Chrism Mass, a renewal of faith and sensitivity

CHARLESTON – This year’s chrism Mass was a time to focus on promoting ethnic sensitivity and welcoming the stranger. Bishop Robert J. Baker encouraged Catholics to be accepting of other cultures.

“With an influx of peoples from other countries we must show them the hospitable face of Christ,” he said. “When and as we can, we try to learn about their culture and learn their language. Always we indicate to them that we love them and we welcome their presence among us. We never show them a spirit of hostility or resentment. In time that welcome will win out as they bring their cultural experience of the faith to our own culture, and in turn adapt the special gifts of language and culture from our American heritage.”

The chrism Mass was held April 11 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It is celebrated annually near Easter by the bishop and concelebrated by the priests of the diocese to bless the sacramental oils used in the church for the next year. It is also a time for the priests to renew their commitment to their ministry.

The oils include the sacred chrism, which is used at Baptisms, Confirmations, Ordinations and the rites of dedication of a church and altar; the oil of the catechumens, used in preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation; and the oil of the sick which is used to bring healing in the Anointing of the Sick.

Bishop Baker’s homily was also a rally to faith in challenging times. He urged all people to embrace their vocations in joy and hope against all obstacles and challenges.

“We know those challenges are many, but God is with us,” he said. “And so, if we are traveling on the pathway to God, as St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, ‘who can be against us?’ We are serving his kingdom, not ours. Success is not measured in human achievements, but in a divine reckoning that will only take place after our lives are over. We should not be consumed about any special human ways of calibrating success. We are called not to be successful, as Mother Teresa has said, but to be faithful.”

He also recognized the faithful priests with gold and silver jubilees. Priests celebrating 50 years included: Redemptorist Father James Burke, Father Ernest Kennedy and Oratorian Father Joseph Wahl. Those celebrating 25 years included Father Filemon Juya, Father Jose Rodolfo Lache Avila, Father Francis Travis, Father Charles Day and Redemptorist Father Thomas Burke.

During a luncheon for priests following the liturgy, Farrell O’Gorman, an assistant professor from Mississippi State University, shared his reflections on being Catholic and growing up in a Southern family from Blackville.

In his talk, he encouraged Southern Catholics to educate children about the church and its teachings.

“We are not strangers here, and local churches can flourish here if we educate our youth by letting them know the universal church, by calling them to participate in charity and therefore more fully in the Eucharist that brings God into the World – that finally sees no essential division between spirit and body, faith and reason, or black and white,” he said.

O’Gorman said youths hear about diversity but it is on a shallow level.

“Show them the true diversity within the church, which transcends national and racial boundaries, but also the essential moral and spiritual unity that can be found only there,” he said. “Help them learn to be countercultural in a way that benefits and transforms the larger culture, to know the church and bring it home to South Carolina.”

The complete text of Bishop Baker’s homily and O’Gorman’s talk can be read at