Key Details of Illinois Plan to Return to Public Masses
May 21, 2020
DIOCESE—An executive summary and the plan to reopen the Rockford Diocese for Masses, sacraments and other worship were released May 13. This summary includes guiding priciples and plan basics for the entire Chicago Province.
 
Executive summary
 
This document is an executive summary of the multi-phased protocols and procedures, known as the Plan, for reopening churches and resuming public participation in the sacramental life of the Church for the Catholic dioceses in Illinois. The full Plan is provided at the end of this Executive Summary. The Plan has been developed by the bishops of the Chicago Province in consultation with and the agreement of state and local public health officials and civil authorities.
 
Four guiding principles undergird the multi-phased Plan:
 
1. Everything possible should be done to provide people the solace of the Church’s sacramental life in a timely and reasonable way.
 
2. The current situation in Illinois remains dangerous and fragile. While much has been achieved, there remains the potential that the gains could be lost by a second more virulent wave.
 
3. Trust needs to be established that the top priority in any Plan is the safety and wellbeing of people. We cannot take for granted that people will return just because churches are reopened.
 
4. Calling people to exercise faithful citizenship will be key. Each Catholic will need to take personal responsibility for the common good as well as their own safety.
 
With these principles in mind, a Plan to prudently and gradually resume the full scope of public sacramental celebrations, liturgies and faith practices, has been designed. The Plan envisions a set of required measures and phases. There will be an ongoing review of the Plan so that adjustments are made in accord with new data. 
 
The basics of the Plan are as follows:
 
n A robust communications effort to inform parishes and parishioners of the Plan and any updates to it.
n Each parish needs to recruit non-vulnerable volunteers at the parish level to assist the pastor in implementing the Plan.
 
 The selected volunteers are to complete training by way of a webinar. The training will begin the week of May 18.
 
 A required certification of readiness to reopen will be required of each parish at each phase. Each parish is to complete an implementation template confirming completion of all action steps and demonstrating that there are a sufficient number of trained volunteers to execute it.
 
 Phase I allows for parishes to reopen for baptism, reconciliation, weddings and funerals with a limit of 10 attendees.
 
The Diocese of Rockford is already in Phase II and has had some of the Phase I elements in place since mid-March.
 
 Phase IA allows for parishes to reopen for private prayer and adoration with a limit of 10 attendees. Given the training schedule noted above, it is anticipated that all parishes, if they choose to do so, could be opened by May 23 for Phase I and by May 30 for Phase IA.
 
 Phase II allows for reopening for weekday and weekend Masses for larger groups depending on the guidelines from the state and the capacity of the church building.
 
 Through ongoing discussions with pastors, health care professionals and civil authorities, there will be a review of the Plan at each stage with an eye to making adjustments in accord with new data.
 
Multi-phased plan for reopening churches
 
Phase I: Limited Sacramental Celebrations and Private Prayer
 
Parish Actions and Responsibilities
 
 The pastor will need the assistance of the parish community, as he will be required to create a parish leadership team consisting of 6 people, including himself, to co-manage operations and to supervise cleaning, set-up and greeting.
 
 The parish business manager or someone designated by the pastor will serve as the compliance manager for the parish and assist with the submission of necessary compliance forms.
 
 The entire team of leaders is required to attend training and submit an implementation template for reopening, which needs to be reviewed and certified by the archdiocese or respective diocese.
 
 The parish will need to maintain an on-going procurement program for safety and cleaning supplies.
 
 Based on go-forward approval, each parish will have the prerogative to offer baptisms, weddings, funerals, and reconciliation in the church within the current limit of 10 attendees excluding ministers and on-site staff (“Phase I”).
 
According to Msgr. Glenn Nelson, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, the majority of parishes in the Diocese of Rockford are ready for Phase II of the Plan. Many diocesan parishes have been open with restrictions for private prayer and funerals and are poised to make all the preparations necessary for the celebration of public Mass.
 
Since the Plan was released on May 13, Msgr. Nelson and the diocesan leadership team have been working with leaders from across the state on preparing checklists and trainings to prepare and assist parishes in reopening.  
 
“This level of preparation and collaboration will assure that our parishes are ready to safely accommodate larger groups as our state reopens,” Msgr. Nelson said.
 
Archdiocesan/Diocesan Actions and Responsibilities
 
The archdiocese or diocese, depending on capacity, will provide the following services to support the parishes and pastors:
 
 Provide parishes information on securing supplies or a list of preferred vendors for supplies throughout the phases of the Plan.
 
 Conduct required training webinars for clergy, parish leaders and volunteers, to assist the pastor in managing the Plan in each phase. The Archdiocese of Chicago will develop a standard webinar based on these guidelines and make it available to the other dioceses in the Chicago Province.
 
 Create and distribute to parishes a video message from the local bishop to explain the Plan for reopening churches.
 
 Evaluate and certify parish proposals for opening during the phases. Create a dedicated email box that will be monitored by staff to answer questions or otherwise support parishes that feel they cannot open safely without additional help.
 
 Work with government officials to explore possible increases in crowd size taking into consideration the capacity of church buildings.
 
Phase II: Resumption of Public Masses
 
Parish Actions and Responsibilities
 
In Phase II parishes may apply for certification to offer daily and Sunday Mass. Parishes will also continue to celebrate baptisms, weddings, funerals and adoration. Given the more complex nature of celebrations of the Mass, entering Phase II will require parishes to:
 
 Expand the number of parish team members if civil authorities permit an increase in the crowd size for Phase II.
 
 Maintain an on-going procurement program for safety and cleaning supplies.
 
 Continue recruitment and training of new, non-vulnerable volunteers as needed.
 
 Develop logistical procedures in accord with the guidelines of the Plan to manage more frequent and larger services that cover actions before, during and after the rites.
 
 Implement a safe and secure attendance reservation/ ticketing system to maintain order and facilitate possible contact tracing of infection.
 
 Submit a detailed proposal for implementing Phase II.
 
Archdiocesan Actions and Responsibilities
 
To support the parishes in the preparation and implementation of Phase II, the archdiocese or diocese will:
 
 Establish and update requirements for all services and rites according to the standards of government officials, health care experts and Church authorities.
 
 Review and certify all parish proposals for reopening with celebration of Mass.
 
 Provide additional required webinars and training, as needed.
 
 Create and distribute to parishes a video message from the local bishop to explain procedures for attendance at Mass in Phase II.
 
 Conduct random assessments over time to ensure continued compliance with published requirements.
 
 Gather feedback from parishioners across the archdiocese or diocese on how well the safety protocols are working and how comfortable they are with Church precautions for their safety.
 
 Continually monitor feedback on execution and resources to assist in problem solving through ongoing communication with parish leadership, state and local authorities and public health officials.
 
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