Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Founding of Priesthood, Blesses Oils to Be Used in Sacraments

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

“Whether we serve in a parish, in special ministry, or in administration, we, too, strive to walk with our people leading them to Christ.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated the annual Chrism Mass on Monday night with hundreds of priests from throughout the archdiocese at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. The special Mass, celebrated each year during Holy Week, commemorates the founding of the priesthood by Christ. During the Mass, the special oils used by all parishes in the archdiocese to administer the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick during the upcoming year were blessed and consecrated. The priests also renewed the promises made at their ordination of their commitment to Christ, to his Church and to priestly ministry during the Mass.

Cardinal Wuerl began his homily by reflecting on Pope Francis’ visit last September to Washington. “Down the aisle of this Cathedral just some six months ago walked Pope Francis. This was one of several aisles he walked down during his visit here and in each instance he offered those present a message of encouragement, love and challenge. This evening, I invite you to renew again an appreciation of aspects of his words that touch us as priests and servants of Christ, the Great High Priest.”

The cardinal recalled the Holy Father’s address to the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, his address to a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress, and his stop at St. Patrick’s and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “Each one of these processions ended in a message. But the processions themselves were symbolic of the pope’s mission and instructive for us as we, too, walk with and among the people entrusted to our pastoral care,” said the cardinal. “Whether we serve in a parish, in special ministry, or in administration, we, too, strive to walk with our people leading them to Christ.”

Cardinal Wuerl reminded the priests that the oils to be blessed are symbols of their sacred ministry and the working of God’s grace through their priestly ministry.  “In the course of the Eucharistic celebration, each of you will come down the aisle and into the sanctuary commemorating your own personal walk to the altar, to priestly ordination and mirroring your daily walk to the altar to celebrate the Eucharist at the service of your people in your parish or special assignment.”

The cardinal reflected his own personal walk down the aisle of the cathedral a decade ago when he made a commitment to love and serve Christ through his ministry as Archbishop of Washington. “Tonight, you and I, as we walk down this aisle, are mindful of the opportunity we have to walk through the Holy Door here at the Cathedral which is the symbol of the gifts of God’s mercy that await us, particularly during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The cardinal concluded his homily by asking his brother priests to symbolically and spiritually walk down the Cathedral aisle once more and renew their own priestly commitment in their heart. “Perhaps in your mind’s eye and memory you can envision and relive the joy and zeal, the excitement and awe of coming down the aisle to say ‘present’ at the time of your call to priesthood, or perhaps the coming down the aisle to the celebration of your first Mass, wherever that might have been, or the coming down the aisle, over and over again, in your priestly ministry.

Earlier in the evening, people gathered outside the cathedral for the inaugural appearance of one of two Fiat 500Ls that were used by Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to Washington last September. Over the next year, the Fiat 500L will be used as a way to draw attention to the ministries, public service, community engagement and ongoing acts of mercy of the Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Followers on social media can see where and how the car is being used with #DriveWithFrancis. Plans for the second Fiat 500L will be announced shortly as details are finalized.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
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