St. Joseph Parish offers drive-in Mass for vulnerable parishioners

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Every Sunday morning shortly before 7 a.m., cars begin arriving in the parking lots next to St. Joseph Church in Libertyville. But instead of getting out of their vehicles and heading inside the church for Mass, the people stay in their cars,  tune their radios to 87.9 FM and get ready for the liturgy to begin.

This liturgy is a drive-in Mass with the altar elevated so everyone can see it from their parking space. Ministers bring Communion out to the people in the cars. Volunteers also sanitize the hands of each person in the car before they receive the Eucharist.

Each week, between 70 and 80 cars fill the lots, spaced apart at a safe distance.

Father John Trout, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, said the idea for Mass “percolated” soon after the shutdown. The first Mass took place on Corpus Christi, June 14.

“I was pushing it for a long time because I could see it as a very safe option for everybody, but particularly for seniors and those with underlying health conditions, provided we followed all of the protocols,” Trout said. “Seniors are very devout and the Eucharist means a lot to them. We should be doing all that we can to make it available to them. This is what this is all about.”

He asked his maintenance lead, Dan Harris, and volunteer Stan Taylor to put together a plan for the outdoor Mass while keeping people safe.

“We started the planning early on, but it really got a shot in the arm when the archdiocese came out with their directives on how they were going to allow people to open the churches,” Taylor said. “We were able to take their safety protocols and adapt them to a drive-in setting.”

The biggest investment was building the altar, Taylor said, which they made sure is covered in case it rains. The parish was able to obtain a transmitter so it can broadcast the audio of the Mass on the radio.

The radio transmitter had a hidden bonus. Those who are aging can sometimes have difficulty hearing in church, and now they can turn up their radio as loud as they need to hear the   Mass, Taylor said. The parish tries to keep the drive-in Mass to around 30 minutes in case the temperature outside gets too warm.

“We’re prepared to do this until the weather gets bad, but we’re also happy to shut it down as soon as people are feeling safe enough,” Taylor said.

Trout is very happy with how the Mass is working.

“It has worked seamlessly. It’s like clockwork. And the level of gratitude from the seniors is just mind blowing. The first time we did it there were tears in their eyes,” he said. “After doing it the first day I just said, ‘This is so right that we are doing this because it has kept people safe and it has given them the Eucharist.’ That is a win-win situation.”

Trout said parishes should make every effort they can to bring the Eucharist to the people, provided they can do it in a safe way.

“It’s very much a part of our ethos. It’s central to our faith and it’s central to the faith of the people,” Trout said. “People are finding it tough going. To be able to receive Christ is a great source of encouragement, a great source of motivation and reassurance in a difficult time.”

Linda Finch agrees. She was one of the first cars to arrive for the Mass on June 28 and secured a spot in the first row.

“I like it, especially during these nice days,” she said of Mass. “To me, I feel more at peace. It’s just nice to be able to have Communion again. I still try to go to Mass online everyday, but it’s still not the same.”

She is hoping to start attending daily Mass inside the church soon, but for now is grateful to have the outdoor option.

Like Finch, Marcia Johnson said attending Mass online was a blessing but not the same as attending in person.

“The parish has just given us a great opportunity to come to Mass, we older people, because we’re of a generation that were taught that Mass is very meaningful and to receive the Eucharist is very important,” Johnson said. “I’m so grateful to the parish and Father Trout for doing this for us.”


  • coronavirus
  • covid-19
  • parishes reopen

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