Archbishop calls priests to be men for others

| April 7, 2017 | 2 Comments

More than 150 priests and deacons gathered with Archbishop Bernard Hebda for the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul April 6. The Chrism Mass serves as time when the archbishop consecrates the holy oils used for the sacraments in the Church. Dave Hrbacke/The Catholic Spirit

Preaching to the priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for the Chrism Mass, Archbishop Bernard Hebda expressed the importance living “like oil.”

“We, my brother priests, need to be formed more like the oils that we bless that consecrate this evening, finding our value in being poured out and used,” Archbishop Hebda said. “Like the oil stocks and vessels in our ambries, we have to be emptied if we are to have an impact on our Church, bringing God’s healing strength and favor into a world desperately in need.”

Worldwide, every diocese holds an annual Chrism Mass at its cathedral before the Triduum to consecrate the chrism, oil of the sick and oil of catechumens for use in the Church’s sacraments. Archbishop Hebda celebrated the Chrism Mass April 6 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul with more than 150 priests and deacons present. Concelebrating bishops with Archbishop Hebda were Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Chorbishop Sharbel Maroun St. Maron’s Maronite Catholic Church and Minneapolis and Archbishop Emeritus Harry J. Flynn. More than 350 lay faithful and consecrated men and women attended the Mass.

Archbishop Hebda reflected on how Pope Paul VI added renewal of priestly vows for the Chrism Mass liturgy in 1963. The pope made the change because of the connection between priest and the oils being “the tools of our trade” Archbishop Hebda said.

Focusing the chrism because of its use in ordinations, Archbishop Hebda said he likes how the chrism “seems to have a life of its own” when he anoints new priests. “There’s no such thing as coloring in the lines when it comes to chrism,” he said. “It’s messy as is the ministry that we as priests embrace.”

He described how the Holy Spirit could take priests places unexpected. The archbishop reflected how he celebrated the 2016 Chrism Mass as the administrator of the archdiocese, which had a vacant see at the time. He came to help the archdiocese in 2015 temporarily while also serving as  coadjutor archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

“I was quite certain about where my future would be,” he said. “Less than a week later, however, the unpredictable path of the chrism led me to a place I never expected.”

Celebrating his first Chrism Mass as the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Hebda emphasized that the pouring out seen in the oil means that priests must serve “rather than be served.” He mentioned priests elsewhere “who were cynically described being similar to carafes of the finest decanted red wine.” The priests were known as ones “waiting to be served.”

Archbishop Hebda said he doesn’t see that in the archdiocesan priests and believes the faithful present “would eagerly attest to your willingness to imitate Christ in allowing yourselves to be emptied for the good of his Church.” He said he regularly gets positive feedback about the priests in the archdiocese.

The archbishop added that he’s never seen larger turnouts at deceased priests’ funerals than that of the archdiocese and people come with stories “about how ‘Father’ concretely made Christ, the anointed one, present in their lives and community.”

Archbishop Hebda said the oil at ordination is about Christ, “whose very name reminds us that he is the ‘Christos,’ the anointed one, the one who was anointed to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind, new sight, to set the down-trodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor.”

“That meaningful prayer and significant action reminds the assembly and the new priest from square one that he has to be a man for others, a man of service,” Archbishop Hebda added.

Archbishop Hebda noted that means priests need renewal. He affirmed Bishop Cozzens’ work in developing support for the clergy and the positive response to clergy surveys and deanery discussions. The archbishop said priests always need to improve practical ministry skills, community among brother priests and seek spiritual support such as annual retreats.

“I am hopeful that such renewal will have a direct impact on our prayer, on our preaching, on effectiveness in ministry and on the satisfaction we experience in our priestly lives,” Archbishop Hebda said.

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  • Dominic Deus

    Brother Abunk–I do not know Archbishop Flynn’s culpability, if any, in the scandal of child abuse by clergy.

    I do know that Archbishop Hebda is a priest living his faith and ministering to the needs of all sinners and saints. I do not count myself as the latter so it doesn’t take much to guess which camp I am in.

    I strongly suspect that if you asked him who holds the keys to Heaven he would say “You do.” I need to remember that when I am tempted to fail, give up, sin or judge others.

    –Dominic

  • Paula Ruddy

    A month late, but I am thankful to the ordained priests of the Archdiocese for their self-giving service.