Worship accommodations, school closings underway to help reduce spread of COVID-19

by North Texas Catholic

March 13, 2020

A sign outside of St. Matthew Church in Allouez, Wis., March 13, 2020, reminds people how to take care during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)A sign outside of St. Matthew Church in Allouez, Wis., March 13, 2020, reminds people how to take care during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)
A sign outside of St. Matthew Church in Allouez, Wis., March 13, 2020, reminds people how to take care during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)


FORT WORTH —Responding to recommendations by national, state, and local authorities regarding the Novel Coronavirus 2019, Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson modified the liturgical adaptations for the celebration of Mass. He also announced, in a March 13 statement [read full statement here], that Catholic schools in the diocese will switch to online learning until March 30 while the facilities undergo a deep cleaning.

After consultation with the clergy, and in accord with directives from civic and health officials, the bishop said that Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses will be limited to 250 people. Large parishes will add additional Masses, divide the congregation between the church and the parish hall, or enlist deacons to conduct services.

“Our spiritual needs, like our other essential needs, do not abate during a time of crisis,” he said.  “We must pray and worship God and ask His assistance as we heed the responsible declaration of our civic officials and make accommodations to our worship and ministry.”

The bishop compared clergy and lay ministers to firefighters, police officers, and other public servants who carry out their responsibility for the common good with greater prudence during emergencies.

In his statement, the bishop reiterated the common-sense measures enumerated in his statement from the previous day. For example, he noted, “People who are sick, who exhibit contagious symptoms, or who are particularly vulnerable to the transmission of the virus are dispensed as always in charity from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.” Caregivers are also dispensed from the Sunday obligation.

Other precautions that will be taken to lessen the spread of COVID-19 include the removal of hymnals and other worship aids and extra cleaning between Masses. More details on these and other measures are available in the bishop’s March 13 statement.

Also, the precautions for flu season adopted on January 10 remain in force, including:

  • No holding hands during the Our Father.
  • Omit handshakes for the Sign of Peace.
  • Laity are strongly encouraged to receive the host in the hand.
  • No distribution of the Precious Blood.
  • If a non-communicant comes forward for a blessing, the blessing should be given without touching them.
  • The faithful are reminded that in receiving the Eucharist under one species, they are still receiving Jesus Christ — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — as the Church has always taught and as Christ intended.

The diocese will continue to monitor and follow all directives issued by the Texas Department of State Health Services and public health departments of local counties to combat the spread of COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11.

If additional actions are necessary in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the bishop will notify pastors and post information on the diocesan website, fwdioc.org.

Bishop Olson encouraged the faithful to replace selfish fear with love for our neighbor. He said, “Once again, I repeat that our baptismal obligations of charity and outreach to those who are most in need should be foremost in our minds during this time because the supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls as exhibited through works of charity and mercy.  Please renew in your daily prayers the intentions for the sick, their caregivers, our first responders, and our ordained and lay ministers.”

sign at St. Matthew

FORT WORTH —Responding to recommendations by national, state, and local authorities regarding the Novel Coronavirus 2019, Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson modified the liturgical adaptations for the celebration of Mass.

Published (until 3/13/2030)
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