, Cardinal Donald Wuerl presides at the April 18 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, where he blessed the oils that will be used throughout the year in the Church’s sacramental celebrations at parishes.
, Cardinal Donald Wuerl presides at the April 18 Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, where he blessed the oils that will be used throughout the year in the Church’s sacramental celebrations at parishes.
At the Chrism Mass on April 18 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle that celebrated the memory of first Eucharist when Christ shared with the Apostles the call to priestly service, about 200 priests serving in the Archdiocese of Washington stood together and renewed their priestly commitment to unite themselves more closely to Christ in the service of their people. Also at the Mass, Cardinal Donald Wuerl noted another priestly milestone, as he announced that the archdiocese's new seminary opening in Washington in September would be named for Blessed John Paul II, who will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on May 1. The seminary, which will be located at 145 Taylor Street, N.E. will serve as a college level pre-theology house of formation, with seminarians attending classes at the nearby Catholic University of America.

That announcement after Communion drew strong applause from the priests and other members of the congregation, including seminarians, women religious, deacons and lay people.

Currently, 67 men are studying for the priesthood of the Archdiocese of Washington, including 29 in college and pre-theology studies. Renovation work is underway at the new seminary, which formerly housed archdiocesan offices for Carroll Publishing and the Office of Youth Ministry, which are now in downtown Silver Spring. The new seminary will initially have space for 30 men who will attend Catholic University while receiving their priestly formation at the seminary. Before ordination they will complete an additional four years of theology studies at seminaries such as Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Pontifical North American College in Rome and Theological College in Washington.

As the Chrism Mass began, Cardinal Wuerl offered special congratulations to two of the concelebrants: Cardinal William Baum, archbishop emeritus of Washington who led the Archdiocese of Washington from 1973-80, and retired Auxiliary Bishop Leonard Olivier, who this year are marking the 60th anniversaries of their ordination to the priesthood. The concelebrants at the Mass also included Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington who served as archbishop here from 2001-2006; and Washington Auxiliary Bishops Francisco Gonzalez, Martin Holley and Barry Knestout.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl spoke about how Pope John Paul II is a special role model for today's priests, as a teacher, "through his ministry of personal presence... and his insight into and vision supporting the New Evangelization."

Before he made his final blessing, the cardinal noted that he was wearing a miter given to him by Pope John Paul II, who ordained him as a bishop in 1986. He said he wore the miter at the Mass as a visible sign of his bond, and the bond that all the gathered priests, share with the soon-to-be-beatified John Paul II.
"May this Chrism Mass be for all of us, not only a renewal of our priestly commitment and a renewal of our love for Christ, but a reminder of how John Paul II is for each of us, a model... All of us can teach. All of us can be present to the people entrusted to our care, and each of us can be an agent of the New Evangelization," the cardinal said, encouraging the priests to seek John Paul's intercession, asking God to bless their priestly service and the people of the Church of Washington.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl noted how the priests share the bond of their ordination, and "we also share another gift. Whatever our age and for however long we have been ordained, we are heirs to the pontificate of the Venerable Servant of God Pope John Paul II. Today, just weeks before our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, beatifies his predecessor, each of us can recognize in his own life how much this extraordinary priest, bishop and pope has touched each one of us and what a gift he has been and continues to be, not only for the Church, but for each one of us."

Praising Pope John Paul II as a teacher, Cardinal Wuerl noted that his "great corpus of writings, his encyclicals and apostolic exhortations, form a collection of teaching unmatched by any pontificate in the 2,000 year life of the Church." Those writings, the cardinal said, offer "a profoundly spiritual, deeply theological and engagingly pastoral presentation of the faith of the Catholic Church, our heritage, the Gospel imperative and its implication and application to the circumstances of our day... He is a model of our own teaching ministry."

Speaking of Pope John Paul II's presence, Cardinal Wuerl noted that the pope who spoke at World Youth Days and traveled to so many nations, touching the lives of people of all ages, began his pontificate by speaking words on the platform at St. Peter's Square that he repeated throughout his nearly 27-year pontificate, words that still resonate today, "Be not afraid. Set out into the deep. Open your hearts to Christ."

Cardinal Wuerl said Pope John Paul II's vision on what the heart of the New Evangelization is can be seen in "the refrain at the end of the Gospel and the opening of the Acts of the Apostles, 'You will be my witnesses.'"

The cardinal added that, "There is a direct connection between the New Evangelization and a priest who is the living link between God and his people. The transformation of this culture begins by encountering anew and all over again the crucified and risen Jesus. The transformation of the culture continues simply by our sharing that encounter with everyone around us, with those whom we meet face to face, heart to heart."

Cardinal Wuerl said that priests in whatever their assignments, have the call to do just as Jesus did at the beginning of his public ministry, when He unrolled the scroll at the temple and proclaimed God's kingdom with zeal, enthusiasm and confidence. "As priests of Jesus Christ, we unroll the scroll anew each day," the cardinal said.

In concluding his homily, Cardinal Wuerl noted that Pope John Paul II's motto was "Totus Tuus," meaning "all yours."

"This servant of God handed everything to our Blessed Mother so that she could carry all to her Son," the cardinal said. "This night as we renew ourselves in the gift of priesthood, let us also pray, 'Totus Tuus. Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, all is yours. We pray: bring all that we have and are, bring all of our priesthood and ministry, all of our people we serve, to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest who lives and reigns for ever and ever."

Also at the Chrism Mass, the cardinal blessed the oils that will be used throughout the year in the Church's sacramental celebrations at parishes. The Oil of Catechumens is used to anoint those preparing for Baptism. The Oil of the Sick is used to anoint those who are seriously ill, and the Holy Chrism is used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.

After Mass, Cardinal Wuerl personally greeted those present, including the concelebrating priests, and also the deacons, women religious and seminarians in attendance. Among the laypeople who lined up to greet the cardinal were some young men discerning vocations to the priesthood who might be among the first seminarians at the new Blessed John Paul II Seminary when it opens in September. The clergy at the Mass were given a copy of Cardinal Wuerl's new book on the teachings of Pope John Paul II, "The Gift of Blessed John Paul II: A Celebration of His Enduring Legacy."