The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has suspended public Masses, Confirmations and First Holy Communions, effective immediately, according to a statement released Wednesday morning.
"The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has replaced all public Masses and liturgical celebrations with private Masses, celebrated by priests 'sine populo,' that is, with no congregation physically present," said the statement. "The Catholic faithful are dispensed from their Sunday obligation until further notice.
"In place of reception of the Blessed Sacrament, the faithful are encouraged to make a spiritual communion, pray the rosary," The statement said.
The statement encouraged people to pray this prayer usccb.org/about/communications/upload/prayer-coronavirus-2020-card.pdf for the end to the spread of the coronavirus, the healing of those afflicted, and strength for those caring for the sick.
"Given the number of Confirmations and First Holy Communions on the schedule for the next several weeks, an entirely new schedule will need to be built for the year. Further, it is not possible even to begin planning for rescheduling until there is clarity on when public gatherings will be allowed to resume. So, the entire schedule is being withdrawn, and it will be rebuilt as soon as we have clarity on how long large gatherings of people are to be suspended."
The statement also said:
Initiation into the Church will not be possible during the Easter Vigil this year. Instead, the Rite of Initiation will be rescheduled to another time this year, outside the Easter Vigil, when it is safe to resume regular public gatherings.
Regrettably, government guidelines and mandates regarding gatherings of any kind will impact most weddings. It may be possible to celebrate a private wedding mass, in keeping with the government restrictions regarding crowd size, and reschedule the reception at a later date. If you have a wedding scheduled within the next several weeks, we encourage you to contact your parish directly. It is unclear how long restrictions will remain in place. This will make it nearly impossible to reschedule concrete dates at this point. Please recognize that pastors and parish staff are doing their best in this difficult time.
Private funerals will continue to be offered, limited to the immediate family only, in keeping with the government restrictions regarding crowd size, with the option to schedule a public Memorial Mass at a future date. The specific dates and scheduling of Memorial Masses will not be possible at this time, given the indefinite period of restrictions on public gatherings. Please contact your parish to schedule a Mass of Christian Burial and discuss these matters with your pastor.
Baptisms may still be celebrated but must be celebrated privately and limited to immediate family and godparents only.
Anointing of the Sick
Clergy remain committed to caring for the sacramental needs of the faithful, especially in a time of concern. Please remember that, at this time, the Anointing of the Sick is reserved primarily for those in danger of death. Please call your parish office to request the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
Non-sacramental parish activities
All non-sacramental parish activities are canceled across the diocese, until further notice.
Church buildings open for private prayer
While we encourage the faithful to adhere to guidelines of social distancing and avoidance of public spaces, etc., we also acknowledge the importance of prayer at this time. Our churches will generally remain open during normally scheduled hours for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. Please confirm hours and availability via your parish website. Also, anyone who is sick or believes he or she may have come into contact with the virus is to remain home, and anyone visiting a Church or any other public place for prayer is strongly encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for prevention and hygiene.
While communal penance services are canceled, individual Confessions remain available. Confessions will be heard either behind the screen or face to face with a minimum of six-feet physical separation. Please refer to your parish website for schedules and specific details. Anyone in need of confession who is sick or believes he or she may have come into contact with the virus should contact the parish office for a private visit with a priest. Further, just as with visiting churches during this time, anyone visiting a church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is strongly encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for prevention and hygiene.
Amid the many concerns currently facing us, please also remember that your parish depends on your generosity and support. With the cancellation of masses, our parishes have lost offertory collections that are essential to pay staff and bills for the maintenance of our churches. Please visit your parish website and consider making your offertory gift online during this unprecedented time.
Support for those in need
Many people will suffer disruption, health challenges, and economic hardship during this time. The faithful are encouraged to support Catholic Charities and/or their parish St. Vincent DePaul Society or other charitable groups.