Notice from the Archdiocese of Chicago

As all residents of the state comply with the order to stay at home and refrain from non-essential activities, we are nonetheless painfully aware that being cut off from the sacramental life of the church, especially the Eucharist, creates a great hardship for our people, indeed for all of us.  However, we make this sacrifice for the common good, convinced that we, like all citizens, have a responsibility in preventing the spread of COVID-19. In fact, doing so will ensure that our people can return to the sacraments as soon as possible.

 

To offer our people as much pastoral care as possible during this time, please observe the following guidelines for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, and ministering to the sick and homebound, which are in effect until further notice. A note about the Holy Father’s recent issuance of a plenary indulgence is included.

 

Sacrament of Reconciliation

Given that our churches are closed and a stay-at-home order is in effect:

  • individual confessions are currently not possible; this includes virtual or phone confessions, which are never permissible, nor drive-thru confessions. Despite the good intentions around such novelty, we must attend to our underlying theological tradition of the sacrament, as well as support the stay-at-home order and its intended purpose – to keep people safe in their homes at this time.
  • in keeping with longstanding pastoral practice when penitents’ access to the sacrament is restricted, they can be assured that their sins are forgiven if they make an act of contrition with a firm resolve to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
  • the faithful should be encouraged to pray particular prayers or meditate on passages of the bible that you recommend to assist them in seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God and the grace of reconciliation.
  • the Holy See has made clear with a recent decree concerning the Sacrament of Reconciliation from the Apostolic Penitentiary that the conditions for general Absolution have not been met. The decree states that the primary place it would be permitted is in a hospital ward. However, our hospitals are not currently set up for this possibility. At the same time, any thought of using general absolution in a parish is moot given that gatherings of people in our churches are not permitted.

 

We can serve our people well with pastoral tenderness if we recall for them that our Lord knows their hearts and desires to reconcile their lives to Him and He awaits their presence in the Sacrament once the stay-at-home order is lifted and our churches are re-opened. Sharing this message with our parishioners at this time could also prove to be a good reminder of the Church’s precept of making a good confession at least once per year, which many parishioners strive to do during Lent.

 

Holy Communion to the Sick and Homebound

Communion to the sick and homebound is suspended to be consistent with the governor’s current stay-at-home order.

 

Anointing of the Sick

Under the State’s exemption for essential services, the Archdiocese of Chicago is including anointing of the sick as an essential service. However, out of an abundance of caution only a select number of priests will be allowed to administer this sacrament to any confirmed COVID-19 patients until further notice. Therefore:

  • When a request is made for a priest to administer this sacrament, the priest must inquire if the ill person is a confirmed COVID-19 patient.
    • If no, the priest may proceed under the guidelines noted below for Ministering the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to a non-COVID-19 patient
    • If yes, the family must be notified that, due to guidelines set forth by the archdiocese to ensure everyone’s health, another priest must take the call and that the family will be contacted by that priest. Explain to the family members that out of an abundance of caution only a select number of our priests are allowed to administer this sacrament to any confirmed COVID-19 patients until further notice.
      • The priest who receives the initial request should immediately refer the case directly to one of the 4 designated priests in his Vicariate, who will be selected in accord with standards listed below.
      • The designated priest may proceed under the guidelines noted below for Ministering the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to a CONFIRMED COVID-19 PATIENT
      • Each Episcopal Vicar will determine his own procedure for monitoring this process.

 

Standards for the Selection of Designated Priests

  • Nomination by the Episcopal Vicar. 4 priests will be selected for each vicariate by the Episcopal Vicar and authorized to anoint any confirmed COVID-19 patients.
  • These priests must be younger than age 60 and with no comorbidity; i.e., when a more chronic illness is not present.  For example, Hypertension, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, any cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, COPD, heart disease. 
  • These restrictions are in place following the healthcare guidance that indicate younger, healthier individuals are at a reduced risk of contracting a serious case of COVID-19.

 

Ministering the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to a CONFIRMED COVID-19 PATIENT

  • If this is performed in a hospital or healthcare facility, all the facility’s guidelines for visitors prevail. All other restrictions of the facility must also be observed, including protective garments and protective measures.
  • If this is not in a hospital or healthcare facility:
    • Latex gloves are to be worn unless the patient or priest/deacon has an allergic sensitivity to latex, in which case another type of non-porous gloves are to be worn.
    • Any kind of mask is to be worn, covering the nose and mouth.
    • Protective eye wear (a pair of glasses will suffice) is to be worn.
    • All liturgical items should be sanitized before entering the home (oil stock, ritual book, pyx, etc.). Use bleach wipes or soap and water for the sanitizing of supplies.
    • The anointing must be done with a cotton-tipped swab or a cotton ball which is to be burned or buried after use.
    • If Holy Communion is given, it is to be distributed in the hand.
    • Maintain social distance (six feet) with everyone in the room, except the patient.
    • Do not offer comfort with any physical contact.
    • Use bleach wipes or soap and water for the sanitizing of supplies and all liturgical items again, after leaving the home.
    • Place these items in a sealed plastic bag and leave them either in the car, or another spot that is not in the regular living area of the home.
    • Gloves should be placed in a plastic bag, sealed and thrown away.
    • The priest should shower and change clothes after returning home.

 

Ministering the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to a non-COVID-19 patient

 

If the sacrament is celebrated in a health care facility, follow the protocols and protective guidelines of that facility.

  • Maintain social distance with everyone in the room so as to offer comfort without making physical contact.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands with soap and warm water once you enter the room.
  • The anointing must be done with a cotton-tipped swab or a cotton ball which is to be burned or buried after use.
  • If Holy Communion is given, it is to be distributed in the hand.
  • Sanitize your hands with soap and warm water after the visit.
  • Use bleach wipes or soap and water for the sanitizing of all supplies.

 

Christian Burials

Burials at Catholic Cemeteries may continue and are not suspended at this time; however, attendance limit and social distancing requirements apply per below.

 

Please note that our churches are still closed; therefore, funeral Masses are not possible.

 

However, if a family requests a funeral, there are two options:

  1. A funeral service, not a Mass, may take place at the funeral home
    1. the limit for attendees remains 10 people at this time (inclusive of the funeral director, priest, mourners, etc.)
    2. All attendees must practice social distancing
  2. A funeral service may take place graveside at the cemetery before committal/burial.
    1. the limit for attendees remains 10 people at this time (inclusive of the funeral director, priest, mourners, etc.)
    2. All attendees must practice social distancing 

 

Plenary Indulgence

The Apostolic Penitentiary also issued a decree granting a Plenary Indulgence during this extraordinary time. In light of this, please consider sharing the following with your people:

 

  • As many people are unfamiliar with indulgences it is helpful to review in a simple way the Church’s true teaching on this grace:
    • Fundamentally, indulgences (plenary/full or partial) refer to a repairing and healing of the damage inflicted by sin.
    • In the English language, the word "indulgence" carries the connotation of "permission" or "license to do something." In the Church and with regard to sin, this certainly is not the case.
    • In traditional language, this is the "remission of temporal punishment due to sin." That we, through prayer and action recommended by the Church, can engage in this healing and repair is not because of our own efforts, merit, or power.
    • The Church, drawing on the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints speaks of drawing grace from the "treasury of the Church."
    • In this moment of isolation and disconnection, the proposal to seek an indulgence re-affirms our connection in the Body of Christ and with the saints.
  • The Plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they: 
    • unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion,
    • or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, 
    • with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father's intentions), as soon as possible, when the suspensions are lifted.
    • Please use your parish website, email blasts, etc. to let your parishioners know this information.
    • In addition, health care workers, first responders, family members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn 15: 13), will obtain the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions.
  • Especially in this challenging moment, seeking an indulgence is a way of doing something spiritually and a way of praying for ourselves and for others.