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April 14, 2022, Las Vegas, Nevada – For three Adrian Dominican Sisters, the March 31, 2022, ministry talk, dinner, and Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Las Vegas was special in many ways – but in particular for its inclusiveness of Catholic laity and women religious. All who serve in the Church were invited.
In Roman Catholic tradition, the Chrism Mass features the blessing of sacred oils used by parishes – the Oil of the Sick, used in the Anointing of the Sick; the Oil of the Catechumens, used in baptism; and Chrism Oil, used both for Confirmation and for the ordination of priests. Traditionally, the Mass is celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday in the diocese’s cathedral and representatives of parishes attend to pick up their yearly supply of oils after Mass. The oils are then presented to the parish that night during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
However, many dioceses – including the Diocese of Las Vegas – have begun celebrating the Chrism Mass in advance to encourage more of the priests to attend. The Chrism Mass is also considered a celebration of the anniversary of the priesthood, since Jesus instituted the Eucharist during the Last Supper – celebrated on Holy Thursday night.
Sisters Victoria Dalesandro, OP, Kathleen McGrail, OP, and Mary Jean Williams, OP, spoke about their experiences in the Diocese of Las Vegas’s ministry talk, dinner, and Chrism Mass. All have been involved in ministry at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and located in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada.
The Chrism Mass is “mostly a celebration of the priests and remembering the anniversary of priests,” Sister Kathleen said. However, she said, Bishop George Leo Thomas of the Diocese of Las Vegas “invited the Sisters and said [the Chrism Mass is] the renewal of all of us as ministers – Sisters, lay workers, and clergy.”
Sister Kathleen added that she had previously attended a Chrism Mass to pick up the Oil of the Sick for the hospital, where many anointings take place. “That was a blessed moment,” she said.
The Sisters were not only impressed with the Chrism Mass, but with the ministry talk that preceded the dinner. The talk was given by Bishop Gerald Kicanas, retired Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, and was presented to a diverse audience – over half of them lay people, Sister Victoria recalled.
Sister Mary Jean recalled a poignant story shared by Bishop Kicanas in which he asked third-grade students about the most important part of a church and was told, “the exit sign.” The student explained the importance of going out of the church and into the world. “You won’t forget the message that the most important thing about a church is going out of it” to share the Gospel, Sister Mary Jean said.
Sister Kathleen said Bishop Kicanas’ message was very Dominican with its emphasis on contemplation and on preaching the Gospel. “He kept going back to his first point – to make the Word of God central to your life,” Sister Katheen said. “Regardless of who we are and our limitations, and even as undeserving as we are, we are called, chosen, loved, blessed, and sent,” she said. “It was all from the heart.”
Established in 1995, the Diocese of Las Vegas includes about 28 parishes, five missions, and a variety of ethnic communities. The diocese also has a good relationship with the Sisters and with St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, Sister Kathleen said, noting that Bishop Thomas plans to celebrate Mass at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals on June 27 to mark the 75th anniversary of the hospitals.
Feature photo: Bishop George Leo Thomas, Bishop of Las Vegas, is shown with, standing from left, Sisters Janet Ackerman, OP (Racine) and Kathleen McGrail, OP, and seated, from left, Sisters Mary Jean Williams, OP, and Victoria Dalesandro, OP.
December 18, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Elise García, OP, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), recently took part in a discussion on the pandemic, racism, and religious life with other leaders from LCWR and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). The discussion was facilitated by Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter.
During the discussion, Sister Elise noted the challenges that many Adrian Dominican Sisters face in sheltering in place at the Dominican Life Center rather than serving on the front lines. Her hope is that as a society we would emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with new learnings. “There is no going back to the other normal,” she said. “The experience of this last year of forcing ourselves to find other ways, meaningful ways of gathering at the heart level, using technology has been really significant, and it coincides with the imperatives of climate change going forward.”
Sister Elise also spoke of the LCWR’s focus in the next five years on dismantling racism, and particularly of the focus of the LCWR leadership on white privilege and white supremacy. The process “really involves looking at both personal and systemic racism in a very rigorous way,” Sister Elise said. “We recognize that this whole issue of racism is multilayered and it's not something that you can address with one action. There are multiple pathways we're taking.”
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