Standing-room crowd takes in Chrism Mass at Basilica

SAN JUAN — Roughly 100 priests from across the Rio Grande Valley walked through the incense-filled air last night for Chrism Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle.

The annual service brought in a standing-room crowd of about 3,000 worshippers. Bishop Daniel E. Flores, who oversees the Diocese of Brownsville, led the Mass as priests, deacons and representatives of the diocesan community gathered.

Flores blessed the holy oils — the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens and the sacred Chrism. These oils will be used for the coming year until next year’s service.

The Chrism oil is consecrated, with balsam added to the olive oil. It’s used for the sacrament of the baptism, confirmation and Holy Orders. The oil is also used to consecrate churches and altars. Flores blessed the other two oils.

When the priests entered the sanctuary, members from the community gathered close. Many held their phones to record the special event while others made signs.

A group from St. Anthony Catholic Church in Harlingen was there for the service and for their St. Anthony leader, Larry Klein.

Manuel Matamoros held up a sign that had “God” next to a heart, with “Bless You!!” underneath. Angelica Villeda said they’ve come to this Mass for the past three years. She said it’s really special for their group from Harlingen.

A giant sign was plastered onto the front of the upper deck, which read “Resurrection, Catholic Church.”

Some in attendance came from work, others dressed casually. Parents nursed babies, kids ran around and some even slept on the stairs to the upper deck. Screaming children provided an alternative soundtrack to Flores’ service.

There were four transitional deacons who will become new priests. Normally there’s only one or two — Brenda Nettles Riojas, diocesan relations director, said four is an especially high number.

The transitional deacons are Joshua Carlos, Ricardo Chavez-Flores, Joel Flores and Leonel Rodriguez.

All the priests gathered on stage after some brought up the oils for Flores to mix. Coupled with the choir, the group boomed as the audience joined in.

Soon after, Flores concluded the Mass and everyone turned to those nearby.

“Nice to meet you,” strangers said to each other.

Mothers and fathers hugged and kissed their children.

The Mass was over but the Valley’s holy year was just beginning.