St. Joseph Church in Joliet announced Thursday that it has canceled all public activities at St. Joseph Park for the second year in a row.
Rev. Timothy Andres, pastor of St. Joseph Church, said he made his decision after reviewing Illinois’ current protocols and guidelines and then speaking with the insurance carrier as well as the City of Joliet special events department and the Diocese of Joliet.
“I am disappointed and saddened that we had to do this all over again,” Andres said. “There is no precedent to make this decision, so I wanted to make the best decision possible.”
Andres said many variables factored into that decision: all food would have to be pre-packaged and attendance at events would be limited to 15 people per 1,000 square feet.
“You can’t have these at a public event with thousands of people coming through the gate,” Andres said.
Unfortunately, organizations didn’t have a precedent for coming into the pandemic last year and organizations don’t have a precedent coming out of the pandemic, he added.
“And we’re not out of it yet,” Andres said.
Andres felt it best to make the decision in advance. Many churches and organizations host annual fundraising picnics at St. Joe’s Park every year, he said. Some people in the community have attended events at St. Joe’s Park over the last 40 to 45 years, so they look forward to them, he added.
However, these events can take a year to plan so he wanted to give people as much notice as possible, Andres said.
“I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging,” he said.
Even St. Joseph Church delayed planning for its annual parish picnic because Andres saw no point in putting effort into an event that might not happen, he said.
“It’s a lot of work for each parish, each organization,” Andres said.
Private events are a different matter. Some may still be held, depending on the type of event, number of attendees and enforcement of protocols, he said.
For instance, some private picnics and baseball will still take place at St. Joe’s Park this year as will some wedding receptions, where social distancing and contact tracing are possible Andres said.
He’s also open to booking additional small, private events this summer, which, again, depends on the event.
“Just call the rectory and talk to my staff,” Andres said.
But Andres cannot 100 percent guarantee any event. Nor can he predict when Illinois will enter Phase 5 and restrictions loosen.
“I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t see into the future, even though people would like me to see into the future,” Andres said. “I’m not a prophet. I’m just a simple parish priest trying to do the best job possible.”