By Steve Neill, Of The Catholic Virginian

At what will likely be the final Chrism Mass at which he presides, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo expressed his gratitude to the many hundreds of people who had “come from far and wide” to the liturgy April 10 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

Priests, deacons and the Catholic lay faithful from all geographical regions of the Diocese had gathered for the annual blessing of the three sacred oils by Bishop DiLorenzo. Priests later received the oils for their sacramental ministry throughout the year.

The “Chrism Brigade” prepares the sacred oils for distribution to parishes throughout the Diocese.

The Oil of the Sick is used for anointing those who are ill with the hope that “the sick experience the compassion of Christ and his saving love in body and soul.”

Bishop DiLorenzo blesses the Oil of the Sick

The oil of the Catechumen is used for catechumens (those who have not been baptized) and are preparing for the Easter sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

The Sacred Chrism is used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders as well as in the dedications of churches and altars.

Priests present renewed their commitment to their priestly ministry in which they are “resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the holy Eucharist and other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd, not seeking any gain, but moved only by zeal for souls.”

Priests stand before Bishop DiLorenzo and renew the promises made at their ordination.

“I’m so excited for the renewal of promises before the Bishop,” Father Merlito Abiog, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Virginia Beach, said before Mass began.

In his homily, Bishop DiLorenzo spoke of several questions teenagers ask him when they see him at the annual Diocesan Youth Conference.

Questions include: “When did you decide to be a bishop?” and “What do clergy do all day?”

The Bishop assures the youths that “there’s a lot going on.”

In addition to celebrating Mass on Sundays and weekdays, priests hear confessions and anoint people who are ill as well as baptize infants and adults.

While it might seem a simple task to baptize someone, Bishop DiLorenzo said there is a lot of preparation involved before baptism which normally requires a conference between the priest and child’s parents.

Priests also get involved in the RCIA sessions and marriage preparation for engaged couples.

“Priests pray for the dead and they bury the dead,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. “Inevitably you’re there when the person dies.

“Priests are there for the wake service and they accompany the family to the burial.

“Priests listen to people’s joys and sorrows,” he continued. “Priests serve as chaplains in campus ministry and at hospitals.

“But it’s more than just doing,” he asserted. “It’s preparing to do.”

Citing a study of priests by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti in 2006, Bishop DiLorenzo reported that more than 90 percent of the priests interviewed “expressed high levels of satisfaction in being a priest.”

“I have a special place in my heart for them,” he said.

Acknowledging that there are challenges for priests who sometimes experience loneliness, he gave recognition to the many international priests “who have come here to help us out.”

He pointed out that studies suggest that without more priests, a priest might have as many as six or seven parishes.

“That’s not going to happen here, at least not on my watch,” Bishop DiLorenzo said.

With a joyful and thankful heart, the Bishop expressed his gratitude to the priests, deacons, lay volunteers and lay faithful.

“Thanks for showing up and God bless all of us.

“We couldn’t do it without you.”