The entire campus of St. Mary Catholic Parish in Riverside is shut down until Sept. 8 after a parish staff member tested positive for the presence of the novel coronavirus.
The positive test for the staff member was reported on Aug. 25, the day before the first full day of classes for St. Mary School, prompting the shutdown. All other staff members, and some family members of staff, went to the Alivio Medical Center in Berwyn the next day, on Aug. 26, to get COVID-19 tests. They are currently awaiting results.
No one, other than workers doing a deep cleaning, will be allowed inside the church or school until at least Sept. 8. That means there will be no Masses at the church for the next two weekends.
The church has been holding socially distanced Masses since July.
Father Thomas May, the pastor of St. Mary’s, said he’s disappointed about not being able to hold Mass for the next two weeks. There will be no livestreaming of a Mass either for the next weeks, because May is not allowed inside the church.
“We are closed completely,” May told the Landmark. “In a way, it’s like going back to where we were in March. I feel like we’ve taken a giant step back to March where we can’t do anything again. Hopefully it’s only for two weeks, but it was terribly disappointing.”
May said staff members at St. Mary have been careful about wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.
“People have really been very careful, masking and keeping social distance, but even with all that, things still happen,” May said. “Ultimately, our major concern is the safety and health of all of our parishioners, the kids in school and staff. You don’t want anyone to get sick.”
May said he is still awaiting the results of his COVID-19 test.
Since reopening for in-person worship in July, St. Mary Church has been celebrating two Masses each weekend, one on Saturday afternoon and one on Sunday morning. No more than about 60 people have been allowed into the church for a particular Mass.
The church has a capacity of about 350 people. After Labor Day, St. Mary Church had been planning to add a 5 p.m. Mass on Sunday, because the other two masses were usually at capacity. Before the pandemic, the church typically held five Masses over a weekend.
In July, one parishioner who attended Mass at St. Mary’s was diagnosed with COVID-19. May said that the church had let everyone who was at that service know they had attended Mass with a person who had tested positive.
St. Mary School had planned to begin the school year on Aug. 26 with a regular full-day, in-person schedule. But the start of school had to be delayed after the positive test of the staffer.
The school decided to open with remote learning on Aug. 27. Students will not be allowed into the school building until at least Sept. 8.
“It was a big disappointment to everybody,” May said of the delayed start of school and the switch to remote learning, for now.