Many people are glad to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. It was a year the likes of which most people have never seen, a year when one story — the COVID-19 pandemic — dominated every news outlet for months. In one weekend in March, stores, offices and restaurants and even schools and churches closed their doors for months. When they reopened, it was with protocols requiring people to wear masks and maintain distance from one another. But as soon as things closed down, Catholics of all ages around the Archdiocese of Chicago reached out to help their neighbors who were affected by the virus. They made masks, organized food drives, created gift bags for first responders and more. It was an inspiring witness of faith in action that continues in 2021. Parishes and schools turned to technology to connect with their parishioners and families, streaming Masses and holding classes on videoconferencing platforms. Fundraisers and benefits went online as well, and in-person events often moved outdoors with drive-in Masses, drive-by birthday parades and drive-thru distributions from food pantries. For hundreds of thousands of American families, the empty chairs at the table are permanent. By Jan. 5, COVID-19 had killed more than 350,000 Americans, at least 16,500 of them in Illinois. Some of them could not have funeral Masses at all; others had attendance limited by COVID-19 protocols, which also meant mourners could not embrace one another. Economic and financial pain was even more widespread, as workers were laid off or had their hours cut. The hospitality industry was hit especially hard. The arrival of vaccines offering protection against developing severe illness from COVID-19 offered a bright spot before Christmas. The pandemic was not the only event to grab headlines. The murder of George Floyd in Minnesota sparked protests across the country and calls for a reckoning on racial justice. The election of the second Catholic to be president of the United States came with nearly unprecedented polarization of the country. COVID-19 formed part of those stories as well. Racial disparities in the suffering caused by the pandemic offered a window into the health effects of racism and disinvestment in marginalized communities, while the handling of the pandemic became a major campaign issue. Here’s a look back at the year that was, month by month: January • An expanded March for Life Chicago drew thousands of people Jan. 11, despite cold and blustery weather. The event included the march and rally, a youth rally and a pro-life expo. • The Archdiocese of Chicago and the Big Shoulders Fund committed to providing more than $90 million to support 30 mostly South and West Side Catholic schools over the next 10 years. Under the agreement, the Big Shoulders Fund is to provide $47.5 million to the schools, with the Archdiocese of Chicago committing $44.9 million to the same schools. The agreement also calls for the Big Shoulders Fund to take a leadership role in helping principals manage everything from academic programming to marketing. February • Bishop Alberto Rojas, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago since 2011, became the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California. • Little Company of Mary Hospital joined Springfield, Illinois-based OSF Healthcare System. • Chicago Catholic mentioned the novel coronavirus for the first time, in a Catholic News Service article about Catholic Relief Services’ response to the virus outbreak in Asia. The story ran on page 23 of the Feb. 23 issue. March • Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, met with seminarians, clergy, members of religious congregations and others to talk about child protection in the church. • All public liturgies were suspended due to COVID-19 beginning with the vigil Masses of March 14. All Catholic schools were closed for in-person instruction beginning March 16. The archdiocese began streaming daily and Sunday Masses on YouTube and broadcasting Sunday Mass on TV. April • Archdiocesan officials announced a financial plan that included cutting costs and working to stabilize offertory income by, among other measures, encouraging parishioners to participate in online giving and setting up an online donation page for parishes and for the archdiocesan emergency fund. • Parishes and schools began using social media platforms to stay connected, whether by posting daily videos and reflections or hosting online game nights. • Catholic organizations and institutions from homeless shelters and soup kitchens to schools and religious ed programs adapted to the new reality by changing protocols and procedures, and, where possible, moved communication online. St. Mary of the Lake Parish began hosting a pop-up food pantry, which would later become a permanent weekly event housed at the nearby Lakeview Pantry. Mount Carmel High School was among several area facilities with 3-D printers that used them to make masks, and ongoing efforts such as Renew My Church continued with online meetings. • Father Michael McGovern, pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Old Mill Creek, was named as the next bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. May • High schools and colleges worked to find ways to make the end of the academic year meaningful for their students, especially those who were graduating. • Individual Catholics searched for ways to be useful, from sewing masks to assembling protein packs for first responders and health care workers. • The archdiocese launched a phone line staffed by volunteers for people who wanted someone to accompany them in prayer. It also started online bereavement groups for those who have lost loved ones. • Kolbe House, the archdiocesan jail ministry, worked to help people released from incarceration during the pandemic. • Archdiocesan leaders began making plans to reopen parishes. Phase I of reopening included sacraments of baptism and reconciliation and funerals as well as eucharistic adoration, with no more than 10 people in attendance. • Sally Blount was named the first lay president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. • Father Louis Tylka, pastor of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park, was named the next bishop of the Diocese of Peoria. • Protests erupted in Chicago in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. While most protests were peaceful, some were exploited by looters. June • Parishes that met archdiocesan guidelines could begin reopening for daily and Sunday Mass June 6. Requirements included having trained teams of volunteers to set up the worship space to allow for social distancing, greeters to check people in and people to disinfect the space following use. Participants were required to make reservations to ensure that capacity limits were followed and to facilitate contact tracing in case someone later tested positive for COVID-19. They also were required to wear masks. • Parishes began rescheduling first Communions and confirmations that had been planned for the spring, usually holding multiple Masses with smaller congregations. Pastors were authorized to confer confirmation in their parishes as liturgies were scheduled into the late summer and fall. • Cardinal Cupich ordained seven new priests for the archdiocese on June 29. • Parishes responded to the call for racial justice by participating in peaceful protests, prayer and discussions. July • The Office of Catholic Schools on July 10 announced plans to reopen all archdiocesan schools for in-person instruction in the fall. Required protocols included, among other things, having all staff and students wear masks except when outdoors or distanced at lunch, keeping students in learning cohorts and distanced in class, and checking temperatures and asking students about symptoms every day. Schools also offered distance-learning options. • Individual students, classes and sometimes whole schools turned to online learning when they had to quarantine because of COVID-19. • Officials announced an acceleration of the Renew My Church discernment process because of the financial and structural challenges posed by the pandemic. • Bishop Ronald Hicks, the archdiocese’s vicar general, was named bishop of the Diocese of Joliet. August • Students returned to classes in archdiocesan elementary schools and high schools. Most Catholic high schools, which are independent of the archdiocese, opted for hybrid schedules, with students having some days in the building and some at home, so that only a portion of students were in their building at any given time. • Colleges and universities opened with a variety of in-person and remote plans. Loyola University Chicago and DePaul University opened with nearly all classes online; Dominican University and St. Xavier University offered a blend of in-person and remote classes. September • Pope Francis on Sept. 11 named Fathers Kevin Birmingham, Jeffrey Grob and Robert Lombardo, CFR, to be new auxiliary bishops for the archdiocese. • Eight Catholic schools in the archdiocese were announced as National Blue Ribbon winners on Sept. 24. • Twenty-seven new permanent deacons were ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago in two Masses Sept. 26. October • Pope Francis issued “Fratelli Tutti,” an encyclical on “fraternity and social friendship.” It was signed Oct. 3 in Assisi, Italy, and published the following day, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. • On Oct. 25, Pope Francis named Washington, D.C., Archbishop Wilton Gregory, a former priest and auxiliary bishop of Chicago, as the first African American member of the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Gregory was among 13 men who became cardinals at a Nov. 28 consistory. November • Bishops Birmingham, Grob and Lombardo were ordained Nov. 13. • Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Chicago announced they had collected $20 million for pandemic relief. December • The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe canceled its in-person feast day festivities because of COVID-19 and removed the image of Our Lady from the outdoor grotto for the feast day to discourage people from coming.