May 15, 2020 – Bishop Kettler’s letter to pastors

Categories: Bishop Kettler's Statements

Dear Pastor,

For the last several weeks I have been consulting with the other bishops of Minnesota on plans to prepare for the opening of public Masses in our parishes after Governor Walz’s stay-at-home order expires May 18. During this time, the bishops have proactively engaged public officials about the importance of some limited opening of our churches for Mass.

A plan to resume public Masses May 18 in a limited manner throughout the state – and only in places where parishes were willing and ready to follow a prescribed set of safety protocols – was submitted May 8 to the governor for his feedback. Four Lutheran denominations joined our letter to Gov. Walz. A number of other denominations and independent churches submitted plans May 8 as well.

To our disappointment, the governor and his administration have not yet engaged in dialogue with us on our proposal. While easing the stay-at-home order on May 13, the governor’s new order explicitly prohibited faith-based gatherings with more than 10 unrelated people. Gov. Walz has called a meeting of faith leaders for Monday, May 18, to solicit feedback on a new set of public worship guidelines that his administration will be producing for churches and other houses of worship. The date of re-opening for religious gatherings of more than 10 people, however, remains uncertain.

We understand that these are difficult decisions for our civic leaders and that they have many factors to consider in the reopening of life in Minnesota. The bishops of Minnesota also have difficult decisions to make as we determine when to allow public worship with more than 10 people.

As faithful citizens, our decision will be guided by three principles:

  • love of neighbor and concern for the common good, including the health and well-being of our neighbors;
  • respect for public authorities and their directives and guidance; and
  • the rights of the faithful to the sacraments and the duty of worship we owe to God.

The faithful can expect that I and my brother bishops will weigh these considerations carefully as part of our common responsibility to the state, and that we will zealously protect our liberties to assemble and worship freely. Early next week, the bishops of Minnesota will together decide on a path forward.

In the meantime, here in the Diocese of Saint Cloud, we will continue to work creatively to meet the needs of the faithful.

Therefore:

  • Please continue to submit your plans for resuming public Masses for each of your parishes by emailing them to Colleen Haider in my office at chaider@gw.stcdio.org. Public Masses may begin in a parish only after I have signed off on the plan. The document I sent you last week to help you prepare your plans is attached again to this email.
  • After your plan is approved, you may begin celebrating public Masses. However, they must respect the 10-person limit for the time being. When a date is determined for public Masses with larger assemblies, I will communicate it to you.
  • Although you may begin celebrating public Masses with fewer than 10 people after you receive notice that your plan has been approved, I encourage you to give yourself and your staff some extra time to prepare and communicate your
    plans/expectations to parishioners before celebrating your first public Mass. You should begin celebrating public Masses only when your parish is ready.
  • The obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended until further notice. Please ensure your parishioners know this, especially those who are most at risk of severe illness because of their age or health condition and anyone else who is not yet comfortable participating in public Masses. If you are currently livestreaming Masses, please consider continuing this practice for the benefit of these parishioners.

I know that many of you share the frustration and sadness about the governor’s decision to prohibit larger religious gatherings. I ask you to continue to pray for an end to the pandemic and for our civic leaders, and that you presume the good will of those charged with these important and difficult decisions. Let us ask the Lord to help us cultivate patience, serenity and peace in our souls during this challenging time, believing that God will bring many graces from our sacrifices.

I will communicate again early next week, after the meeting with Gov. Walz, about the path forward.

If you have questions or need additional guidance, please feel free to contact Aaron Carpenter in the Office of Worship at (acarpenter@gw.stcdio.org: 320-255-9068, or Father Rolfes (rrolfes@gw.stcdio.org; 320-251-2340).

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud