Leaders from the Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the state of Illinois have announced plans to reopen their churches for special sacramental celebrations and regular Masses.
Each diocese released their plans, which will roll out over weeks and in phases, that will be in accordance with the statewide orders put in place by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to deal with the covid-19 pandemic.
“While everyone must exercise good citizenship in observing these restrictions, I call on the Catholic faithful, both as good citizens and as advocates for justice and charity, to comply with these regulations. “said the Most Reverend Richard E. Pates, apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Joliet.
Pates is leading the Joliet Diocese in wake of the resignation on May 4 of the Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon, who had been serving as bishop of the state’s second largest diocese for more than eight years.
“The good news is that a plan for gradual reopening of our churches has now taken shape. However, since our movements will be restricted as this plan unfolds in different places, your priests and I will continue for the present time to offer Mass privately each day and live-stream and broadcast Masses from our parishes and the diocese,” Pates stated in his release to parishes.
Most Reverend David J. Malloy, bishop of Rockford, stated, “I am heartened to announce that we have reached an agreement with the Office of the Governor on a multi-phase Plan for re-opening our churches for the celebration of the sacraments, private prayer, adoration and Mass.”
“Our goal at this point is to begin to celebrate Mass in the presence of the faithful, consistent with the guidelines for gatherings, on Monday, May 25. That will be subject to the ability of each parish to fulfill the necessary conditions,” Malloy stated.
The eight-point reopening plan as agreed upon by the Bishops of Illinois was outlined to parishes in both dioceses.
Part of that plan involves each parish recruiting non-vulnerable volunteers at the parish level to assist the pastor in implementing its local plan with volunteers completing training by way of a webinar. The training will begin the week of May 18.
A required certification of readiness to reopen will be required of each parish at each phase.
Phase I allows for parishes to reopen for baptism, reconciliation, weddings and funerals with a limit of 10 attendees. Phase IA allows for parishes to reopen for private prayer and adoration with a limit of 10 attendees.
Given the training schedule noted above, it is anticipated that all parishes, if they choose to do so, could be opened by May 23 for Phase I and by May 30 for Phase IA, according to the plans posted on the dioceses websites.
Phase II allows for reopening for weekday and weekend Masses for larger groups depending on the guidelines from the state and the capacity of the church building.
“We must be honest about the coronavirus. We expect this situation to continue for some weeks, and any plan for reopening our Churches for public worship must include every precaution to ensure public safety,” Pates stated.
Summaries of the reopening plans can be found on the websites of the Chicago Archdiocese and dioceses of Joliet, Peoria and Rockford.