This weekend November 28-29, we begin a new Church year with the First Sunday of Advent. This Advent and Christmas season will be very different than what many of us remember from previous years. The continuing threat of the COVID-19 virus and the need to implement safe guidelines for the health of everyone means significant changes in the schedule for Advent/Christmas programs and liturgical services here at St. Peter's. Our lives and regular routines and life have been greatly changed in the past few months. As I write these words (November 18) the presence of the COVID virus has greatly increased throughout the world and right here in Chicago. Many restaurants, bars, small businesses and other venues have been ordered closed to help stop the spread of this deadly disease. It is our hope that with increased attention to wearing masks, keeping safe distances, using good hygiene and other preventative measures the church will be able to stay open.
While we wish everyone would be able to come to church for prayer, sacraments and visits, as we did in the pre-virus time, the danger of this virus necessitates that we follow the health guidelines of the Archdiocese and our local health department. If you are elderly, have a pre-existing health condition, have a fever, are feeling sick, have a persistent cough or other health conditions please remain at home for your own health and the well-being others.
I remind you that the Archdiocese of Chicago, due to the on-going danger from the COVID-19 virus pandemic, continues the dispensation from the obligation of attending Sunday and Holy Day Masses for all Catholics within the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Archdiocese directive states, "...that those of the faithful who are unable to participate in-person at Masses, due to age, health reasons, travel difficulties, etc. are encouraged to participate via a livestream/broadcast and offer an Act of Spiritual Communion, in union with the entire People of God in the archdiocese and throughout the world in this time of stress and difficulty."
Here is some advance information for Advent and Christmas services that we will be able to offer here at St. Peter's Church during December. (Because of changing health situations at this time we may have to adjust the following schedules. Be sure and check our web site or Facebook for the latest updates to our schedules.)
CONFESSIONS - Because of City and Archdiocesan virus and health safety restrictions we will NOT be able to offer Penance Services during Advent as we have in previous years. Beginning Monday, December 14 we will have two reconciliation rooms and two priests available for confessions. Confessions are scheduled Monday-Saturday from 10:30am until 3:00pm the week of December 14-19 and from 10:30am until 3:00pm from December 21-23. Please note there are no confessions scheduled for December 24. On December 24 the church is closed for cleaning and decorating and will open at 3:00pm for the 4:00pm Christmas Vigil Mass. If you plan to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Peter's during Advent be sure to mark these days and times in your calendar.
FEASTS OF MARY - Tuesday, December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of our country. We will celebrate the feast with Masses at 11:40am and 1:15pm. On Saturday, December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and Respect Life. We will celebrate this feast with a special Mass on Saturday, December 12 at 12noon.
As with all Masses celebrated in churches at this time, you are asked to call and reserve a place in church before coming to church. All churches are required to have seating spaces designated with social distance and are capacity limited for the number of people who may attend Mass. Even though St. Peter's Church is a large space we can only admit 25% of our capacity of people for Masses. Please remember that even with the holiday season Masses we can only allow a certain number of people in to church in order to help stop the spread of the corona virus. So remember to tell your friends who might be planning on attending Mass during the holidays to plan ahead and reserve a space in whatever church they plan to worship in during the Christmas season.
The annual Friars and Friends Christmas Concert will be "Live Streamed" on You Tube this year on Thursday, December 10 from 5:00-6:00pm. Though we can't open our doors to have you present for this concert we hope you will join us virtually as we share holiday music and reflections.
We will offer these Advent reflections via You Tube or Zoom before Christmas. Presenters will be: Advent Week One: Fr. Robert Hutmacher, OFM "Mary in Advent Through Scripture and Art"
Advent Week Two: Fr. Johnpaul Cafiero, OFM "The Real Christmas Story: the Unveiling Truth within the Infancy Narratives"
Advent Week Three: Fr Ed Shea, OFM, "Where Are Your? What Are you Looking For?: Biblical Reflections on the Mystery of Advent"
Advent Week Four: Fr. Derran Combs, OFM "From Virus to Virtue: Finding Hope and Joy at Christmastime"
If you are looking for some books to read during the Advent/Christmas season visit our bookstore/gift shop for some good reading materials. If you are wondering what to read ask Lisa or Steve in the store for some suggestions. The gift shop also has a number of Christmas items that would make excellent gifts for someone you know.
CHRISTMAS MASSES - Due to the COVID restrictions we will be offering a modified schedule for Christmas Masses here at St. Peter's Church. Though we are not able to have a choir and many of our other traditions this year we will have Christmas songs at Masses and a cantor. Our Christmas Masses will be celebrated as noted below.
Thursday, Christmas Eve, December 24 at 4:00pm and 7:00pm. We are hoping to be able to live stream the 4pm Mass, especially for the elderly and those who health will prevent them from attending Mass.
Friday, Christmas Day, December 25 Masses will be at 9:00am and 11:00am. The church will be closed after the 11am Mass for the day.
Thursday, December 31, New Year's Eve Mass at 5:00pm
Friday, January 1, 2021, New Year's Day Mass at 10:00am
Remember that with the increasing rise in the spread of the COVID virus please wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and maintain a safe & healthy distance from others. Please keep in your prayers those who are suffering because of this virus and those who have died. Say some extra prayers for our health care workers and all who work in hospitals and nursing homes or those taking care of their loved ones at home.
Elderly Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests now in retirement are often experiencing difficulty in meeting their health care expenses. Many served for years in Catholic schools, hospitals, and parishes, often for little or no pay. Now there is a shortage in retirement savings to care for these elderly religious. Each year every parish in the USA takes up a collection to help care for these men and women who for many years dedicated their lives to the service of others. Your gift to the Retirement Fund for Religious provides funding for medications, nursing care and more. In the Archdiocese of Chicago this collection will be taken up December 12-13. More information in next weekend's bulletin.