Bishop calls on clergy to renew ministry commitment

CHARLESTON — Today’s priests and laity can learn profound lessons about faith and human frailty from the life of Moses, Bishop Robert J. Baker told the congregation at the annual chrism Mass April 3 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

In his homily, Bishop Baker said Moses’ very human struggles to keep his faith in God even during difficult times resonate strongly with the daily struggles of Catholics in a secular world, and especially with priests who must juggle many different responsibilities in daily ministry.

“Moses is so appealing because he is everyman, he is every priest,” he said. “He is blessed with tremendously noble characteristics as a man and as a leader, and he is fraught with very human limitations … Grandeur and greatness are compromised by lack of faith in the power of God … after so many examples of God’s fidelity in the past.”

During the Mass of the Oils, Bishop Baker asked the priests to renew their commitment to ministry and called on Catholics in the diocese to pray for their clergy.

He also blessed the three oils for sacramental use during the coming year, including the oil of catechumens, used in Baptism; the oil of the sick, used in Anointing the Sick; and the oil of chrism, the chief anointing oil used during Holy Orders, the sacrament of Confirmation, and other acts of dedication. The chrism Mass is held annually during Holy Week.

Bishop Baker said it was especially fitting to meditate on the life story of Moses during Lent because his journey through the desert with the Israelites is similar to Catholics’ journey through the “desert experience” of Lent.

“Meditating on Moses in the season of Lent should help us realize God never fails his people,” he said. “Even the weakness of Moses in the face of his insurmountable tasks was overcome by Jesus. The weakness of our own limitations today in the face of seemingly insurmountable tasks is also overcome by Jesus.”

Bishop Baker said the chrism Mass was a special time for the diocese because it provided an annual opportunity to show gratitude for the leadership and service of priests.

Bishop Baker congratulated Father Richard Maguire, a Trappist monk at Mepkin Abbey, on celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination on March 13. The bishop also mentioned several priests celebrating their 25th anniversary of ordination this year, including Msgr. Edward D. Lofton, pastor of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church, Summerville; Father Charles Kawesi, administrator of St. Gerard Church, Aiken; Father Salvador Cruz, parochial vicar at St. Francis by the Sea Church, Hilton Head; and Father James Parker, vicar for retired priests.

Steve Wood, a Greenville-based author and founder of St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers, was the guest speaker at a special banquet held at the Charleston Riverfront Inn after the Mass. Wood, a former Protestant, discussed the Catholic doctrine on justification through God and how to discuss the concept with non-Catholics.

Wood explained how the Catholic concept of justification through the grace of God is sometimes difficult to express, especially because it goes beyond the simple idea of God as judge.

“Catholicism doesn’t deny the judicial aspect of God, but it goes deeper,” he said. “For us, God is a Father, and through his justification he declares us righteous and makes us his children. His goodness makes us, through Christ, sons and daughters of God the father.”

He also addressed Catholic concepts of salvation and encouraged the audience to be willing to discuss Catholic doctrine and ideas with non-Catholics in a charitable way.  
“Some people might ask ‘Why bother?’” he said. “We often know that our non-Catholic Protestant brothers and sisters love God, and love Jesus, and the most charitable thing you can do for someone who loves God is to share the Catholic faith with them.”

Wood is also the author of the book “Christian Fatherhood.” For more information and articles by Steve Wood visit online at