Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At his news conference this afternoon, Governor Tim Walz announced the Minnesota Department of Health’s recommendations of no gatherings of more than 250 people as well as limiting small group interaction. You can find those recommendations here.
In light of these developments, allow me to share the following updates.
No blanket directives are being issued at this time to cancel public Masses in the Archdiocese. It is uncertain how many people will come to Mass given the dispensation that was offered. I would ask pastors and administrators to monitor the situation this weekend. Based on that information, they will be asked to assess the situation and to make their own informed decisions as to what modifications, if any, should be made to regular Mass schedules, given the need for preventative and protective measures.
Parishes are urged to consider implementing the following steps to try and stop the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus:
· Ask individuals and families to increase their personal distance from others in church
· Disinfect pews, door handles and other often contacted surfaces
· Remove hymnals and other items from pews that could transmit the virus
· Use a solo cantor and accompanist and temporarily suspend choirs
It will also be important to continue to encourage any who are sick or vulnerable to illness to stay home, implement “social distance” as much as possible by keeping space between individuals or families and practicing good hygiene.
In particular, pastors and administrators will need to assess whether the conditions exist for individual parishes to continue to offer Sunday Mass. If they determine that they are not able to appropriately implement protective measures at their parish, they may choose either to increase temporarily the number of Masses (in order to aid with social distancing) or to cancel Masses altogether. If additional Masses are added, priests have permission to celebrate as many Masses each day as necessary to meet this pastoral need. If Masses are canceled, I ask, however, that the pastor or administrator inform Fr. Michael Tix, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Parish Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org of any changes.
Pastors, administrators, staff and parish leadership teams will have to be attentive to upcoming large gatherings and use discretion in holding those events. As the Governor requested, any event with more than 250 people and without adequate space for social distancing should be cancelled. That may be a difficult decision, I know, as those events very often generate needed funds for parish operations. Be creative if conditions do not exist to continue what you have done in the past. Some parishes, for example, are switching fish frys to “to go” events.
These are undoubtedly difficult times and conditions may change on short notice. It would be helpful if you were to let me know Monday how the weekend went. I will share the information with the leadership team at the Catholic Center and we will use it to make decisions moving forward.
Please know of my gratitude for your steady leadership and hard work under difficult circumstances. The Church needs you.
Sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda