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Savannah, Ga. - Celebrating his first Chrism Mass as Bishop of Savannah, Stephen D. Parkes, D.D. made a point during his homily to connect this inaugural experience to the year of St. Joseph. “There is something that I see in St. Joseph – he was authentic. Joseph knew who he was” said Parkes as he walked back and forth in front of the pews filled with his brother priests from parishes throughout the diocese. All had made their way to Savannah for a celebration that could not take place in this manner last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. “[Joseph] was a quiet man, a very smart man because he didn’t talk at all, that we know of, in the scriptures. I think that was wise. But he knew what was in his heart. He had a pure heart. He accepted God’s will. Joseph was authentic to who God created him to be, even when he was full of weaknesses.”
Parkes used a recent trip to St. Simons Island to visit Monsignor John Kenneally to further reflect on the theme of authenticity. He told the assembled priests and a small gathering of worshippers what Kenneally said in response to his asking him what advice he had for him during his first year as Bishop of Savannah. The Bishop said Kenneally’s eyes brightened before he responded to the Bishop with a poignant yet straightforward piece of advice, “Be yourself, he said.”
The Chrism Mass, which took place at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, is a unique celebration of the blessing of the three oils used in the Church to anoint the sick, to protect young and old before baptism, and to consecrate someone or something to the service of God. The oils signify the universal charisms of the Church – healing, faith building, and consecration – and the Chrism Mass is a reminder of our share in these charisms through the sacraments.
During his homily, Parkes also spoke of his travels around the diocese. “Over the past six months and seven days – but who’s counting –” he joked, “I have made it around the diocese, I haven’t been everywhere yet, but I will. There’s a lot of fertile ground here, my friends. Sometimes we have to take a step back and take the long view like the Lord did before he made any decisions.”
He continued, “There’s a lot of wonder and potential here. My friends, my brothers, we are called to produce that fruit. We are threads in the fabric that is the Diocese of Savannah. As leaders of the communities, as being able to proclaim the word of God and build the Kingdom, we have to ask ourselves what is the Lord asking of us here and now? How do we reflect, renew and rejoice? It has been my honor and privilege over these last few months to get to know you, the priests of the diocese.”
The Annual Renewal of Commitment to Priestly Service took place afterward. All of priests stood to answer the Bishop’s call to order, in which he asked a series of questions followed by the priests answering in unison, “I am.” Do we want to add the actual words of the renewal rite at the end of the article? It is very beautiful!! The sound of 60-plus You might want to text Fr. Pablo and check the #s with him. I am pretty sure he said nearly 90 priests were coming. priests acknowledging their commitment to God echoed throughout the cathedral.
The Blessing of the Oils (Oil of the Sick, Oil of the Catechumens, and Chrism) and Consecration of the Chrism took place next. Pairs of priests, and in one case a pair of diocesan employees, Paul Nott and Caroline Ebberwein presented the Oil of the Catechumens to the Bishop for the blessing. The Bishop then blessed the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of the Catechumens. He then added balsam to the Chrism Oil and extended his hands to bless it. The Bishop bowed and breathed over the urn of Chrism, symbolizing the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate the oil, and the sanctifying nature of the sacraments for which it is used. Continuing with the blessing, the Bishop extended his hands, and all the priests joined him in the consecration of the oils, signifying the authority of the priesthood.
Bishop Parkes closed the Mass by saying to all in attendance, “May He bestow his grace upon you.”
Furthermore may those oils making their way back to parishes in Albany, Bainbridge, Columbus, Darien, and parts closer and further from Savannah, bestow grace upon parishioners in need and in preparation for what is next on their spiritual journeys. And may the priests of this diocese continue to be renewed while rejoicing and restoring their commitments to service.