Public Health Concerns

Updates on the diocesan response, policies, and procedures surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Public Health Concerns
Key Contacts

Vicar General
Vicar for Clergy
Msgr. Robert Kurwicki
573.635.9127, ext. 210

Liturgical Commission Chair
Father Daniel Merz
573.897.2293

Interim Superintendent
Kenya Fuemmeler
573.635.9127, ext. 247

Communication Director
Helen Osman
512.785.3006

Director of Parish and Charitable Services
LeAnn Korsmeyer
573.635.9127, ext. 222

Executive Director
Catholic Charities of Northeast and Central Missouri

Dan Lester
573.635.7719


Alphonse J. Schwartze
Memorial Catholic Center
2207 West Main St | PO Box 104900
Jefferson City, MO 65110-4900

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

April 1, 2020


 

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. 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 livestream 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 livestream 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 livestreaming 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 passed,” 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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Update 4/1/2020: See Bishop McKnight's Official Decree regarding public Masses and gatherings for April 1-30, 2020

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General Health Directives

How to minimize the spread of virus in our gathering spaces

  • Offering hand sanitizer stations at church and school entrances.
  • Practicing good hand washing with soap and water as frequently as possible and teaching children this practice.
  • Teaching children to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, or to cough or sneeze into their inner elbow.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces in public areas, such as our churches, classrooms and meeting spaces.
  • Liturgical ministers, especially extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, should maintain clean/sanitized hands.
    • Wash hands before Mass or use a personal bottle of hand sanitizer while in the pew before serving, ensuring the sanitizer is entirely dry before serving.
    • Wash liturgical vessels with mild detergent and hot water after each liturgy, which will help to protect the finish by removing oil from hands, and work to remove pathogens that may be on the vessel from its use in the liturgy.

How individuals can protect themselves and others

  • People who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home until they are free of fever (fever is 100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).
  • Those who have weak or compromised immune systems (i.e., the elderly, the infirmed, infants and young children) should consider avoiding large gatherings. In this flu season, this means their obligation to attend Mass is lifted by the bishop.
  • Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Students who are ill, including running a fever, should stay home from school or PSR classes.
  • Teachers, catechists, and administrators should send ill students home.
  • Schools and parishes will work with families to ensure their students’ education is not disrupted, on a case-by-case basis.

Additional resources for parishes and parishioners