'Church is more than a building': Chicago's Holy Week services move online during COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Holy Week celebrations are underway in the Chicago area and around the world, but they look quite different this year.

A family in Chicago's Sauganash neighborhood spent their Palm Sunday in front of their daughter's laptop.

"We got dressed as if we're going to church because that's important and then just followed along with the service," said Candice Nono, a parishioner of St. Hilary Church.

Palm Sunday, the start of Christian Holy Week celebrations across the globe, typically would have church pews packed.

Instead, images of a near empty St. Peter's Basilica, the "joyous message of Christ's resurrection" delivered via social medial livestreams.

Cardinal Blase Cupich commemorated the start of the Holy Week across televisions and mobile devices.

"It's a reminder that the church is more than a building, it is the people of God coming together in faith and being strengthened by the presence of Christ," Cupich said.

More Mass modifications were announced Sunday.

The Archdiocese of Chicago issued a decree absolving the obligation to receive Holy Communion during the Easter season. But Cupich said these unprecedented changes in religious tradition don't change the religion.

"I think even though the church's is going to be empty and the cathedral will be empty, we will I think realize that we are all joined together," he said.

Other Chicago-area faith-based communities called on a National Day of Prayer Sunday, asking America's faithful to come together.

"We are basically telling the world that we are looking for a move from God," said Rev. Ira Acree.

Meanwhile, a Calumet City church thanked first responders with hot breakfast on Sunday, instead of a normal church service.

Members of Kingdom Builders Church delivered food and other supplies to police officers and firefighters.

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Members of Kingdom Builders Church in Calumet City delivered food and other supplies to police officers and firefighters.



They also shared a blessing of peace and protection for the first responders and their families.

For a couple on the front lines, Candice Nono, a registered nurse and health care educator, and her husband Joe, a Chicago officer, said their training can only get them so far. The rest of their energy is fueled by prayers.

"I think the one thing that's constant is our faith and just the ability to pray, whatever resources each family has, I think we all have the ability to pray," Candice Nono said.

The couple said they've heard and seen firsthand the devastating losses due to COVID-19.

Their message as Holy Week begins is that no matter what the pandemic has taken, faith has and will endure.
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