Priests called to bring ‘Christ to the multitudes’ at Chrism Mass

Fathers Stephen Salocks and Joseph Smyth pose with Cardinal O’Malley at the Chrism Mass Luncheon at St. John’s Seminary. The two priests were honored by their peers with the St. John Vianney Award. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

BOSTON--Hundreds of Boston’s priests gathered with Cardinal Seán O’Malley April 7 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and then at St. John’s Seminary for a day of fellowship and renewal of their commitment to priestly service.

Each year, all of the priests in the Archdiocese of Boston are invited to come together at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to celebrate the traditional Mass during which the sacramental oils are consecrated. The oils consecrated at this Mass will be used in the upcoming year by priests administering baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and the anointing of the sick.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley spoke on the missionary nature of a priestly vocation and exhorted the priests to “introduce Christ to the multitudes who do not know that he is alive and loves them.”

Cardinal O’Malley used the metaphor of a fisherman to describe the importance of a priest’s vocation as well as the sacrifices and hardships inherent in the priestly ministry.

“It is difficult and demands sacrifice to be fishers of men,” said the cardinal. “In our life, there are contemplative moments of preparing our nets in prayer and priestly fraternity, and then there is the toil of casting out into the deep and bringing the fish home.”

“Evangelization has the power to bring new unity to the Church in this period of upheaval and can lead to an experience of reorientation within the Church and a renewed impact on Society in which we live in this millennium,” he said.

Following the homily, the priests renewed their vows of commitment to priestly service and the cardinal consecrated the sacramental oil.

After Mass, nearly 150 priests gathered for lunch at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.

Each year, at the annual Chrism Mass luncheon, two priests are recognized for their exemplary service to the archdiocese with the St. John Vianney Appreciation award. St. John Vianney is the patron saint of priests, and Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed June 2009 to June 2010 to be the Year of the Priest, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the saint’s death.

This year’s recipients, Father Joseph Smyth and Father Stephen Salocks, were each given icons of St. Paul in honor of the current Year of St. Paul.

Father William Kelly, director of the Office of Clergy Support and Ongoing Formation, who led the luncheon, introduced the award recipients by quoting Pope Benedict saying, “The challenges of the present time, more than ever, require virtuous priests -- full of the spirit of prayer and sacrifice -- with a solid formation and dedicated to the service of Christ and the Church through the exercise of charity.”

He said that Fathers Smyth and Salocks’ examples encourage their brother priests and show to many the beauty and the strength of the priesthood.

Father Smyth, a senior priest celebrating his 50th year of service, gave brief remarks and expressed his gratitude to his brother priests and to all of the parishioners he has encountered throughout his years of service in the archdiocese.

“The fundamental emotion that I would like to express is one of great, great gratitude,” said Father Smyth.

Father Salocks, an instructor at St. John’s Seminary for the past 22 years, also addressed his brother priests for a few moments and urged them to, “continue praying and encouraging vocations.”

“You and I both know we need more priests and that means we need more seminarians. There is no reason why we can’t continue to do what we’re doing and do so more by encouraging the men in our various parishes and sending their names into Father Hennessey at the vocations department,” he said.

In his closing remarks, Cardinal O’Malley offered his congratulations to the two priests and reemphasized Father Salocks call for encouraging more vocations.

“I am grateful for all that you do to make Christ present in our parishes, to our people, by your example, by your ministry, by your preaching,” he said. “I certainly want to second what Father Steve said about promoting vocations. I always believe that God gives all the gifts that the Church needs, but it is very difficult in today’s world to say yes to the call and nothing is as powerful and encouraging as a happy priest who invites a young man to consider if the Lord is calling him to this wonderful way of life.”

Cardinal O’Malley also urged the men to take full advantage of this Year of the Priest, “to make it a time [during which] we really can repair our mends and grow in our priestly identity and have that zeal that we need to be able to announce the Gospel faithfully and joyfully to God’s people.”

Reflecting on the events of the day, Father Mike McNamara of Scituate, said each year he enjoys celebrating the Chrism Mass and luncheon as a time to refocus and step away from the distractions of everyday life.

“Having a Mass and the renewal of our commitments at the Cathedral awakens us and clears your head of all the distractions; it says this is what we’re all about,” said Father McNamara.

Father Paul Kenney, SJ, a senior priest who resides at the Campion Center, reflected on the homily and the cardinal’s charge to be “men of communion” in both ministry and fraternity.

“As the cardinal was saying, we can’t be islands or lone rangers. We’re part of a fraternity,” said Father Kenney.

“There has to be the awareness that we are working together as a whole even though some of us have our own ways and capacities to act--go with the Lord and still come back to this foundation of fraternal priesthood and Christ,” he said.

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