BURLINGTON, Vermont — This year’s chrism Mass in the Diocese of Burlington didn’t take place during Holy Week as usual and instead was celebrated June 30.

The special Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Burlington was rescheduled as churches were closed to the public celebration of the Mass before Holy Week because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a restriction that continued until recently when Vermont and the rest of the nation began to reopen.

“This annual Mass traditionally is celebrated late in Lent or during Holy Week as part of the preparations for the Easter Season. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vatican gave the bishops worldwide permission to reschedule the Chrism Mass for another time of the year when it could be celebrated more fully,” explained Josh Perry, diocesan director of worship.

Diocesan priests joined Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne for the Mass where they renewed their priestly promises. He blessed them and blessed the holy oils that will be used in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church of Vermont and symbolize the link of the parishes with the bishop in sacramental ministry.

The oil of the sick is blessed for the healing of body, mind and spirit. The oil of catechumens is blessed for the anointing of those preparing for baptism. The chrism oil was consecrated to anoint infants after baptism, those who are to be confirmed, and bishops and priests at their ordination. It also is used to anoint altars and churches at the time of their dedication.

In his homily, Coyne reflected on the pandemic and how it necessitated churches be closed for the public celebration of the sacraments, and he said it was important the members of the diocesan faith community gather for the chrism Mass because it had been months since there was such a diocesan-wide gathering and because “things are in such flux” with reopenings nationwide.

The last time the diocese gathered for the chrism Mass was 14 months ago, he noted. “It’s amazing how in 14 months things could change.”

Though some people have expressed concern that the number of people attending Masses will not reach pre-pandemic levels, Coyne cautioned against discouragement and emphasized the need to continue to spread the good news.

The faithful from throughout the diocese were invited to the special liturgy to pray, especially for priests and for all who will be anointed by these oils. After the Mass, parish representatives received oils to bring to their churches.

Urban is managing editor of Vermont Catholic, the magazine of the Diocese of Burlington.