Archdiocese cites coronavirus guidelines in closing schools, halting public Masses

Chronicle Media

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Following the public health guidelines for the coronavirus put out by the Illinois Department of Public Health and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, announced on Friday the suspension until further notice of all liturgical services effective Saturday evening (March 14) with the regularly scheduled weekend services.

In addition, he has ordered beginning Monday, March 16 schools in the archdiocese to close along with the Pastoral Center and related agency offices until further notice.

Catholic schools not operated by the archdiocese, such as those sponsored by religious orders, will make decisions individually.

“This was not a decision I made lightly,” Cupich said in a statement posted on the archdiocese’s web site. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of our life as Catholics. And our schools and agencies provide essential services to many thousands across Cook and Lake counties. But, in consultation with leaders from across the archdiocese, for the sake of the safety of our students, parishioners, and all the women and men who serve the people of the archdiocese, it is clear that we must take the better part of caution in order to slow the spread of this pandemic.”

The exception for Masses are weddings and funerals that had previously been scheduled for Saturday, March 14. Those may proceed observing the guidelines issued by Pritzker that limit participation to no more than 250 people.

Archdiocesan churches should remain open for private prayer during a timeframe best determined by each pastor, according the cardinal’s statement. The archdiocese has asked pastors to coordinate limited staff presence in parishes to answer calls and perform routine maintenance with a heightened focus on disinfecting all areas of common use.

“Televised and online Masses provide opportunities for the faithful to remain connected in some way to the Sacrifice of the Mass during this difficult time. Parishes with the potential to broadcast their own Masses should do so,” Cupich stated.

Additional guidance will be forthcoming from the Office of the Vicar General on the administration and celebration of other sacraments.

Catholic school students will be asked to complete academic work through electronic learning (“e-learning”) or alternative learning while the buildings remain closed.

The Office of Catholic Schools and archdiocesan leadership are working to coordinate extended support to those families and students most in need during this time. More information will be shared in the coming days.

Pastoral Center and school staff are expected to work from home, beginning Monday, March 16. Staffing at parishes will be determined at the discretion of the pastor. All employees will continue to be paid during this period. Effective immediately and until further notice, all work-related travel is prohibited.