will again be celebrated during Holy Week at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, at Sagrado Corazon Church in the Catholic Pastoral Center.

“It’s the biggest church we have in the diocese,” Father Gervan Menezes, the episcopal master of ceremonies for the diocese, said of Sagrado Corazon. Even with the limits on the size of gatherings because of the pandemic, Sagrado Corazon, which in normal times can hold more than 3,000 people, can accommodate a bigger group than any other church in the diocese, he added.

“We want everybody to be safe,” Father Menezes said. “We’re going to use all the protocols.”

The hope is to fill Sagrado Corazon to its COVID capacity, Father Menezes said. “We want to invite people to be a part of this moment.”

Each pastor will be issued 12 tickets to distribute among parishioners. Bishop Spalding said he hopes pastors will bring parishioners with him to the Chrism Mass “to represent the diversity of the diocese itself.”

Other groups within the diocese, such as the deacons and their wives, members of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the Knights of Peter Claver, the Serra Club, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and the Sisters of Mercy, among others, will also be invited to attend the Mass, Father Menezes said.

Those who cannot attend will be able to watch a livestream of the Mass online.

There are two special features of the Chrism Mass. All the priests serving in the diocese will be present to renew their ordination promises during the Mass, and all the sacred oils to be used in the coming year will be blessed.

The Chrism Mass can be a time for parishioners to reconnect with their former pastors, like they might at a family reunion, Bishop Spalding said.

“The sacred oils remind us of the service and ministry we do in the name of Jesus Christ in the world,” he added.

The sacred oils to be blessed during the Mass include Holy Chrism, which is used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, the Oil of Catechumens, which is also used at Baptism, and the Oil of the Sick, used in Anointing of the Sick.

“Each pastor receives a portion of the oils so they can use them for the next year,” Father Menezes said.

The sense of unity across the diocese that is provided by the Chrism Mass is much needed, he said.

“COVID has brought out in us certain anxieties, fears and even angers because of the restrictions placed on each of us,” Bishop Spalding said. “As we see, God willing, the end of the pandemic before us – hopefully sooner rather than later – this gives us a moment of hope for our future.”

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