Parishes Use Masks and More to Keep Doors Open for Masses
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
December 17, 2020
DIOCESE—The celebrations of sacraments continue, churches are open and adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances by practicing biosecurity and physical distancing since May 25 when the gradual reopening of the parishes in the Diocese of Rockford began.
The pandemic has kept churches partially closed since the middle of March. 
But with Christmas so near, many in the diocese hope to attend Mass in person for Christmas even if they have been watching online for months.
In cooperation with state order, each parish building can host only 30% of its capacity. Some usually don’t reach that limit, some do. 
Diocesan parishes, as permitted by Bishop David Malloy, may celebrate more Masses than usual at earlier times for Christmas, so that more parishioners can receive the Eucharist and still keep their physical distance.
For many Catholics like St. Mary parishioner Nidia Vieyra, the church “is one of the places where I feel safest.” 
María Rodríguez says that she watches the Mass online but prefers to be present “because the presence of God is felt more (in church). On the internet, on television, you get distracted by other things and here you are watching your priest, listening, and you feel better.” 
So “when they said that we could come, we registered and we have already come several times” to St. Mary Parish in Elgin. 
With the new procedures, “I feel very good,” she added. “It is something that is helping us for the good of ourselves so that we are not so close and we do not get infected.”
The experience of praying in a church, especially in person during Mass, is incomparable. 
“I felt that I have learned something new. Online definitely misses some things. Overall you get the same message,” said Lalo Gabriel, a 16-year-old St. Mary parishioner, who seems comfortable with the reopening of the churches. 
According to the Pew Research Center, “Among those who have recently watched religious services online or on TV, majorities of Catholics (68%) ... say watching virtual church services has been a new experience for them as a result of the outbreak.”
For his part, Father Lisandro Cristancho, parochial vicar at St. Mary in Elgin, said, “Knowing the circumstances, thank God the Eucharist can be given!” 
As few people are going to Mass, “one feels safe, and with the measures that have been taken, I can celebrate calmly and safely,” he said. 
Of saying the Mass with a mask he said, “I get used to (it). The first two days it was uncomfortable, but it is not annoying any more. It feels normal. Everything is a matter of adaptation, which is what we got this year.”
Registration is highly advised
COVID-19 conditions have changed the protocols to be present at Mass. Now the process starts with a registration on the parish website or by calling the parish office. 
Some parishes are using an app called ‘Sign Up Genius.”
Although it is not the best practice for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day,  at other times you may be able to go to Mass without a previous registration. 
In any case you need to provide your name and contact information in the event a COVID-19 case is reported after the Mass. All participants can be informed through their registration information. 
The diocese advises parishes to clean and sanitize “the church following each Mass, including restrooms. Special attention should be given to the pews reserved for use and for commonly touched surfaces such as door handles.”
Regarding training procedures for volunteers at churches, “The CDC recommends using approved products or a bleach solution (not more than 24 hours old) or a 70% alcohol solution.” 
Volunteers follow these and diocesan Back in His Presence protocols to provide the healthiest environment while faithful pray during the pandemic. 


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