BOURBONNAIS — A longstanding tradition is back in full swing at Olivet Nazarene University, with about 2,400 students, faculty and staff congregating at the Hawkins Centennial Chapel for religious services every Wednesday and Thursday morning.
Last school year, chapel services were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and attendance was not taken.
The first day of fall semester for ONU was Sept. 1, with the first chapel services of the school year held that day and the next.
With regular chapel procedures back in place, ONU students are assigned seats in the chapel and required to attend every scheduled service. Students who commute to school are given some exceptions for attendance based on their commute and class schedules.
After three absences, students are fined $20 for fourth and fifth absences and $30 for sixth and seventh absences. After eight and nine absences, students are fined $40 and face a possible two-day suspension. The 10th absence brings a $50 fine and possible disenrollment.
David Pickering, ONU’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, who also oversees the university’s COVID-19 procedures, said ONU is following Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order to require masks indoors across all campus buildings.
The chapel has the capacity to seat 3,000. Pickering estimates the building is at 80 percent capacity during its twice-weekly chapel services. So, around 2,400 are in attendance both days, including students, faculty and staff.
Anyone without a mask is given one, and proper mask-wearing is “heavily enforced,” he said.
Pritzker’s executive order also requires college students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to frequent testing, which ONU offers weekly for all students. The testing is optional for vaccinated students and mandatory for unvaccinated students.
Pickering said a handful of students have expressed concern about chapel making a full comeback this fall, but most students he has heard from were “thrilled to be in chapel.”
“Students really, really wanted to have a normal experience, which we are doing while following the governor’s mandates,” he said.
Students needing medical accommodations are able to sit in an area of the chapel with more distance between seats, he added. The chapel has auditorium-style seating.
Pickering also noted that the chapel has new air-handling equipment which facilitates “heavy air circulation,” bringing in fresh air four to six times per hour.
He said that while ONU currently is running its normal chapel schedule, adjustments are possible if the university finds them to be necessary, just as adjustments were made last school year.
“Today, the mandates from the governor are different, and the expectations are different from what they were a year ago,” Pickering said.
Students weigh in
Students had mixed reactions regarding the full return of chapel services.
ONU junior Grace Michaels started an online petition asking the administration to waive chapel attendance fines or split attendance into smaller groups.
As of Wednesday, the petition had 76 signatures. Some indicated they were current ONU students, while other names came from ONU alumni and local residents. Some signed anonymously or did not indicate their connection to the university.
Michaels said she started the petition because some students are uncomfortable with the idea of being in a crowded chapel while the delta variant spreads throughout Illinois.
“I understand as much as anybody, we would all love for things to go back to normal, but not at the expense of the health of our student body — and not just the physical health, but the mental health as well,” Michaels said, noting that some who signed the petition reported feelings of anxiety.
ONU student Kaylee Lagacy wrote, “I have immuno-compromised family and friends and I don’t want to risk them getting sick just so I can sit through service when online is less of a hassle and safer.”
Another student, Hannah Hill, wrote, “It is best for both my mental and physical health to avoid crowded places as much as possible.”
Other students expressed excitement for the tradition’s return, including some freshmen who just experienced it for the first time.
ONU freshman Will Steinlicht said he had a great time attending his first chapel service on Sept. 1.
“There’s a day [each week] that I’m exempt because I’m a commuter, but I like chapel so much that I pretty much will go all the days,” he said.
Steinlicht said he particularly enjoyed the music, as he is a musician and considering picking up a music minor.
“It was really fun just to let go of whatever was going on, the chaos of the first week of school; it was nice to let go and worship a little bit,” he said. “It was nice to hear [new ONU president] Dr. Chenoweth speak. I really loved the words he speaks. Every time he speaks, it just hits my soul.”
Steinlicht said he knows some of his classmates have concerns about COVID-19 and are in a difficult position due to the university’s attendance requirements.
“Me personally, I’m OK with it. I just make sure to wear my mask, wash my hands regularly, and distance myself from people as much as possible,” he said.
He noted that nearly everyone he saw wore masks properly.
“There might have been one or two here or there with their masks down,” he said. “I did notice the staff was really good about, if they saw people with their masks down, they would ask them to put them up.”
ONU freshman Camryn Caleo said that chapel has been a “very different experience, but in a good way,” as she comes from a strict Catholic background.
“I like how there is a speaker at the different chapel [services], and they all have a different message and different opinions, different backgrounds,” she said.
Caleo said she is “not too worried” about COVID-19 because she is vaccinated and knows others on campus are also vaccinated or regularly tested for the virus.
“[I’m not concerned] unless the person next to me or other people are coughing,” she said. “Someone coughing, you could hear it from across the room. I haven’t seen any of that. A lot of people here, they respect social distancing, and we practice it.”
ONU freshman Anthony Lopez said he comes from a Christian high school which also hosts chapel services twice per week, so chapel at ONU feels familiar.
“It’s kind of like the same atmosphere, except a lot bigger than my high school, and I mean it’s great. It’s really engaging, especially the speakers,” he said.
Lopez said he doesn’t have a problem with attending chapel as long as COVID-19 precautions are followed.
“As long as everyone complies and wears their masks, I think everything is fine.”
The community is opening its heart to support two terminally ill children in Kankakee County.
Annabelle, 5, and Abigail, 1, are the daughters of Adam and Amanda Beedle of St. Anne. Both have been diagnosed with Batten Disease, a fatal type of genetic nervous system disorder. The disease affects one out of every 25,000 persons. There are 14 different types of the illness and the Beedle children were the first-ever diagnosed with most rare CLN2 Batten’s at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
There are physicians, Amanda says, who have never even heard of the type of Batten’s her children have.
Angela Chouinard, a friend of the Beedles who is organizing a fundraiser to help the family, says there is no known cure. A child may appear to be developmentally normal before the disease emerges. Then, sadly, the disease causes a “decline in thinking ability, functional ability, loss of vision” and seizures.
A GoFundMe Page for the Beedle Family Fund had 346 donors and had raised $68,651 as of Saturday. To find the page, search for Beedle at GoFundMe.com.
“They have and will continue to have immense medical expenses,” the website reads. “Our hope is to support them while they try to make every moment with their two little girls special. We pray that finances will become one less worry that they endure during this time.”
There is a treatment, Chouinard says, to slow the progression of the illness, but “there have been no documented survivors into adulthood.”
Some of the money, Amanda says, will pay for the medical-assistance devices the children will eventually need.
Moved by the medical tragedy, Chouinard transformed her planned wedding reception into a benefit for the family. The Beedles have insurance, but not everything is covered. Their transportation costs include weekly trips to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago and a monthly drive to Ohio to see an eye specialist to slow the descent into blindness.
Chouinard got married last fall to Brennen, but COVID made a reception impractical. Brennen is a close friend of Adam Beedle, Annabelle’s and Abigail’s father.
“It didn’t seem right to spend money on myself,” Angela says.
Instead, what will happen is a near day-long event Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Aroma Park Boat Club. There is no admission fee, but there will be fundraising raffles and auctions from 2 p.m. until as late as 9:30 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by Lupe Carroll, the Bourbonnais singer who appeared on “The Voice” and local bands, the Vaudevillians, Beeso and Friends, and The Silhouettes.
The Neighborhood Kitchen will be there, selling eggrolls, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Beedles.
Chouinard says that more than 200 merchants, neighbors and crafters have given items to be auctioned or raffled off. Her basement, she says, looks like a department store. The top prize is a weekend in Indianapolis.
Chouinard says the day will be family oriented. The Beedles will be there, she says. Children are welcome and there will be a bounce house.
BOURBONNAIS — A fire that caused $50,000 to $75,000 in damage to a Bourbonnais home early Wednesday is believed to have been started by a lightning strike during Tuesday’s thunderstorms.
According to Bourbonnais Fire Protection District Chief Jim Keener, firefighters from multiple departments were called to a structure fire at a residence in the 300 block of Barrington Drive in Bourbonnais at approximately 7 a.m.
The two occupants of the home told firefighters they smelled smoke Wednesday morning, left the house and called 911, Keener said.
The couple said they had smelled something after a lightning strike in the area the night before. Neighbors said there was a power surge at the time of the lightning strike, Keener said.
No one was injured. There was damage to the attic as well as water damage in the lower level of the home, Keener said.
This weekend, as the country observes the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, organizations in Kankakee County will be hosting a number of events to honor those who died and those who rushed to the aid of others.
Ride to Salute Our Heroes
Salvage Yard Biker Church, in Bourbonnais, will be hosting a motorcycle ride to honor the first responders on the ground on Sept. 11, 2001.
The escorted ride starts at Olivet Nazarene University’s campus and will roll past more than 20 police and fire stations. Event organizer Toni Wilda handed out over 1,000 flyers which reads the event will be “showing appreciation for what [first responders] do.”
“We are going to rally and ride to honor our first responders and remember our brothers and sisters who gave their all on that tragic day 20 years ago,” the flyer reads.
The ride lasts two hours — with a pitstop in Wilmington — and will end at the Limestone Township Fire Protection District station, 4948 W. Highway 17, Kankakee. There, food will be available. Registration starts at 9 a.m., and kickstands are up at 10:15 a.m.
Wilda said cars are welcome to participate and she encourages people to step on their porch to wave as the group passes by.
For more information, call Dave “Chap” Diveley at 815-693-2818.
Custer Park ceremony
At 9 a.m. Saturday, Custer Fire Protection District will be hosting a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary 21750 Hwy 113 in Custer Park.
At 10 a.m., there will be a flag-raising ceremony that will include a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Mike Tupper. There will be coffee and donuts at the fire station, along with an opportunity for discussion with the chiefs and trustees.
Good Shepherd Manor’s Fall Festival
The 30th annual festival will celebrate 50 years of Good Shepherd Manor from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday on the Manor campus, located a quarter-mile north of Momence on Highway 1 and 17.
Because the event fell on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Manor has decided to make the theme patriotic and will be handing out American flags to attendees. Manor residents who participate in the choir called Resident Revue will perform patriotic songs at 11 a.m.
Prior to the resident performance, the Momence Color Guard will kick off the event by playing taps, and The Back Paiges will provide music for the rest of the afternoon. The day’s proceeds will benefit the Manor and its residents.
The popular bingo tent opens at noon and cards are $1 each or 3 for $2. Last game of the day will be a “coverall” (coverall cards are $1 each) with a guaranteed pot of $250.
Admission is free, as is the parking. For information call 815-472-3700 ext. 1014.