Bishop Deeley celebrates Mass of the Holy Oils in Caribou

CARIBOU, Maine — Bishop Robert Deeley celebrated the Mass of the Holy Oils on March 31 in Caribou with priests, deacons and parishioners from northern and eastern Maine parishes. During the Mass, oils that will be used in the sacraments during the upcoming year were distributed to priests to take back to their communities.

The oil of the sick is used to anoint the sick, the oil of the catechumens is used for baptism and the sacred chrism is used for baptism, confirmation, ordinations and the consecration of altars and churches. The oils were blessed and the chrism consecrated by Bishop Deeley during the Chrism Mass held on March 30 in Portland.

Just over 24 hours and a 300-mile drive later, the bishop was happy to be with the clergy and faithful of the north in the continuation of a long custom in the Diocese of Portland for the bishop to carry the oils north the day after the Chrism Mass.

“The oils are instruments of mission. They remind us of God’s presence with us,” the bishop told the assembly during his homily. ”It prepared you for baptism with the oil of catechumens. It marked you as set aside as a child of God in the same sacrament through the anointing with chrism. It marked you as a member of ‘his holy people.’”

 During the Mass, the bishop distributed the oils to the priests in attendance, including Fr. David Raymond of the Parish of the Precious Blood in Caribou; Fr. Kent Ouellette of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Houlton and St. Agnes Parish in Island Falls; Fr. Jean-Paul Labrie of St. John Vianney Parish in Fort Kent; Fr. James Plourde of Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Parish in Madawaska, St. Peter Chanel Parish in Van Buren, and Our Lady of the Valley Parish in St. Agatha; and Fr. Kevin Martin of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Calais.

 “In the Rite of Ordination to Priesthood, it was used to anoint the hands of the priest so that you might offer sacrifice for the good of the people you serve,” Bishop Deeley told the priests in attendance. “For many of us, as well, the oil of the sick has been a solace and comfort in the time of sickness. As Pope Francis tells us, it is good to remember that the gifts are not for ourselves. We are called to anoint those we serve: ‘We anoint by distributing ourselves, distributing our vocation and our heart. When we anoint others, we ourselves are anointed anew by the faith and the affection of our people.’”

 In that spirit, as part of the Mass, the priests renewed their priestly promises made at their ordinations, resolving to be “faithful stewards of the mysteries of God in the holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching, following Christ the Head and Shepherd.”

 “Our ministry has a purpose. We bring those we serve to Christ,” said the bishop to the priests. “Our gathering this evening in this Mass of the Oils is always a privileged opportunity to celebrate the bonds of priesthood and the community we are together. It provides an opportunity to remind ourselves as priests that we are servants in the name of the Good Shepherd through the grace of God.”

Bishop Deeley said that it is the priest who presides over the community’s Eucharist where “Christ himself becomes present to us in sacrament and gathered assembly,” a call that has been challenging in the past year with an additional need to inspire ahead.

 “The work you have done in this year of pandemic has been tremendous, but the work is not over,” said the bishop. “Now we are called to rebuild our communities and strengthen them. With added numbers on the weekend, we are reopening. It is time to reflect with your people on how that will happen. When we reflect on what we have received we know ourselves blessed by the Lord. We pray that, anointed, we will go forth to share that Good News with those we serve.”

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