Priests celebrate fraternity at annual Chrism Mass

SOUTH END — Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley urged the priests gathered at the annual Chrism Mass on April 11 to renew their commitment to Christ and His Church and shepherd the flock with sacrificial love.

Hundreds of priests from the Archdiocese of Boston renewed their vows at the annual Mass in which the sacramental oils used during baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and the anointing of the sick are consecrated.

Before the Mass began, Father John Maharas, speaking on behalf of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios of Boston who was attending a funeral, congratulated the cardinal on his recent elevation.

“He extends the heartfelt wishes for a prayerful, God-filled ministry as cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston and be sure that he is there, as our church is, to serve and to help as we can,” he said.

The two communities traditionally exchange visits at festive celebrations, especially during Holy Week. The Orthodox liturgical year is based on the Julian calendar. They will celebrate Easter on April 23 this year.

Cardinal O’Malley began his homily by wishing Auxiliary Bishop Richard G. Lennon, vicar general and moderator of the curia, well in his new position as bishop of the Cleveland Diocese. Bishop Lennon will be installed on May 15.

“I know it’s very hard for New Englanders to leave New England,” the cardinal said.

He then told a story about a Boston bishop who went to Pittsburgh, Pa., where his hosts proudly showed him where two rivers come together to form the Ohio River. According to the story, the bishop responded that, in Boston, the Charles and Mystic Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean.

“My advice to you Bishop Lennon is when they show you Lake Erie, look excited,” the cardinal said.

“Our prayers and our gratitude accompany him,” Cardinal O’Malley added. Following that remark Bishop Lennon received a standing ovation from the priests and others in attendance.

Cardinal O’Malley directed the rest of his homily to the priests, telling them that God needs them to be shepherds after His own heart. That is impossible to do alone, and they must seek the strength of God and support of their fellow priests, he said.

When Jesus uses the imagery of the Good Shepherd, He paints a picture of a shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for the sheep in his care. The shepherd has steadfast love that is sacrificial. In the same way that fathers sacrifice out of love for their families, spiritual fathers must put the needs of others before their own, he said.

“We must be fathers, good shepherds whose love and gentle courage make the Good Shepherd more visible to our people. Our lives, developed in sacrificial love, will then be an invitation to others to have the courage and the generosity to respond to a vocation of this way of life,” he said.

Immediately following the Mass, priests gathered at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton for a luncheon at which they filled vessels with the consecrated oils. As is the tradition in Boston, two priests, selected by their peers, were honored at the luncheon for their service. Each received a large wooden crucifix.

Father John Grimes, pastor at Most Precious Blood Parish in Dover and Father Lawrence Rondeau, who is in residence at St. James Parish in Salem, were honored this year.

Father Grimes, ordained in 1971, taught at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary for 15 years. Later he joined the St. James Society. Working in Equador for several years, he served 60,000 parishioners. He now teaches at St. John’s and Blessed John seminaries.

“When I was a youngster growing up in my family, whenever my brother or I would receive an award, my parents would take both of us out for a hot fudge sundae,” he said. “They reinforced that we were all in this together as a family.”

“As I really look around at you today, I’m very mindful that I’m here with my priest family,” he added.

In his remarks, Father Rondeau, ordained in 1958, noted that of the six parishes he has been associated with in his life, only two remain open. He said he most missed St. Joseph Parish in Salem, where he served as pastor for 22 years.

He and the parishioners met the closing by celebrating the 132-year history of the parish, he said.

“It’s working out very, very well,” he said of the parish closing and his new assignment.