Churches in the Diocese of St. Cloud can open their doors starting Monday, May 4, for individual prayer and adoration, Bishop Donald Kettler announced in a letter to pastors May 1.
Churches can be open for up to eight hours a day; pastors can choose the hours that best meet the needs of their people. The announcement was accompanied by a list of strict guidelines that pastors and parishes must follow. These include limiting the number of people in the church at any one time to 10 or less, following current social distancing guidelines, and cleaning and sanitizing pews daily.
“The process for resuming public worship in our churches will happen gradually in phases over time as restrictions on public gatherings are eased,” Bishop Kettler said in the letter. “I realize it is very painful for people not to be able to participate in Mass and pray in our churches. And, in light of steps the state is now taking to slowly open up the state, I believe we can begin to take small steps in the diocese as well.”
On April 30, Gov. Tim Walz extended his stay-at-home order until May 18. This second extension of the order makes adjustments to his previous order by allowing curbside delivery for retail businesses. The order continues to direct Minnesotans to limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs. When leaving their homes, people should practice social distancing measures and keep six feet between themselves and others.
Bishop Kettler said he is keeping in place the suspension of all public Masses until May 18 when the governor’s current order is set to expire. All Catholics are still dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass during this time, he said.
The letter noted that pastors may preside at weddings, but they must be done outside of Mass with no more than 10 people present. He is also now allowing pastors to preside at baptisms and funeral liturgies as needed. These can be done inside the church, but they must be done outside of Mass and with no more than 10 people present.
Bishop Kettler is also working with Minnesota’s other Catholic bishops on statewide protocols and a timeline for resuming public Masses that observe all health and safety guidelines when the governor’s current order expires May 18. This is dependent, however, on any new health and safety requirements that may be issued by state or federal health authorities, he said.
He said parishes in the Diocese of St. Cloud will need to submit plans to him for how they would plan to resume public Masses that meet specific guidelines and keep parishioners’ safety as a top priority.