After nearly three months of restrictions and a closed church, Fr. Dan Belanger, CSV, Pastor, welcomed his parishioners back to St. George Church in Bourbonnais, for Mass.

“People were very interested to come home,” Fr. Dan said of the first in-person Masses on June 14. “It’s not just coming back to church, it’s coming home.

“And for me, looking out and seeing people,” he adds, “was very exciting.”

St. George — and St. Mary’s Church in nearby Beaverville, also led by Fr. Dan — were the first Viatorian parishes to open, as part of the phased reopening announced by officials with the Joliet Diocese.

Volunteers sprayed disinfectant on each worshiper as they entered.

Fr. Dan worked with local health officials and his re-opening team to plan the logistics of welcoming people back.

Together, they devised a three-step system: All people attending Mass had to make a reservation. Once they arrived, they checked in and confirmed that they had a mask.

Next, they walked to a disinfectant station, where volunteers sprayed their hands, before ushers seated parishioners or families in spots six feet apart, working their way from the front to the back.

Ushers showed each person or family to their seats.

Mass itself featured instrumental music, played by an organist and cantor in the choir loft. Only Fr. Dan and a lector were in the sanctuary. For the distribution of communion, Fr. Dan wore a shield and parishioners approached in a line, six feet apart.

The parish also broadcast the Mass on the radio, using a transponder, reaching even more parishioners who listened outside the church in their cars.

Fr. Dan found it fitting that the church re-opened on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Over at St. Mary’s, the same guidelines and procedures played out, except that since the church is so large, it could accommodate all of its 100 registered parishioners at one time, meeting all of the requirements for socially distancing.

“It was an awesome day” Fr. Dan says. “It was so great to come back home and celebrate as a family.”