April 7, 2017

Local Catholics prepare for Holy Week observances and liturgies

By Sharon Roulier

Chrism Mass-Bishop and Msgr Connelly

Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski pours oil into an urn for blessing as Msgr. Christopher Connelly, rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral, looks on at the 2015 Chrism Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral. (Catholic Communications file photo)

SPRINGFIELD – Holy Week celebrations will begin this Sunday, April 9, with Palm Sunday as Catholics commemorate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, while marking his final days leading up to the crucifixion.

“As this week commemorates Christ’s journey for us, it reminds us that every day Christ journeys with us,” said Msgr. Christopher Connelly, rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield.

Chrism Mass

The annual Chrism Mass will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 10, in St. Michael’s Cathedral. Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski will celebrate the liturgy. Traditionally, a large crowd is expected for this Holy Week ritual. 

Catholic Communications will live stream the Mass with links available both here on and on In addition it will be broadcast live on Catholic radio station Catolica Springfield 102.5 FM.

The Mass serves as an important part of the journey for those seeking to receive sacraments this spring. Nearly all of the diocese’s priests have participated in this Mass in the past. They renew their priestly vows as part of the ceremony.

During the Mass, three large silver urns of oil are each brought forward from the back of the cathedral to the bishop at the altar for the Presentation of the Oils.

Three types of oils are used for sacraments in the church: the oil of chrism, the oil of the sick and the oil of catechumens. The oil of chrism is used primarily for those Catholics who will be receiving their confirmation. The oil of the sick is used in administering the sacrament of the sick to Catholics throughout the year and the oil of catechumens is used primarily for baptisms.

Chrism Mass-Sister Paula in background

Worshippers pray during the 2015 Chrism Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral. (Catholic Communications file photo)

“It reminds us that the sacraments are provided at all stages of life to strengthen us,” said Msgr. Connelly, noting that the Catholic Church’s care for its flock could be compared with a continuum of care provided in the health care field.

“In the sacramental care of its people, the Catholic Church provides care expressed best by sacraments,” said Msgr. Connelly. “As a case in point, oil is used at baptism to begin a person’s relationship with Christ. Oil is used in sacraments throughout life, such as confirmation and holy orders. And oil is used when life is frail in the anointing of the sick.”

The key ritual of the Chrism Mass involves the blessing by the bishop of all of the oils that will be used in his diocese for the rest of the year.

In the adjacent Holy Spirit Chapel, following the Mass, volunteers dispense the oils into smaller bottles and vials to be distributed to parishes and missions in the diocese for sacramental use throughout the year.

For those in Berkshire County, Bishop Rozanski will celebrate the Mass of the Presentation of Oils, Tuesday night, April 11, at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield.

At the Chrism Mass, teenagers preparing for confirmation this year are invited to join those who are preparing to receive their sacraments and fully join the Catholic faith this weekend as part of the Easter Vigil liturgy on April 15.

Public Way of the Cross

On Good Friday, the Latino Catholic community will gather at Blessed Sacrament Church, 40 Waverly St., in Springfield, at 1:30 p.m. to start the Way of the Cross, from Station One, where Jesus is condemned to death. The participants begin in the front of the church and make their way through the streets of the North End of the city.

“They will reenact every Station of the Cross, including Jesus’s first, second and third falls, the encounter with his mother, Simon Cyrene helping to carry the cross,” said Andres Lopez, director of Latino Ministry for the Diocese of Springfield.

“This is a means for evangelization. All the parish groups, including the religious education students, participate in this activity,” said Lopez. “Every year we have about 200 people in the community and some who join in off the sidewalk to take part in this holy event.”

The event will conclude inside the church with adoration and a Communion service at around 3:30 p.m.

Cathedral Tenebrae picture 2

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski presides at last year’s Tenebrae service in St. Michael’s Cathedral, Springfield. (IObserve photo/courtesy of Office of Worship)


On Good Friday evening Bishop Rozanski invites all to the annual service of Tenebrae at 7:30 p.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral. Tenebrae is a service of darkness and shadows as all the lights and candles of the cathedral are slowly extinguished. Music will be provided by the Choir of Boys and Adults, with strings from the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

“This is a last chance retreat before Easter morning,” said Ladislaw Pfeifer, director of the Office of Worship for the diocese.

“If people are going to celebrate the Resurrection, they also need to experience the Passion,” said Pfeiffer. “They find the Tenebrae service to be extremely moving and it draws them deeply into the Passion.”

Holy Saturday

One of the most beloved and enduring traditions of Holy Saturday in Poland and other Slavic nations is the blessing of the Easter Baskets, in Polish swięconka, which also refers to the Easter breakfast where the foods contained in the Easter basket are first shared.  As Lent ends, along with its various disciplines including fasting, baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to be blessed on Holy Saturday.   The main foods blessed are hard-boiled eggs that have been colored or decorated which is shared by all on Easter Sunday morning and a lamb (baranek) molded of butter. The blessed butter-lamb and Easter eggs have a place of honor on the Easter table. All of the foods in the baskets have a symbolic meaning: the butter-lamb stands for Jesus, the Paschal Lamb. The eggs symbolize new life or Christ rising from his tomb.  Bread also represents Jesus as the Bread of Life given at the Last Supper.  Meat and sausages are symbols of the resurrected Christ, horseradish represents accepting the bitter with the sweet in life.  Salt is to add zest to life and preserve us from corruption, and sweets suggest the promise of eternal life or good things to come.

Easter Vigil

On Holy Saturday Catholics will wait for full darkness as parishes throughout the diocese celebrate vigil Masses after sunset, which is at 7:32 local time. During this Mass, a number of new members will be welcomed into the Catholic faith through the reception of baptism, confirmation and first holy Communion.

“The Easter vigil is the culmination of a person’s journey to full communion in the Catholic Church,” said Sister of St. Joseph Paula Robillard, diocesan director of faith formation. “After months of study, reflection and prayer, they are ready to say, ‘Yes, I want to live my life in communion with Jesus as a Catholic.’

“It is a wonderful moment, not only for the person and their family, but also for the parish team of catechists and sponsors who have walked with them and the parish community who welcome them,” Sister Robillard said.

Easter Sunday

And finally on Easter Sunday, April 16, parishes throughout the diocese will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. St. Mary Parish in Westfield will hold a special outdoor Easter celebration at Stanley Park in Westfield.

At 11:30 a.m. in the Beveridge Pavilion next to the Rose Garden all are welcome to attend a Mass celebrated by Father Frank Lawlor, pastor of St. Mary’s.

“Bishop Rozanski has asked the parishes of the Diocese of Springfield to focus on the importance of evangelization and outreach,” said Father Lawlor. “This Mass is our small attempt to reach out to all Christians in Westfield. Christ is not found in a building, but rather in every gathering of his body, the church.

“Celebrating the joy of the Resurrection in a beautiful garden is an extraordinary opportunity to celebrate Christ’s love for all,” he said.

For those who are homebound and infirm, Bishop Rozanski will celebrate a live “Chalice of Salvation” Easter Sunday liturgy from St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield. The Mass will be broadcast on WWLP-22NEWS at 10 a.m.