Archdiocese Local

Mask mandate finds support among area Catholics

From left, Jane Knapp, Rhonda Wickham, Rosemary “Charlie” O’Brien and Donna Miller don their masks. The four women shared with The Leaven their thoughts on the mask mandates.

by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven

Are masks and mask mandates rubbing you the wrong way? The debate is on. Yet, the call to wear them is just as loud as the complaints.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of masks and maintain they are critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19. St. Agnes, Roeland Park, parishioner and retired Children’s Mercy pediatrician Jane Knapp agrees with the agency’s recommendation.

“I believe in public health and best policies as outlined by authorities like Dr. [Anthony] Fauci,” said Knapp, who led the hospital’s medical education and emergency department. “These policies and processes, such as wearing a mask, make me feel safer.”

While still cautious about resuming normal activities within the community, Knapp’s medical background has made it easy for her to understand the intent of the mask mandate — to protect others from potentially infectious droplets exiting one’s mouth and nose. The mask, combined with social distancing, hand washing and hand sanitizer, creates the safest conditions, she said.


Leawood’s Curé of Ars parishioner Julie Hainje is also pro-mask — and for good reason.

“My husband has lung cancer, and it is so important for everyone to wear a mask to help protect me so that I can protect my husband,” Hainje said. 

Hainje monitors the county’s response to masks and is surprised by the divisiveness at all levels of government, from the top on down. She believes the mask mandate is good for business and will allow businesses to remain open during the pandemic.

Similarly, Rhonda Wickham, a parishioner at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, said as long as everyone is wearing a mask, she feels more secure. Before the mandate, Wickham said she was keenly aware of those who chose not to wear a mask or social distance.

“We do not know where other people have been and how much they have been exposed to,” Wickham said. “Anxiety might be too strong a word. I was hyperaware and gave those folks wide berth.

“I believe we are all in this together and the small sacrifices we each make now will better protect all of us, and our loved ones, and improve the results in the long run. By not maintaining the mask mandate, we will not ever flatten the curve.”

Wearing face masks can be uncomfortable for some, especially during hot summer months. People such as Olathe’s Prince of Peace parishioner Donna Miller said she is willing to be uncomfortable to change the course of the virus for all.

Miller, who isn’t yet comfortable attending Mass in person, said she appreciates the fact that others take precautions, saying it’s about “being respectful of others, taking personal responsibility, and looking out for each other.”

“I don’t mind wearing one to do my part to help maintain a safer environment for everyone,” she added.

Some are looking beyond the health benefits of wearing a mask. Rosemary “Charlie” O’Brien of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Bucyrus said she leverages her faith and looks for the bright side in the debate, including the chance to make a fashion statement.

“There’s a saying, ‘God helps those that help themselves.’ Yes, masks are uncomfortable and, yes, social distancing seems so un-neighborly,” O’Brien said, “but our doctors and scientists tell us what we must do to contain the spread of this COVID 19.

“We will get through this with faith and tolerance. Masks can also be fun. There is a number of interesting fashion statements in our midst!”

About the author

Susan Fotovich McCabe

Susan Fotovich McCabe is a writer, editor and Kansas City native. As a writer, Susan has covered a wide array of topics, from health care to aviation and everything in between. Susan built a long freelance practice, where she contributed to local publications, such as The Kansas City Star, Kansas City Business, Lifestyle Magazine and Parenting Children with Special Needs. She worked for two Kansas City public relations agencies and a media publishing company. Susan and her husband, Bill, support all things Jayhawk and love spending time with their three children, son-in-law and granddaughter.

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