MAY 16-17, 2020
Dear SPA family,
There is no doubt that we live in unprecedented times. All of us want to move forward and get back together as soon as possible, that’s for sure. As parish leadership, we feel that the recent Gospel passage about the Good Shepherd provides a powerful context for the caution and care our local Shepherds, our local bishops, are taking. They want to make sure their local flocks are kept safe in pastures that will give life and sustain them and not hurt them. Our own Archdiocesan Task Force has been working earnestly, in cooperation with state and local government and public health officials, to complete a comprehensive approach to resume the sacramental life of our Church as soon and as safely as possible. Our most recent communication explains where we are at. Here are the main points of the update we received over the weekend:
This past week, the Presbyterial Council and deans provided Cardinal Cupich with valuable input for our phased plan to reopen our churches. The Cardinal also convened a meeting of the bishops of the Chicago Province. Those meetings and consultations with public officials have resulted in the development of a phased approach to reopening. It will incorporate incremental steps, initially focusing on liturgical celebrations that lend themselves to smaller gatherings, before progressing to larger celebrations, such as Mass. The guidelines will include a procedure for pastor and parish leader certification including webinar trainings that will explain the necessary steps for the proper management and maintenance of the campus, the administration of the sacraments, communication with parishioners, etc. The Bishops of Illinois have agreed that any liturgical recovery plan must be undergirded by important guiding principles:
The first is that we call our people in this moment to exercise faithful citizenship. Every Catholic must take responsibility for public safety. As the first pages of scripture have taught: we are “our brother’s keeper.”
Second, we cannot take for granted that our people will flock to churches simply because we reopen them. People are afraid. We must gain their trust by ensuring the measures we adopt for their safety are well conceived, reasonable, and consistent with the advice of public health officials.
Third, we must remain in respectful dialogue with government officials charged with safeguarding public health and be mindful of their guidance for promoting the public good. While our plan has a timeline, we also acknowledge that each parish will be ready to move through the plan’s phases at differing places. To do that each must have in place a dedicated reopening team, completely trained, and certified for readiness. Again, we will receive more information soon about the multi-phased approach for reopening, and the training and certification process.
It is understandable that some may think we are moving too cautiously, while others may voice a desire to take an even slower approach. In all circumstances, even as we yearn for the sacraments, we must allow prayer and prudence to guide our decisions and timing. Even more important, we must do this together… building trust among ourselves that our efforts have safety as our top priority. We must communicate that this difficult time presents an opportunity for the Catholic community in Illinois to make a significant contribution to the good of society by demonstrating how people of faith, acting out of a reverence for life, can respond to a crisis as good citizens in cooperation with public health and government officials.
The bishops of the Chicago Province (all dioceses in Illinois) finalized a Plan for a multi-phased reopening of our churches and for resuming public participation in the sacramental life of the Church. State and local authorities and public health officials have approved this plan. An Executive Summary of the Plan and the Plan itself with Cardinal letter to the faithful announcing it are available on https://www.archchicago.org/coronavirus/reopening.
So, Fr. Joe, parish staff and I are studying and working on this plan to prepare us for this reopening of our church which, we know, will take extensive work in coordinating, educating, and preparing a team to pull off a seamless, albeit gradual, resuming of our gatherings of faith.
Fr. Chris Ciastoń & Fr. Joe Curtis