CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2021 / 06:43 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami stressed this week that despite public health distinctions created over the past year, priests are essential for the Catholic community.

On March 30, the archbishop celebrated the annual chrism Mass – when priests renew their vows and the archdiocese blesses its parishes’ holy oils – at St. Mary Cathedral.

Archdiocesan priests and seminarians were present at the Mass. The archdiocese has 55 current seminarians, including eight deacons who will be ordained priests on May 8.

In his homily, Wenski urged priests not to preach themselves but the Gospel of Christ.

He said that this time last year, a few seminarians had expressed concern about their priestly vocations after clergy members were deemed “nonessential” by the government – leaving them unable to celebrate public Masses.

However, he said, priests continued to offer private Masses and find creative ways to be spiritual leaders to their flocks.

“Even when we were ‘locked down’ we were still open – and I applaud not only the resilience but also the creativity of the priests of this Archdiocese to adapt to the circumstances and to serve and to find new ways of being present to your people,” he said.

“One priest told me that he worked harder during the lockdown – making phone calls, sending emails, learning new skills with livestream Masses and ZOOM – than he had worked prior to the pandemic.”

Since public Mass resumed in the area at the beginning of this month, the archbishop noted, there has been no known COVID-19 transmission connected to Masses.

“I thank you for your hard work, I thank you for your efforts to follow our protocols. Let’s keep it up until we put the coronavirus pandemic in our rear-view mirrors,” he said.

He also expressed appreciation for lay people’s love of priests. While this year’s Chrism Mass was unable to include lay people due to social distancing requirements, he said, one of the highlights in the past has been the recessional hymn, when people would express their gratitude for priests with a big round of applause.

“That was always a big shot in the arm for all of us,” he said.

“And the people of God do love their priests (and hopefully their bishops – despite what you might read on those blogs). If it was once true that the people placed us on a pedestal as if we were some plaster saints, it is certainly not true now. But they genuinely do love us ‘warts and all.’”

The laity can also offer fraternal correction and administrative advice to priests, Wenski continued. He encouraged priests to humbly listen to their parishioners, who will generally accept a priest’s flaws but will challenge hypocrisy and other scandalous behavior.

“Most understand that we were not trained as MBAs and so they want us to know what we don’t know and to count on their expertise to assist us in our stewardship of their parishes. They will generally forgive most of our faults and foibles, but not arrogance or greed,” he said.

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