One of the recommended practices was to make sure not to dip their thumbs into the oil twice- so as to avoid contaminating the oil- and instead use a different finger to anoint first the patient's head, and then the hands.
The priests were encouraged to either burn or bury the cotton on which they placed oil, and to disinfect the outside of the oil stock.
O'Donnell said he has been amazed at the gratefulness of the hospital staff, many of whom have expressed gratitude to him for his willingness to come and minister to the patients.
Though the team of young priests is not able to "assemble" in person, O'Donnell said he has been in touch with several of his brother priests and fellow team members.
"I've definitely talked to several of the other guys, some of whom haven't yet gone to anoint someone, and others who have," he told CNA.
"Every hospital has different protocols in place, and it's been very similar experiences making sure that we have all the protective equipment on."
In addition to administering anointing, O'Donnell has spoken on the phone with several families of COVID-19 patients.
He pointed out that many of the people suffering from the coronavirus cannot have visitors in their hospital rooms. So for him, as a priest, the fact that he is able to go and visit someone's loved one, and relay to the family information about how their loved one is doing, brings comfort to the families, he said.
A number of hospitals in the Chicago area are not allowing priests to enter areas with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to perform last rites. In those cases, the families are reaching out to O'Donnell by phone, seeking a priest to talk to for spiritual guidance, and to ask for prayers. He has been talking on the phone to two or three families a week, in addition to his own parishioners.
O'Donnell said many of his own parishioners have contacted him, asking him whether he is safeguarding his own health when he goes to administer the anointing.
He said he has been reassuring them that the archdiocese and the hospitals are taking the precautions necessary to keep the priests safe.
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The sacramental anointing of the sick is conferred upon those Catholics who are in danger of death.
"The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death," according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
"This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will. Furthermore, 'if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven,'" the catechism adds.
The catechism explains that "as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived."
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.