Bishop Kettler: Catholics dispensed from Sunday Mass obligation, events canceled/postponed

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

By Bishop Donald Kettler

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to cause worry and anxiety. My staff and I are monitoring daily the recommendations offered by the Minnesota Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and I have appointed an ad hoc committee to meet weekly to stay abreast of developments. The physical and spiritual well-being of the people of the diocese is our primary concern.

In light of the current situation, I want to address liturgical celebrations and the status of some events sponsored by the diocese.


  • Effective immediately, all Catholics in the diocese are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, until further notice. Our parishes will continue to celebrate all weekend Masses as scheduled at this time; weekday Masses will be scheduled at the discretion of the pastor. The Mass is core to our Catholic identity and can be a powerful source of healing for many struggles. However, if you are ill, or if you believe that attending Mass would put you or others at risk, please stay home. Use the time instead to watch the TV Mass, pray, and reflect on the Scriptures of the day.
  • Because this is an evolving situation, we will keep you updated regarding any changes to this decision.
  • The availability of the sacrament of reconciliation as well as the scheduling of penance services and other Lenten prayer opportunities are at the discretion of the pastor.
  • If you are ill for any reason or taking care of someone who is, you also are dispensed from Lenten disciplines and sacrifices. Your illness and the care you are providing to others is your Lenten sacrifice.
  • For those who are able to attend Mass, please follow recommended precautions to help minimize the spread of illness: washing hands frequently and for no less than 20 seconds with soap and warm water, using hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Pastors, at their discretion, may implement specific guidelines they deem in the best interests of their parishes. I ask you to follow whatever provisions your pastor puts into effect for your parish. However, I highly recommend the following: exchanging the sign of peace verbally or with another gesture in lieu of a handshake, offering Communion in the hand only and not on the tongue, not offering the Precious Blood, and removing holy water from fonts.


Visitors — including clergy — are no longer allowed at CentraCare hospitals, long-term care facilities, senior housing, hospital outpatient departments, ambulatory surgery centers, and sites where individuals are housed in large numbers. Spiritual care services, however, are still being provided to residents and patients who request it.


Motivated by an abundance of caution, the diocese is canceling or postponing diocesan-sponsored events in the coming weeks. These include:

  • All confirmations for the remainder of March — postponed until later dates to be determined.
  • Marriage course for Spanish-speakers (March 21) — will be rescheduled for a later date TBD.
  • Community gathering with deacons (March 21) — postponed until a later date TBD.
  • Festival of Forgiveness (March 27) — canceled. I encourage you to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation individually at a different time.
  • Castaway Camp (March 27-29) — postponed until a later date TBD.
  • Second marriage course (March 28) — will be rescheduled for a later date TBD.
  • Delegation visits in April from Homa Bay, Kenya, and Maracay, Venezuela (postponed until a later time TBD).
  • Leadership Day with Ann Garrido (April 16) — postponed until a later date TBD.
  • Spring Mission Rally (April 23) — canceled.

Any updates regarding the status of other diocesan-sponsored events will be provided as warranted.


Also, in an effort to reduce the possibility of coronavirus transmission, I highly recommend parishes cancel all parish-sponsored events between now and April 1 — i.e. fish fries and breakfasts.


Please continue to pray for all those affected by illness, their caregivers and public officials working to keep us all safe. Prayers for those impacted by coronavirus from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis are available on our diocesan website’s “Coronavirus Update” page at


The diocese is maintaining and regularly updating a “Coronavirus Update” page at The page features the latest messages from the diocese, prayers, and links to resources from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Donald J. Kettler
Diocese of Saint Cloud


Photo credit: CNS photo/Dado Ruvic, Reuters

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.


For those individuals who persist in receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, I respectfully ask you go to the back of the line. There you will not put the next 2-4 individuals behind you at risk.
For those individuals who genuflect prior to receiving, please consider the elderly man or lady behind you. They are at risk for falling.
Please be considerate to your fellow parishioners.

Thank you for saving so many lives… Please keep this going for at least three months. This is not a joke.

Thanks, dear Bishop, for your pastoral and personal approach to our people! In Christ, Greg and Vicki Spofford

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