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Bishop W. Shawn McKnight issues decree to promote public safety and well-being

JEFFERSON CITY — Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City has issued a decree which restricts the type of public gatherings in the 95 parishes of the diocese. The decree is for April 1-30, and limits access of the diocesan campuses — although lessons are continuing through remote learning for students in the diocesan schools. In a separate communication, Interim Superintendent Kenya Fuemmeler stated some schools may finish the school year using remote learning.

“The COVID-19 pandemic evokes our country’s memories of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic,” Bishop McKnight said.  “While it pains me personally as a bishop to forbid the public celebration of our sacraments of faith in my diocese for a time, I am also sorrowful over the number of people in our local hospitals and throughout the world who are suffering greatly because of this virus. I have parents who are elderly, who have had cancer and heart disease; people like them are particularly at risk. I think our love for people like them requires us to do what we can. Respect for life is something God expects from all of us.”

The decree comes as the Church prepares for Easter services. On Thursday, April 2, at 10 a.m. the diocese will live stream its Chrism Mass from the Cathedral of St. Joseph. In his decree, Bishop McKnight encouraged all Catholics to join in the service, over the internet. The Mass may be found on the diocesan website at diojeffcity.org. The decree also provides directions to parishes to live stream services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. The directions follow guidelines provided by the Holy See. More than two-thirds of the parishes in the diocese already provide live streaming of Masses and other services to Catholics who are prohibited from attending Mass in person.

The decree was preceded by a letter from Bishop McKnight on March 29, asking parishes to review their finances and work with diocesan staff to prepare for the consequences of a decline in donations. On average, parishes receive 86% of their revenue from tithing by parishioners. For those parishes whose parishioners donate in person on Sunday, the inability to gather for Masses can have significant implications.

“Our towns and cities will emerge from this pandemic, but our lives will be very different after the virus has past,” Bishop McKnight said. “Our efforts are to help the people of our diocese stay healthy, keep calm and work together so our families can thrive. The diocesan directives encourage a sense of co-responsibility between our clergy and laity to ensure our parishes and schools are able to respond to the post-pandemic world with creativity and flexibility.”

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Media contact:
Helen Osman
Director of Communications
Diocese of Jefferson City
hosman@diojeffcity.org | 573.635.9127, ext. 232