Diocesan Offices are Closed And Busier Than Ever
Staff keeping up with business as usual in an unusual time
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
April 9, 2020
DIOCESE—On March 17 the Diocese of Rockford began doing business as usual in a not-so-usual way. 
On that day, the Feast of St. Patrick, Bishop David Malloy announced that due to concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus, public Masses would be suspended, schools closed and diocesan offices would be closed until April 4. 
April 4 has come and gone and the closures and suspensions have been extended to at least April 30.
March 17 was also a day in which thinking outside the box was no longer an expression but the norm. Priests started getting creative in how they would stay connected with the people in their parishes in the absence of person-to-person contact. Schools operated like every day was a snow day by instituting E-learning.
And diocesan offices kept keeping on. 
For Catholic Charities, work became more crucial with making sure volunteers and clients were kept safe and their needs were met especially with much needed groceries. 
Director of Catholic Charities Patrick Winn was even busier than usual in securing funding for the various charities, increasing sanitation and, like everyone else, responding and adhering to a rapidly changing set of local directives on mitigating the spread of the virus.
For the Life and Family Evangelization Office it is what they lovingly call “marriage prep season,” said director Jennifer Collins. Because all marriage preparation seminars, in English and Spanish, were cancelled, the LiFE office team reached out to each bride and groom and the priest working with them “to ensure their particular circumstances and timelines are taken into consideration and an alternate marriage preparation plan is put in motion for them.” 
Collins said the office is also doing their best to support all the youth ministers throughout the diocese in finding and using online platforms to stay in touch with teens in addition to working to support families who are unable to go to church or school. 
“These unique circumstances in which we find ourselves may be an opportunity to recognize new depths of our familial identity as a domestic church. All of us are trying to figure out how to flourish at home right now, and we are working on compiling some resources that we hope will provide a helping hand,” Collins said.
John Jelinek, director of religious education and faith formation, said the time of social distancing has provided the Religious Education and Ministry Formation Office “a wonderful opportunity to be online missionaries.” 
Now instead of the folks in formation classes coming to class, Jelinek said he is busy filming Ministry Formation classes to post online. His office has also been working on a newsletter and webpage to help connect and provide resource to youth ministers and catechists. 
Jelinek says the regional directors of religious education are still meeting with parish DREs online and by phone and using the time to develop new skills and new opportunities for the Catechist Certification Program. 
Jelinek said the worst part about being out of the Diocesan Administration Center is “that I left an egg salad sandwich in the fridge,” and the best part is “while I still wear a dress shirt and tie for my online meetings, I can be in my pajama pants and slippers.” 
In the Research and Planning Office, Director Kevin Fuss continues his support to pastors, parish staffs and other departments at the Diocesan Administration Center through online communication. 
Fuss also said the shutdown has increased his use of the good old-fashioned telephone. He has continued his work and projects through a network connection and online meetings. 
“Meetings, parish workshops and other projects that require a physical presence will be need to be coordinated and rescheduled” as the country moves into the recovery phase of the coronavirus shutdown, he said.
Fuss says he misses the interaction with colleagues at the diocesan offices and daily Mass in the chapel there. He said he really appreciates how parishes have been livestreaming holy hours and especially appreciates Bishop David Malloy’s Wednesday online devotions.
“I think the faithful should know that the people processes and resources that are available to help them and their parishes are still active, available and working for them,” Fuss said. 
“As such, they should continue to avail themselves of any diocesan services they need. They should also know how much all of us at the diocese appreciate the support they have given, and continue to give, to all of us at the diocese. The impact of that support is immeasurable,” Fuss added.
Both Collins and Jelinek echoed that their offices are open and ready to serve anyone who needs them.
“We are a missionary Church and this challenge will only help us to refine our skills and dedication to the proclamation of the Gospel,” Jelinek said.
Find email addresses for diocesan offices at the Diocese of Rockford website, www.rockforddiocese.org, or leave messages on the Diocese of Rockford Facebook page.




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