New deanery, diocesan pastoral plans announced during Chrism Mass

Presented in the context of the Priesthood and sacramental life of the Church


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The Prayer After Communion put an exclamation point on all else that had been said and prayed at this year’s Chrism Mass.

“We beseech you, almighty God, that those you renew by your Sacraments may merit to become the pleasing fragrance of Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, priests and deacons of the diocese and an ample delegation of the faithful from all five deaneries were gathered in the Cathedral of St. Joseph the afternoon of the Tuesday of Holy Week.

Bishop McKnight blessed the holy oils and consecrated the Sacred Chrism that will be used to administer sacraments throughout the diocese in the upcoming year.

He also joined the priests in renewing the promises they made at their priestly ordination.

It was the first Chrism Mass to be celebrated in the Cathedral since its rededication last May, following a substantial renovation and expansion.

The Gospel reading for the Mass (Luke 4:16-21) recounted Jesus’s powerful and authoritative preaching when he visited the synagogue in his hometown.

“We, too, have been anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop McKnight proclaimed in his homily. “We have been consecrated to continue the mission of Jesus to bring glad tidings to the poor.”

The bishop spoke of the significance of anointing with oil in the Old Testament, the New Testament and now in the sacramental life of the Church.

“But there is another sense of meaning to ‘anointing,’” the bishop noted, “which denotes not an act but rather a state — a mode of being and acting ... a lifestyle, so to speak.

“It is the charismatic sense of ‘anointing,’” he said. “It is the idea of sweetness and gentleness, but also of the power and force of persuasion.”

He said that’s the kind of anointing this diocese needs at this moment.

“We need a sense of renewal in the Holy Spirit among the faithful and clergy of our Diocese of Jefferson City, so that we may bring glad tidings to the poor in our communities and in our day,” he said.

“Communities of the Beatitudes”

Toward that end, the parishes in each of the five geographic regions of the diocese, known as deaneries, have been working together for the past year on new pastoral plans for carrying out the mission of the Church over the next three years.

These deanery pastoral plans and a related new diocesan pastoral plan will build on the previous three-year pastoral plan Bishop McKnight promulgated after extensive consultation in 2021.

“These new plans continue the themes of our previous plans,” the bishop noted.

“But they seek to deepen our immersion into the mystery of the Church as missionary: through a greater commitment to living the spirituality of stewardship, to an even more effective practice of co-responsibility, and by our parishes becoming even better recognized as centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the bishop signed a pastoral letter titled, “Shaping Our Future Together: Parishes On Mission Together as Communities of the Beatitudes.”

The Beatitudes, an integral part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, includes a litany of blessings: Blessed are the poor in spirit ... those who mourn ... those who are meek ... those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... those who are merciful ... those who are clean of heart ... the peacemakers ... those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness ... and those who endure insults falsely because of Jesus.

“This pastoral letter uses the Beatitudes to provide greater inspiration and specificity for our parishes as centers of charity and sanctuaries of mercy,” said Bishop McKnight.

He acknowledged that all people fall short of living the Beatitudes perfectly in this life.

“Each one of us is on the path to conversion,” he noted, “learning how to die to ourselves, like a grain of wheat, or to take up our cross daily and follow the Lord.”

People are aware of God’s closeness when they experience the Beatitudes in faith, said Bishop McKnight, “and we fulfill our mission as Church only when we become a community of the Beatitudes.”

Together, Catholics put the Beatitudes into practice “by accompanying those who grieve the death of a loved one with the Church’s funeral rites; by encouraging future generations to inherit our faith when we walk humbly with them, accompanying them; by fostering reconciliation in peacemaking and the practice of mercy; by standing in solidarity with those pushed to the margins of society because their human dignity is not fully acknowledged; and by exhibiting the gift of fortitude when persecuted for the sake of the Gospel,” the bishop said.

Unity and cooperation are essential in living out the Beatitudes, which is why the deanery pastoral plans focus on parishes working more closely together “to leverage all the charisms we share as the Body of Christ in bringing glad tidings to the poor,” said Bishop McKnight.

He spoke of the need for priests — who have received through the Sacrament of Holy Orders the authorization to celebrate the Sacraments and preach the Gospel — to be renewed in spirit.

“May you experience the spiritual, interior anointing that allows you to perform your ministry with fervor and anointed authority,” the bishop said to the priests of this diocese. “By a renewal of Spirit, may your ministry be an apostolic success!”

The pastoral letter, the new diocesan pastoral plan and the new deanery pastoral plans were being prepared this week to be widely distributed in English and Spanish and posted on the diocesan website,

Reflection material for small groups and parish councils and committees to use, along with a list of highly encouraged primary resources, will also be made available.

Bishop McKnight reminded everyone, clergy and laity alike, of the blessing and privilege they enjoy in the life of grace that they received in Baptism to share in the life and mission of the Church.

“May the next three years be a time of renewal in the Holy Spirit for our diocese, in which we embark on new paths, enact new strategies, and embrace new ways of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding the People of God,” he said.

Decades of dedication

At the Chrism Mass, the bishop and the people honored this year’s priestly jubilarians:

  • Father C. Duane Ryan, a retired priest of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese who served for many years in our diocese and currently lives in Sunrise Beach, celebrating his 70th priestly anniversary on April 3;
  • Father Kevin Gormley, a retired priest of the diocese, celebrating his 60th anniversary; and
  • Father Henry Ussher, a missionary priest from the Diocese of Wiawso, Ghana, currently serving in our diocese, celebrating his 25th anniversary.

Father Brendan Griffey, a retired priest of the diocese who is celebrating his 50th anniversary this year, was unable to attend due to illness.

To bring glad tidings

Seminarians served in various liturgical roles at the Mass.

Lay representatives of each of the five deaneries carried banners in the opening procession and the recessional.

Colleen Abbott, chair of the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) and one of its Southwest Deanery representatives; DPC Central Deanery representative Sarah Robinson; and DPC See City Deanery Representative Earl Pabst presented the offertory gifts of water, wine and bread.

Four deacons presented the oils for blessing and consecration:

Deacon Matthew McLaughlin, director of the Rolla Newman Center, who also assists the pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Rolla, St. Anthony Parish in Rosati and Immaculate Conception Parish in St. James, presented the Oil for the Catechumens.

Deacon Bradley Jones, who assists the pastor of St. Martin Parish in St. Martins and ministers to people living in nursing homes, presented the Oil for the Sick.

Deacon James Haaf, who assists the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Westphalia and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Folk and ministers to people living in nursing homes, presented the fragrant balsam for the Oil for Chrism.

Deacon Larry Hildebrand, who assists the pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Wardsville and St. Margaret of Antioch Parish in Osage Bend and serves as a chaplain at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, presented the Oil for Chrism.

The Oil of Catechumens is used for infants during the baptismal ceremony, and for the anointing of the elect during the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as they prepare to be baptized.

It designates all members of the Church as learners and gives them a protecting strength against evil.

The Oil of the Sick is used for healing in the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

Sacred Chrism, named for Christ, is used in Baptism, as well as Confirmation, the ordination of priests and bishops and the dedication of churches and altars.

Permanent deacons of the diocese carried the bottles of blessed oil and consecrated Chrism downstairs to Cana Hall, where they were sorted in order to be sent to parishes in appropriate quantities with each pastor.

A reception was held in Cana Hall after the Mass.