You might think the COVID-19 concerns are panic and overblown – or you might think that we aren’t doing enough fast enough. The reality is probably somewhere in between, but I want to take a minute here to plead with our church leaders to think through what coronavirus can mean for your parish.
Some quick facts:
Your parishioners are probably older. Sure we all want to think we belong to the one fabulously vibrant youthful parish, but the truth is that you have a lot of the 65+ crowd in your pews every Sunday.
You bring people in the community who normally aren’t together into the same space every mass.
Your children are germ machines.
People touch things and each other at Mass, they sneeze, they cough – they spread diseases.
Just think of this scenario: Little Bobby goes to school and contracts coronavirus from a classmate on Friday. He is asymptomatic, but he is carrying the virus. He sneezes into his hands on the way to mass because he is 6 and six-year-olds do that sort of thing. Mom and dad are busy talking about the fact that the big game they have tickets to this weekend was canceled – no one thinks to wash their hands before entering the chapel. The family enters the church and Bobby places a finger into the holy water and makes the sign of the cross, he touches three pews on the way to his seat, he runs his hands over the back of the pew in front of him. He shakes Susan’s hand at the sign of peace. Susan lives in the retirement community across the street. In three days she will be showing signs of illness, in 14 days most of the people living in her community will have COVID-19 and several of them will die.
This is not unlikely.
If your Bishop has not taken the brave and prudent step to suspend mass what can you reasonably do?
At the very least
- Remove the holy water fonts
- Do not have the Sign of Peace
- Put in hand sanitizer stations
- Ask parents to keep a watchful eye on their small children and ask them not to touch anything
- Ask parishioners to stay home if they or a family member are ill
- Clean surfaces in the parish between masses.
- remove your missals and hymnals
- Ask parishioners to spread out and not sit close together (6 ft between families is a good guide)
- Add more masses and ask parishioners to attend off time masses.
- suspend offering the Eucharist under both species (no communal cup)
- cancel all church events (including religious education)
If you are in a parish and your priest in not taking measures like this what can you do?
- Attend a less popular mass and sit well away from other parishioners
- Wash your hands before and after mass and when you return home
- Do not attend mass if you or a family member are ill
- Don’t touch anything you don’t have to (this includes touching or kissing images and statues)
- Stay close to home (if you attend mass while traveling or travel to attend mass you can spread germs either to the new location or bring them from the other location to your community)
- Pray that this passes quickly and that the situation is not as bad as experts are currently predicting
Some helpful links:
Coronavirus and the Catholic Church – here’s what’s coming
As COVID-19 spreads, Catholic entities worldwide take precautions
Make prayer part of your hand-washing to fight virus