CHICAGO — It appears local Catholics are one step closer to returning to public Mass celebrations with other congregants. Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Archdiocese of Chicago announced a phased reopening plan for the 344 parishes, and more than 2.2 million Catholics, in Cook and Lake counties. All parishes in the diocese have been shut down since March due to the coronavirus.
Four churches in Arlington Heights are part of the Archdiocese of Chicago: St. Edna, St. James, Mision San Jan Diego and Our Lady of the Wayside.
"We must be honest. 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 gatherings do not create a second wave of contagion, thus squandering the gains made through our sacrifice in these days," Cupich said in a letter.
He noted that the Archdiocese reached an agreement with the office of Governor J.B. Pritzker on the multi-phase plan for reopening churches for the celebration of sacraments, private prayer, adoration and Mass.
Cupich said the plan has been developed by the bishops of the Chicago Province in consultation with and the approval of state and local public health officials and civil authorities. The phases are:
- 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.
- 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.
Prior to starting the phased process, Cupich said there will be a "robust" communications effort to inform parishes and parishioners of the plan and any updates. He's also asking each parish to recruit non-vulnerable volunteers at the parish level to assist the pastor in implementing the plan. The selected volunteers are to complete training by way of a webinar. The training will begin the week of May 18.
Cupich is also requiring a certification of readiness to reopen of each parish at each phase. Each parish is to complete an implementation template confirming completion of all action steps and demonstrating that there are a sufficient number of trained volunteers to execute it.
For the present, pastors and bishops will continue to offer Mass in private each day and to livestream and broadcast Masses from parishes and the archdiocese.
Read the complete letter from Cupich here.