By LINDA M. LINONIS
Outside of St. Columba Cathedral on Tuesday morning, the snowy weather made it look like Christmas. But inside, the Chrism Mass, a ritual of Holy Week that culminates at Easter, took place.
Representatives of the 87 parishes, missions and schools in the six-county Catholic Diocese of Youngstown carried banners into the cathedral. The banner bearers of all ages, men and women and various ethnicities processed with images of all sizes, colors and designs, many depicting patron saints.
Among messages shared were from St. Dominic Church: “To praise, to bless, to preach”; from St. Mary/St. Benedict in Canton: “Bring Christ to the community and the community to Christ”; and St. Ann Church in Sebring: “Small parish, big heart.”
Zack Meacham, 14, who carried the banner of St. Louis Church in Louisville, said he was “honored and excited” to participate.
Mary Modena of Uniontown, a sophomore at Walsh University in Canton, designed and painted the school banner depicting the rose window in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel on campus. She was accompanied by Miguel Chavez of Massillon, director of campus ministry. “This is a time of unity,” he said of the Mass. “It’s like being with family.”
P.J. Chavez of North Canton, director of liturgical music at Walsh, added it was “exciting to hear the diversity of music in the Mass.”
John Simonds, a member of St. Patrick Church in Leetonia since 1945, said he was “proud” to carry the banner. Natalie Hatfield, 14, of Sts. Philip and James Church in Canal Fulton, volunteered to carry the banner and “was honored” to do so. Michael Johnson, a Eucharistic minister and prayer leader at St. Joseph Church in Alliance, said he was “happy to participate” and appreciated the meaning of the special Mass.
The Chrism Mass serves as an event reflecting the unity of the diocesan church with some 1,000 people taking part. The pews were filled and extra seating provided.
The Rev. Michael D. Balash, director of the office of worship in the diocese and pastor of St. William Church in Champion, explained that the Mass has multiple purposes.
The main purposes, also noted in the Chrism Mass booklet, are to bless the oils and consecrate the chrism. “Chrism is a sacred oil in the church,” Father Balash said. The chrism is used “to anoint the newly baptized, to confirm and to anoint the hands of presbyters and the heads of bishops at their ordination.”
Father Balash said the oil of catechumens is for those to be baptized. Also blessed is the oil of the sick. The blessed oils are distributed to priests to use in their parishes. At Easter vigils Saturday, the oils will be used to anoint those being baptized and confirmed.
Another aspect of the Mass, Father Balash said, is for priests to restate their commitment. “This is an opportunity for priests to renew their pledge of service and a prelude to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper,” Father Balash said.
The gathering of people and priests from all over the diocese also reflects the unity of the church. “They come together as the church of the Youngstown diocese,” Father Balash said.
Father Balash said it was impressive that so many people “take time to come and participate.” And, he added, people who attend one time usually return. “The Mass makes an impression,” he said.
In his homily, Bishop George V. Murry asked believers to follow Pope Francis’ directive about sharing the “joy of the Gospel.”
He said Jesus’ “willingness to die for us shows that we are valuable and loved.” As Christians, the bishop said, “Jesus called us to new life and hope.”
Bishop Murry said evangelization is a mission of the church. “It isn’t about finding the right program — it’s about individuals, parishes and schools sharing God’s love.”
“Jesus is calling us and wants us to influence the world with love,” the bishop said. “Our good works give glory to God.”
After Mass, the bishop greeted participants.