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Coronavirus

Not all Joliet-area churches closed this past Sunday

Some Eastern rite churches offered Communion, too

In this photo from 2016, Rev. Andrew Harrison stands inside the Eastern Orthodox church he pastors in New Lenox. Because his church is a growing church, just 15 people attended services this past Sunday, social distancing is easy, he said.
In this photo from 2016, Rev. Andrew Harrison stands inside the Eastern Orthodox church he pastors in New Lenox. Because his church is a growing church, just 15 people attended services this past Sunday, social distancing is easy, he said.

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Not all Catholic churches were closed this past Sunday.

The Diocese of Joliet suspended regular Mass services this past weekend.

The Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Parma, which has one church in Will County (Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Parish) did not.

Its pastor, Rev., Thomas J. Loya, has posted videos on the church's Facebook page addressing the pandemic and why churches should remain open.

A letter posted on the Diocese of Parma website gave specific instructions for distributing Communion.

That's because, in the Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, priests spoon-feed bread and wine to people directly from the chalice.

Those receiving Communion were to tilt their head way back and widely open their mouths so the priest could drop Communion into their mouths. They were not to close their mouths on the spoon and they were not to say, “Amen," the letter said.

Rev. Andrew Harrison, pastor at St. John Kochurov Orthodox Chapel in New Lenox, a ministry of St. Luke Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, had similar instructions, but he added a step.

Every person who came through the door also had to disinfect their hands with wipes.

Wipes were also distributed before Communion so each person could disinfect the spoon after using it, Harrison said.

“Then they threw the cloth into a little plastic bag,” Harrison said.

The wipes were then burned so as to not "desecrate the sacrament," he added.

About 15 people attended Divine Liturgy on Sunday, he said.

“So it was easy to keep people apart,” Harrison said.

Harrison had announced last week that Lenten services on Wednesday would continue. But at this point, he is not certain. Even Divine Liturgy next Sunday may be canceled, he said..

Like many others, he’s taking it day by day.

“I don’t believe anyone can get sick from Holy Communion,” Harrison said. “The problem is with the chalice – the metal – but not from the Communion.”

From what Harrison understands, a decision to suspend services at the chapel arises mainly out of concern for him.

"Because I'm 80 years old," he said. "They just want to protect me."

Churches of other denominations also closed for services this weekend.

For instance, St. Edward and Christ Episcopal Church in Joliet suspended services this weekend at both campus and put a "stay tuned" notice on its website and Facebook pages for virtual services.

The United Methodist Church has a "Find A Church" link on its website at umc.org/en to help people find a local church that is worshipping virtually.

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