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Chicago-based Catholic group urges prayer vigils across US to re-open churches

The St. Charles Borromeo Society is now serving as as a nationwide resource for U.S. Catholics interested in getting churches in their own dioceses opened up again.
Fri May 8, 2020 - 9:27 pm EST
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Catholics pray outside Holy Name Cathedral. Chicago, Illinois.

CHICAGO, Illinois, May 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Founded just weeks ago by Lisa Bergman and Joe and Ann Scheidler of Pro-Life Action League, the Chicago-based St. Charles Borromeo Society has expanded its focus from getting churches in the Chicagoland area to reopen to now serving as a nationwide resource for U.S. Catholics interested in getting churches in their own dioceses opened up again.

Bergman, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, informed LifeSite that she’s been receiving messages from Catholics across the country who are interested in hosting prayer vigils in their areas.

“There were about 100 people at the Prayer Rally in front of St. Raymond’s Cathedral in Joliet last Friday evening,” Bergman said in an email. “There were also about 70 at Holy Name Cathedral [in Chicago] and there was a police car parked on the corner the whole time watching us...they never got out of the car.”

Thus far, laity in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and elsewhere have already held or are coordinating prayerful protests as a way to re-open churches.

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Rosary procession at the Minnesota state capitol building. SOURCE: Courtesy Lisa Bergman

On the St. Charles Borromeo Society’s website, OpenOurChurches.org, there is a growing database of the latest decrees dioceses across the United States have implemented regarding church closings and public Mass offerings. There is also an events page, a forum, and recommendations for how churches can safely re-open.

In her free time, Bergman, a wife and mother, runs St. Augustine Academy Press. On Good Friday last month, she organized the first prayerful protest outside Holy Name Cathedral. Its purpose was to draw attention to the fact that grocery and liquor stores were still open but churches were forced to close during the coronavirus outbreak. Fewer than a dozen people showed up. Two weeks later, however, on April 24, more than 30 Catholics prayed the rosary with her at the same location. On Friday, May 1, approximately 80 Catholics prayed outside Holy Name. Local Chicago media outlets have reported on the gatherings, which will continue, Bergman says, until churches in Chicago are reopened.

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Catholics in Joliet, Illinois outside St. Raymond’s Cathedral. SOURCE: Courtesy Lisa Bergman

The St. Charles Borromeo Society was originally established by Bergman and the Scheidlers to encourage Cardinal Blase Cupich to intervene with Illinois’s Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, to ease restrictions so churches in the archdiocese could re-open. Cupich had suspended all Masses in mid-March.

Although Cupich’s office refused to have a meeting with the group, the archdiocese announced last Friday, thanks to a new order issued by the governor, that Masses will be held in the near future, although no more than 10 people will be allowed to attend.

Today, the St. Charles Borromeo Society held a May Crowning ceremony of a Blessed Virgin Mary statue outside the cathedral. They have also released a statement urging prayer vigils to be held across the U.S. this Mother’s Day weekend. Read it below.

A Mother’s Day Proclamation

The tribulation of the past few weeks has brought to a head the identity crisis we suffer as a Church.  We have built up our domestic churches in our homes, and we have tried to comfort ourselves with words like these from St. Paul: 

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:38-39)  

But the time has come to examine what “the love of God” means in this case.  St. Paul is addressing those who are being “put to death all the day long” for their faith.  He is speaking not of comfort for this life, but for the next.  In this life, we are meant to take up our Cross and “fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in [our] flesh, for his body, which is the church,” (Col 1:24)

Christ loved us with an all-sacrificing love.  And indeed we are enduring something very painful now too.  But what is it we are sacrificing?  Are we not sacrificing His sacrifice for us?  Can we imagine that, after all He endured for our sake, Christ would ever consider the avoidance of the Sacraments a fitting sacrifice?  Wouldn’t our God, who spared not His own Son for our sake, prefer that we sacrifice all else for His sake?

When St. Charles Borromeo closed the churches of Milan, he was dealing with a plague that killed a third of the population.  And yet he understood that while we close the building, the Sacrifice must go on, and the people must be present for it.  So he had outdoor altars built all over the city of Milan to make sure this happened.  We don’t subjugate Christ to the world.  Ever.

For the wisdom of the flesh is death; but the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace.  Because the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be.” (Rm 8:6-7)

The key to all things in this life is the Cross.  It means enduring tribulation, distress, famine, nakedness, danger, persecution, the sword…and anything else that tries to separate us from the love of Christ…“But in all these things we overcome, because of Him that hath loved us.” (Rm 8:37)  And we rejoice in our sufferings because “To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne: as I also have overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”  (Apoc 3:21)

How easy these words are to commit to paper.  But how do we live them in this day and age?  Are we to risk having no Church at all because we rashly ignore the advice of doctors and lawyers and insurance companies, and the mandates of governors and mayors?

To this I can only answer: what would the saints have done?

Even to ask this question lays bare the poverty of our current age.  We, who have every comfort imaginable: so much food that we overeat, so many clothes that our closets are bursting, homes that don’t merely shelter us from the elements but even remain at a comfortable temperature at all times…we are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Apoc. 3:17)

We cannot do what St. Francis, or St. Elizabeth of Hungary did…this would open us up to liability and lawsuits and all sorts of dangers.  To do what St. Vincent de Paul did too often means enabling drug addicts.  We can’t admonish the sinner, because now that’s considered a hate crime.  And we can’t instruct the ignorant, because our Catholic schools are dying.

This is the real world of our Church, the world our bishops live.  Liability.  Danger.  Hostility.  Debt.  And the Light of the World is hidden under a bushel, because the preservation of our physical resources is directly at odds with the preservation of our doctrines as the Saints practiced them.  It’s just too risky.

Can we believe that God is satisfied with this state of things?  Can it be possible that He was pleased to see His people cowering in their homes this past Easter morning, the day that He destroyed death…because of the fear of liability???  He forgave his disciples for cowering in the Upper Room, because He had not yet sent them His Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  We have no such excuse.

…Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.  Because thou sayest: I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing: and knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and nakedSuch as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance.”  (Apoc 3:16-19)

Make no mistake about it: God’s anger is kindled against us.  Don’t take my word for it, we have all the apparitions of Our Lady to testify to this reality.

What did the people of Nineveh do to atone, when His anger was kindled against them?  They put on sackcloth and ashes and went out into the public square and did penance…and God showed them mercy.  Hadn’t we better do this?  What is our faith worth to us?  What are we willing to sacrifice for it?  

“…Laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us… For you have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin…”

It is time.  We have not yet resisted unto blood.  With the joy of the Cross set before us, we should run toward it without wearying or fainting.  Easter Season or not, it’s time to reboot Lent.

If our church leaders won’t do it, we must do it ourselves, and in numbers so large they cannot be ignored.  

If they will not let us in our churches, we will stand outside them.

If they will not give us the Mass, we will continue gathering outside our churches to pray the Rosary and other prayers of the faithful, until they either carry us away, or they give the Holy Sacrifice back to us.

And what better time to begin doing this, than during the month of Our Lady, and this Sunday, Mother’s Day?  

Let us all go to our Churches this Sunday.  Stand with dignity and respect outside while Mass is going on inside.  Pray together all 15 decades of the Rosary and the Litany of Loreto, and beseech our Lady, who with her “fiat” opened the way for us to Salvation, to open the way once more to her Son through the Sacraments.

And let’s keep doing it, for as long as it takes.

Who will run with me to the fight proposed to us? 

The St Charles Borromeo Society


  archdiocese of chicago, blase cupich, cardinal cupich, chicago, chicago catholicism, coronavirus, covid-19, holy name cathedral, lisa bergman, rosary

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