Thank you for everything you are doing for your people and your parishes at this time. I’ve been impressed by your creative approach to ministry in these days when Masses are suspended and we have been living under a statewide stay-at-home order. As we approach the most holy days of the Easter Triduum, please know that I continue to pray for you and the faithful of the diocese.
As I’ve said before, suspending Masses and closing our churches are the hardest decisions I’ve made as a bishop, but this has been the right thing to do. Minnesota has, thus far, not suffered to the extent that other states have during this pandemic. I believe it is because we are closely following the guidance and recommendations of state and federal authorities. The health and safety of our parishioners and neighbors is paramount, and we must do what we reasonably can to protect them. Our actions and sacrifices are providing a pro-life witness to everyone in our state.
While mitigation efforts to date have helped, the coronavirus continues to pose a serious health threat, particularly to the elderly and those with underlying illnesses. Even people who don’t show symptoms can be carriers of this virus, thus putting others at risk. After consulting with members of my staff, local health authorities and others, I have decided the following:
- The suspension of weekday and weekend Masses is extended through Friday, May 15. Church buildings and parish offices should remain closed to the public during this time. There should be no Eucharistic adoration. There should be no gatherings of any kind of more than 10 people.
- Because this continues to be an evolving situation, I will keep you updated regarding any changes to this decision.
- Livestreaming and/or recording private Masses for the faithful to view is still permissible. Please limit those who participate in these Masses to as few people as possible. Communion should not be distributed to anyone during these Masses; you may distribute Communion to those assisting with the Mass — but only after Mass has ended under the species of bread and in the hand.
- You can continue to offer the sacrament of reconciliation, but it must be by appointment only.
- First Communions should be delayed until after May 15.
- If a wedding needs to take place during this time, it must be done outside of Mass with no more than 10 people present. They must already have a marriage license.
- Funeral Masses remain prohibited during this period; graveside services are allowed with no more than 10 people present. A memorial Mass should be scheduled for a date after May 15.
- Baptisms should be rescheduled.
- Confirmations for the entire month of May are canceled. My office will contact parishes to reschedule.
There is a deep longing among our faithful to come together again for the celebration of the Eucharist. The current situation has required everyone to make great sacrifices in the way we pray and worship. I look forward to the time when we can safely worship together again. Right now, it’s important to help parishioners to see and experience Christ’s presence in other ways — in their families and in their communities. We are an Easter people, filled with the hope given to us by the Risen Christ. It is not too early to start thinking about what kinds of joyous liturgical celebrations you might plan when we are able to gather again.
I know this situation is causing financial stress for pastors, parishes and Catholic schools. I want to help, and I am currently working with members of my staff to put a process into place to assist parishes in securing loans, including from new state and federal programs available to them. Along with this letter, I am sending a copy of our “Policies Governing the Borrowing of Money by Parishes.” All parishes must follow the canonical requirements listed in this policy. All proxy requests for the borrowing of money should be sent to Father Rolfes.
If you have any questions about my instructions regarding Masses and other liturgies, or if you have questions about the borrowing policy, please contact Father Rolfes at 320-251-2340 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be checking his emails daily during Holy Week and will respond to your needs as soon as possible.
I continue to pray for you, and I ask you to pray for me.
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud