Archdiocese implements measures to help curb coronavirus spread

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The archdiocesan Office of Radio and Television tapes a Mass celebrated by Father Greg Sakowicz, rector of Holy Name Cathedral, on March 13, 2020. The archdiocese streamed Masses and posted them to its YouTube channel after suspending public Masses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

To stem the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Cardinal Cupich announced March 13 that the Archdiocese of Chicago it would suspend all public liturgies effective with the regularly scheduled vigil Masses that had been planned for March 14.

In addition, all Catholic schools operated by the archdiocese were closed effective March 16, as were the archdiocesan pastoral center and related agencies.

The closures are based on guidelines from local public health departments, which recommend the cancellation of public gatherings involving 250 or more people, and will remain in effect until further notice. Later guidelines reduced this number further.

“This was not a decision I made lightly,” said Cardinal Cupich. “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.”

Daily and weekly Masses will be available on the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The archdiocese has begun broadcasting weekend Masses from Holy Name Cathedral in English, Spanish and Polish. These Masses are available on the archdiocesan YouTube channel and will continue until in-person attendance at liturgies is reinstated.

Additionally, daily Masses are being broadcast from St. James Chapel on weekdays at 10 a.m. Recordings of all Masses will remain on the  YouTube channel,

In the March 13 statement, Cardinal Cupich urged all the faithful to both care and pray for people in their neighborhoods and around the world.

“In this time of legitimate concern for the safety of ourselves, our loved ones and those at the margins of society, we must hold fast to the knowledge that the impulses that come from God bring courage, consolation, generosity and solidarity,” said Cardinal Cupich.

“Instead of allowing this moment to trap us in fear, we must find unity in advancing all that is good in our common humanity,” he continued. “This means staying spiritually and emotionally close to one another, in our families, our friendships and our communities. It means helping where possible and safe. It means checking on the vulnerable. It means being responsible about hygiene. This is a time to be gentle with one another. For Christians, it is a time to reflect on how Jesus made those struggling with illness a priority. It is also a time to be surprised by the blessings that come from being part of the same family — the human family.”

“We encourage priests to celebrate Mass privately for the good of the people of God, the church and the intentions of the day,” the statement said.

It went on to encourage parishes to find ways to stream or broadcast their Masses if possible.

“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,” the statement said. “Parishes with the potential to broadcast their own Masses should do so.”

Schools are encouraged to find ways to keep their students learning at home.

“During this closure period, Catholic school students will be asked to complete academic work through electronic learning (‘e-learning’) or alternative learning,” the statement said.

While the archdiocesan decision does not apply to schools operated independently or by congregations of women and men religious, several of them followed suit.

Meanwhile, DePaul and Loyola universities also moved all classes to an on-line basis and asked that students move out of residence halls. Dominican University in River Forest canceled all face-to-face classes, with residence halls open only to students who could not leave. Students who did leave campus were told they would not be permitted to return. Saint Xavier University extended its spring break by a week with classes to resume on an online-only basis.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is closing some programs and adapting others, said Brigid Murphy, the agency’s communications director.

All group meals in parishes, senior centers and the agency’s downtown headquarters are canceled, but Catholic Charities is providing to-go meals that people can pick up at those sites. Its shower program for the homeless has been suspended, but homeless people can still pick up toiletry packs, Murphy said.

“So many of our clients just do not have other options,” Murphy said. “They just don’t have a plan B.”

Food pantries remain open, and Catholic Charities is considering adding hours where possible, Murphy said.

While Catholic Charities has canceled or postponed large volunteer events, it still needs individual volunteers to pack and distribute meals, among other jobs.

For other resources, including suggestions to enrich personal prayer and deepen solidarity with one another during the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, visit


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