Bishop offers thanks to the priests, religious and laity

CHARLESTON — The Chrism Mass was held April 15. It is an annual event held in dioceses around the world on the Tuesday of Holy Week. Bishop Robert J. Baker blessed the sacramental oils, which include the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Oil of Chrism.

He also recognized jubilarians celebrating their 50th anniversaries, that is Paulist Father Gerry Aylward, Father Howard Coughlin, Father Robert Fix, and Msgr. Robert Kelly, and their 25th anniversaries: Father Basil Congro and Franciscan Father Steven Pavignano.
Excerpt from Bishop Baker’s homily:

We come together each year at this time for the blessing of oils, the recognition of some priests celebrating special anniversaries, and the recognition of all priests renewing their priestly commitment. We acknowledge as well the importance of the interconnectedness between the bishop and our priests, the Diocese of Charleston and the parishes and missions of our diocese.

The bond of our connection is the great priest, Jesus Christ, who comes to us daily and who nourishes us always, principally through the sacraments.

Today I will bless the oils that will be used for the sacrament of baptism, the sacrament of confirmation, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. And together we will celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist, the summit and source of our Christian life.

The only two sacraments not directly related to our celebration are the sacraments of reconciliation and matrimony. Indirectly they are with us as they are celebrated or witnessed by the priests, whose hands are consecrated with the holy chrism.

In a few moments our priests will rededicate themselves in service to the people of God in their pastoral ministry.

As we all know, it’s been a tough year for priests and bishops in the United States. On behalf of everyone in this cathedral and all the people you serve as priests, I would like to thank you for your labors of love for the people of God and your close working relationship with me.

All of us are better people because of what you have done for us. I know I personally could not have carried out my responsibilities without your prayers and your support.

Being in our parishes has enabled me to experience personally and powerfully the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in our parishes. And I want to compliment our priests for the great sacrifices they are making these days, with a shortage of priests and many other great obstacles they are facing, to minister to the people of God. I see firsthand the good work you are doing, and I have witnessed the esteem the people hold you in and the gratitude they have for your service to them.

Where people experience that pastoral care and devotion of dedicated priests, the scandals of a small percentage of clergy do not register so heavily. Continue my brother priests to serve your people with zeal, devotion, and sacrifice. Serve them creatively in the context of our Catholic beliefs and moral principles, and you will find less hardship in your own backyard as a result of the scandals facing our church.

I urge you also, my brother priests to continue to be faithful, faithful to God, to the magisterium of the church, to loving pastoral service, and to our own unique celibate way of life that enables us to love fully and freely and chastely with the mind and heart of Christ.

Continue to be prophetic in your ministry, standing up for the values that others may ridicule and ignore. …

What took Jesus through the garden of Gethsemane, the humiliating interrogation by religious and political authorities, the degrading scourging and dehumanizing ridicule, the desecration of his crucifixion and demise?

It was the spirit of the Lord that was upon him, the spirit that he was united with in the father as the Son of God. That spirit comes to us sacramentally by anointing us, to lift our spirits and enable us to do what is humanly impossible. All those acts of love and service I mentioned above, and many, many more.

As that spirit enters into the oil I will bless today, may that spirit enter into the many lives you and I will bless with that oil. And may our many celebrations with those oils renew us bishops and priests each and every time, in our life of faith, hope, and love, and in our ministry of priestly service to the people of God, many of whom are with us today.

To you deacons, religious men and women, and dedicated laity, I, with Bishop Thompson and my brother priests, say “thank you” for your faithful support, in good times and bad, and for your many prayers for your priests and your bishops.

The complete text can be found online on the diocesan Web site at