CoronaVirus. Everyone asking, “what are we doing”?, “what can we do”? I am not prone to panic, but yes prudence is wise.
For example, a month ago there was a funeral in the parish where I asked a priest to not come because he had returned from China the day before. What was the risk? I can’t say, but I knew that a quarantine was prudent. And if he had brought the virus to our parish, I would have failed. I thank the priest and the family for understanding and charity.
As this goes to press (Wednesday), the diocese is meeting with experts in the field of contagious disease.
Thus far, the diocese has suggested these 4 things:
1. ‘Post a statement on the parish website and in the weekly bulletins asking people with known symptoms of influenza to refrain from attending Mass and other parish activities for the duration of their illness and up to 24 hours after the symptoms abate.” This is charity. The 10 commandments do not obligate you to attend Mass when you are sick. It is act of charity for you to stay home when you are ill.
2. “Consider suspending the use of a common chalice during communion.” Communion from the chalice is only offered for folks with Celiac issues. If you have Celiac issues and need the chalice, then please refer to #1 if you are not feeling well.
3. “Add hand sanitizers at church entrances.” We have ordered these and will expect them to arrive this week, they will be installed near the bathrooms. Moreover, for 2 weeks already, some ushers have been wiping down door handles and even pews with Clorox wipes. We will continue to try to be as clean as we can in a common space, and have reached out to our pew manufacturer to ask about how to sanitize pew tops without destroying the finish on the pews.
4. “Consider suspending the shaking hands during the Sign of Peace.” This was done at the beginning of February. The sign of peace is optional, and the priests have been omitting it for the last month. Even when it should return, you are always free to kindly smile at folks, nod to them, and decline to shake hands, offering peace by your words and smile. You can do this at any Mass. This too can be an act of charity. I would tell you a story about the time where I had to do this as a priest…. but we all have horror stories of the person next to us wheezing, coughing, blowing nose, and then wanting to shake our hands! Please don’t be that person!
Tomorrow, Monday March 9th, the parish council meets. We will again be discussing best practices. And we will always be monitoring the situation so that should further action be called for either by the diocese or the CDC.
While there are not yet known cases of CoronaVirus in Virginia, all of these best practices also apply to the common flu which has impacted our parish. With warm weather usually comes a relief from the flu: bring on the spring!!!