A Letter from Fr. David Announcing the Reopening Date for Public Worship at St. James
June 17, 2020
I am excited to announce that we will be reopening the church for Mass and the reception of several of the sacraments beginning Monday, July 6, 2020 (with capacity limitations) The Ministry Center offices, as well as the offices at St. James School and Religious Education will reopen the week of July 6th.
“With capacity limitations,” refers to the number of people allowed in the church. In order to adhere to social distancing of a six foot perimeter, we are limited to using every third pew. Additionally, this requirement reduces seating within the pews as we must ensure the same six foot distance from the center of the aisles to the first person seated at the end of pew and then in between parishioners (families excluded). After submitting the map of the church plan to the diocese, we have been approved for a maximum capacity of 77 attendees.
There is no specific timeline for how long these practices, once established, will stay in place. The situation is fluid and may change as directed by civic authorities and/or diocesan leadership. Our Bishop has extended the dispensation from the obligation of attending Mass indefinitely. Anyone 65 years of age and older, people with health concerns or immune deficiency and anyone who cares for someone who is vulnerable is encouraged to remain home and worship online, which we will continue to provide through the foreseeable future. For all who feel they are ready to return to public worship, be assured we are striving to create a welcoming atmosphere following the diocesan directives for seating, communion practices, and disinfecting of the building. We will continually assess and evaluate the process, making improvements and changes as needed.
With strict adherence to all the directives given to us by the diocese, Masses may seem very different from the usual “St. James experience”. Certain procedures and protocols designed for the well-being of all will require everyone to register for attendance at Mass and sacraments, to check-in at the door with a Reopening Greeter, to be seated by a Reopening Usher in a place you may not be used to sitting, to wear a face covering for the duration of the event and to refrain from lingering or visiting with others in the narthex or parking area before or after worship. We will continue to forgo the use of holy water, as well as any handshake at the Sign of Peace between non-domiciled participants. The worship aides and missals have been removed and only instrumental music will be provided. We will continue to make our weekly bulletin available on our website as they will not be distributed after Mass. There will be baskets placed at the back of the church for your offering. Finally, communion will be offered in the hand only and the blood of Christ will not be distributed at this time. Dismissal from the pews will be directed by our Reopening Ushers at Communion and at the end of the Mass. Please read and save the attached file below as a guide to utilize when you return. It provides detailed and important information regarding the new requirements and procedures, as well as the modified schedule.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to the many parishioners who have volunteered to help make all this possible. They have agreed to arrive early and stay late to facilitate the best experience possible. Thank you to all our parishioners who have and will continue to show remarkable patience. Being told where to sit and when to leave can be annoying. Be assured this won’t continue forever. These are difficult times, strange times and demanding times! Yet it is with great joy, hope (and flexibility), we celebrate the return of public Masses, and the incremental process of reopening our church and our parish life!
If you have any questions, need anything or would like to volunteer to help reopen our church, do not hesitate to reach out to us. You can email the St. James Reopen Leadership Team at email@example.com. We’re here for you. We look forward to being together again!
Rev. David J. Hankus, D. Min., Ph.D.
June 5, 2020
A Letter from Fr. David with an Update on Reopening
May God’s peace be with all of you! As you know the reopening of a church is a process that involves many steps before it is certified by the diocese. Our St. James the Apostle Reopening Leadership Team has been hard at work to meet all of the requirements of the Diocese of Joliet so that we will be certified. Once certified, we may reopen with limitations.There are three phases to this process. Phase One certification will allow us to begin to reopen for Baptisms, funerals, weddings and Reconciliation for up to ten people. Phase 1A certification will allow us to begin to reopen for private prayer and adoration for up to ten persons. Phase 2 certification will allow us to begin to reopen for weekday and weekend Masses for a limited number of people. Each phase requires us to demonstrate scrupulous attention to insure a safe environment for all who enter into our worship space.
We are happy to announce that as of June 4, 2020 we have received certification from the Diocese in order to move forward with the process of reopening. The weekday and weekend schedules are being determined and I look forward to sharing these with you in the near future.
With this great news, there are some important realities Bishop Pates wants us to be aware of:
1) Each church should only open for each of the three phases when we are ready and have enough volunteers trained to assist with the requirements of each unique phase.
I cannot stress enough the importance of volunteer assistance. You may hear of other churches in our area that are reopening within varying time frames. However, it is only when we can confidently assure you we have enough volunteers trained, scheduled and committed to assist with the directives we must adhere to, will we be able to schedule the celebration of Mass and the other sacraments.
Another step involves the purchase of required protection shields and sanitizing supplies. Our team has been working on this.
If you consider yourself healthy and at low risk and wish to get involved as a member of the Setup or Greeter team, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) The dispensation from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass remains in force indefinitely.
Anyone who has health concerns or who feels that they cannot return at this time are encouraged to stay home and join the Mass online. We will continue to offer the weekend Mass online indefinitely for those who are unable to attend in person.
It is important for everyone to know that preparing to come to church will be somewhat different for some time (e.g. registering to come to Mass, wearing a face mask, sanitizing one’s hands before entering the church and before receiving Holy Communion, having a seating arrangement that allows for social distancing, etc.) The Mass itself does not change but some of the exterior practices will be new for us.
Finally, our team would like to thank you for your ongoing cooperation with all of the directives of the Church and your patience with the process. Truly it is an expression of love for the common good. Please stay attuned to the parish Flocknotes for continued updates and news.You are remembered in my daily Masses and prayers. May God bless us all!
May 14, 2020
I hope and pray that all of you are doing well during these challenging times. Believing that Our Lord Jesus Christ is with us at every moment allows us to move forward and with St. Paul proclaim, “I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) THE PLAN, as it has been put forward by the Bishops of the State of Illinois in consultation with and the approval of state and local public health officials and civil authorities, guides us on how to slowly and carefully begin having people enter our churches once again. There are many restrictions and guidelines that must be followed and everything happens in stages. As we all know, the safety and well-being of our parish family is of the utmost importance.
I ask that you read the attached documents carefully so that you may have a good understanding of what re-opening our churches involves. There is a letter from Bishop Pates as well as the Executive Summary explaining THE PLAN. A parish leadership team is in place here at St. James the Apostle that will provide guidance and assistance as we move forward. All of the input that will be given to our leadership team will come from the Bishop’s office in conjunction with state and local authorities. In a short time, we will be asking for assistance from non-vulnerable parishioners to work with the leadership team in implementing the particular practices that will be required before, during and after each gathering in the church.
Finally, I ask that you continue to ask God for healing, peace and wisdom as we move forward. God is good and in the end He will triumph. Thank you for your continued support of the parish and may you experience God’s loving and gentle presence always!