In-person gatherings and social activities will be permitted again at parishes in the Diocese of St. Cloud effective Sunday, Jan. 31, Bishop Donald Kettler announced in a letter to pastors Jan. 22.
This includes faith formation and sacramental preparation gatherings, youth gatherings, board and council meetings, organizational meetings and social activities, he said, adding that he was allowing these activities to resume one day earlier than the originally planned date of Feb. 1 to accommodate parishes that have faith formation gatherings on Sundays.
“While we face many ongoing challenges related to COVID-19, the situation in Minnesota and our diocese continues to improve,” Bishop Kettler said. “In light of this, I am adjusting some of our protocols and updating others with regard to parish activities.”
He emailed pastors a revised “Parish/Diocesan Ministries COVID-19 Preparedness Guidance” document with updated pandemic protocols. Even after in-person gatherings resume, he said, parishes and schools must provide accommodations to allow the participation of people who cannot attend in-person events due to virus-related concerns.
“This flexibility allows us to serve our people during this challenging time while keeping them safe,” Bishop Kettler said.
He also shared additional information and resources regarding Ash Wednesday services, Lenten fish fries and outdoor weddings.
- For Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, the bishop is instructing parishes to follow guidance recently issued by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in its “Note on Ash Wednesday: Distribution of Ashes in Time of Pandemic.” Ashes should be sprinkled on the top of people’s heads rather than using them to make a cross on people’s foreheads, the note states.
- Lenten fish fries are permissible as drive-thru or take-out options only. These events must follow the food preparation safety provisions that Bishop Kettler previously sent to pastors and that are outlined in the “Quick Guide to COVID-19 Protocols” on the diocese’s coronavirus updates page.
- In light of the pandemic, the bishop had previously granted permission for outdoor weddings to take place through Nov. 1, 2020, with the consent of the pastor. Outdoor weddings are now permissible until further notice, he said. As before, they must be held on church property and physical-distancing must be observed.