Chicago's faithful rejoice as church services return to 'normal' amid full reopening

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's faithful are rejoicing as the city begins to return to normal. However, they say it's more about the meaningful reconnection with a community that has been kept distant for so long.

"Being back at the cathedral, wide open. It is wonderful. Thank God," said Father Greg Sakowicz with Holy Name Cathedral.

The doors of Holy Name Cathedral were wide open as dozens poured into Saturday Vigil Mass without temperature checks or registration at the door.

"It feels great to go back to church and have Mass," said parishioner Tony Buena.

This long-awaited reunion of the faithful is stirring up emotions that many held back during the pandemic's peak.

"I could tear up right now thinking about it because I've been away from my spiritual home for so long that it's just amazing to be able to be back," added fellow parishioner Frannie Blonde.

"The importance of coming back to church through? Your cathedral, your parish -- it's for Eucharist and that sense of community, and there's no substitute for that," Father Sakowicz said.

In the city's South Side, faith leaders like Dr. Horace Smith, a physician and pastor at the Apostolic Faith Church, helped prepare for the church's full reopening day one step further.

"I understood in the very beginning that the only way out of this pandemic was either to get COVID or a vaccine," he said.

By linking its congregation directly to the science, they hosted town halls and vaccination clinics on-site for weeks, vaccinating more than 4,000 people.

"Our people really were activated early on to do the science behind the vaccine development," Dr. Smith said.

The combined efforts of faith and science brought joy to Chicago's faithful.

"I'm noticing people are happier," Father Sakowicz said. "It seems like a rejuvenation and enjoying people's hearts. Plus, it's summertime. It's like a brand new beginning."

There are still some churches that will delay their full reopening for safety reasons, while places like Apostolic Faith and Holy Name will still offer streaming services, in addition to in-person.
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