by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
I have been edified by how the people of the archdiocese have responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Many of our parishioners work in the medical field as doctors, nurses, administrators, therapists, technicians, aides, social workers and chaplains.
They have been on the front lines, caring for the sick and their families with great tenderness and expertise.
I have a similar admiration for the staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities, who are also on the front lines assisting the families of COVID-19 patients as well as the economic casualties — those who have lost jobs and income because of the public health measures implemented to combat this menacing virus.
Our Catholic school presidents, principals and faculty have adapted in lightning speed to distance learning methods. Even though our school buildings have been physically closed, they have continued to provide quality educational opportunities for their students.
Our youth ministry team has also developed creative ways to inspire and engage young people in their ongoing faith formation. Our directors of religious education and parish catechists have persevered in assisting parents with the religious education of their children, especially those preparing for the reception of sacraments.
Our priests have been amazing in serving their parishioners and the wider community. More than 20 of our priests volunteered and received special training to be COVID-19 chaplains, helping the church to do everything possible to provide the sacraments and pastoral care to those most severely impacted by the virus.
Our pastors have been heroic in their efforts to provide spiritual nourishment to their parishioners, finding ways to keep their parish families in touch via phone calls, as well as the use of technology.
Our convocation planning team has energized and equipped convocation delegates to help pastors with personal outreach to parishioners. Lay leaders have labored to keep parish communities connected during this time of physical isolation. They have been particularly attentive to the needs of the elderly, especially those who live alone.
I am personally in debt to our archdiocesan technology team for making it possible to livestream Sunday and daily Masses, as well as other prayer events, such as a Divine Mercy Holy Hour, the reconsecration of our archdiocese to Jesus through Mary, livestream eucharistic adoration with high school students, etc.
They have opened up new pastoral horizons for me through the effective use of 21st-century technological tools.
In light of Gov. Laura Kelly’s most recent executive order, I have decided to approve the resumption of public celebrations of Mass, but only with the observance of several prudent safety measures.
First of all, I ask parishes to observe the public health regulations of your local county. The opportunity for participating in the Eucharist will vary according to county policies.
Pastors will need the cooperation, patience and understanding of all parishioners as they reopen churches and resume public celebrations of the Eucharist while faithfully adhering to the liturgical safety protocols I have promulgated this week.
At the same time, I am encouraging pastors to strive to provide the opportunity for the greatest number of parishioners to participate in Mass and to receive holy Communion. With significant variations in the number of parishioners, the size of the church buildings and county regulations, each pastor in consultation with lay leaders will develop a system that works best for their community.
Every Catholic in the archdiocese continues to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. I request that you seek to participate in Mass only in the parish where you are registered. Please do not parish hop. Instead, check with your parish to inquire how you can schedule a time to participate in Mass.
Out of respect for the well-being of fellow parishioners, please do not attend Mass if you are exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms. I encourage elderly parishioners and those with compromising health conditions not to attend Mass.
While we are instituting practices to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is impossible to eliminate all risks. For those who choose not to attend Mass at this time, I have encouraged pastors to continue to livestream Mass.
I will continue to livestream 8:30 a.m. daily Mass from my chapel, and the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass will be livestreamed from the Cathedral of St. Peter.
I am grateful to government and public health officials for all that they have done to protect the health and life of vulnerable Americans from COVID-19. They have been called to lead our country, state and communities at an incredibly difficult moment. They deserve our prayers and encouragement.
It is understandable that those who are not Catholic do not understand the importance we place upon the Eucharist. I have communicated to government leaders the Catholic community’s commitment to work for the common good and to help protect the health of all citizens.
I have shared with them the protocols we have developed, in consultation with medical experts, to minimize the health risks for those attending Mass and receiving holy Communion.
I have challenged them to recognize there is no more risk for an individual to attend Mass and receive holy Communion than to go through the fast food restaurant drive-thru lane or the checkout process at a grocery store.
It was disappointing that many in government and public health positions considered the practice of religion as less essential than the ability to go to a pet or liquor store. Some have exaggerated concerns regarding the health risks from participation in religious activities.
This makes it even more imperative for every Catholic to observe religiously the precautions and safety measures requested by me and your pastor. Neglect to observe prudent precautions by any parish or individual could result in greater restrictions on faith communities in general, and the Catholic Church in particular.
One provision in our protocols for Mass that likely will win widespread approval is the request to limit the time for the celebration of Sunday Mass to 45 minutes. This will curtail the length of homilies. Some may see this as a way in which God is drawing forth good from the evil of the pandemic!
Thank you in advance for your cooperation. Let us remain vigilant in our efforts to protect those most vulnerable.
Be not afraid! Jesus is risen! Our Lord has promised to be with his church until the end of time!