Dear Parish Family,
When we began the stay at home order several weeks ago, it was certainly a disappointment to me. The prohibition on public gatherings interrupted the celebration of Holy Week and Easter which are my most cherished times of ministering as a priest. At that time, I had hoped that the rates of infection would quickly decrease and we would be able to gather in the church for the celebration of Pentecost which is Sunday, May 31, 2020. Unfortunately, that hope will not be realized.
This past week, the Archdiocese laid out a plan for reopening and identified within the plan that the most common public gatherings for Catholic worship are still several weeks, if not months away. The plan was hopeful however in that it outlined the steps that we can take now to move us safely and responsibly toward the goal of an eventual reopening.
The first phase of the Archdiocesan plan allows us to open Saint Andrew Parish for Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals with less than 10 people in attendance and also the Sacrament of Reconciliation (See the full instructions at https://www.archchicago.org/coronavirus/reopening). Not every member of our community will participate in these services and I would ask that most households maintain the expectation that the best way to pray and deepen your relationship with God will be through your own private prayer and devotions such as the weekly email “Your Sunday Connection” that we offer online.
There is a detailed list of expectations, training, and compliance that we must complete before we can enter into this first phase. We hope to begin these preparations in the week ahead which would allow us to hold some gatherings as early as May 23, 2020 but possibly later.
Another part of this first phase are protocols that will allow us to open the church for private prayer. To enter this phase, we will need a team of volunteers and staff to complete training in order to ensure the proper measures are in place. Even if we work swiftly on these measures, Saint Andrew parish could not open for private prayer before May 30, 2020 and very likely not until the subsequent weeks of June or even July.
The question that many are asking is “When will we be able to come back to Mass?” To answer that question, I would offer this point of reference. The second phase of opening, including gatherings of only 10 people or less for public Mass, is still so distant to us that we haven’t even received the worksheet outlining the steps we need to complete in order to open. In addition, as pastor, assuring the health and well being of all clergy, staff, volunteers and parishioners at Saint Andrew, while providing services, will be the overriding principle that will determine exact dates for opening each of the phases.
At this time, what I need most is to identify individuals who would be willing to join a team to help us meet the compliance requirements so that we can open for Baptisms, Funerals, and Weddings. To volunteer for this team, a candidate must be under the age of 65, over the age of 16, and not have any underlying medical conditions. If you would like to volunteer for this team, please let us know by informing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, by completing the form at http://www.standrew.org/post/volunteer-for-church-reopening, or by calling 773-525-3016. I am grateful for those who can step forward to serve at this time.
Please know that you are in my prayers and I ask for your prayers as well, especially for those who have contracted COVID19. The Second Reading this weekend asks us to “give a reason for our hope.” Saint Peter’s words rightfully imply that Christ is our hope. The reason I can see Christ during this time is by the light of Christ that shines through all of you. Let us continue to be that light for and with one another.
In Christ’s Light,
Fr. Sergio Romo