Bishop Donald Kettler is continuing the suspension of in-person social activities and other gatherings in parishes until at least Feb. 1, he notified pastors in a letter Dec. 18.
In late November, in the midst of a local resurgence of COVID-19, Bishop Kettler sent a letter to pastors prohibiting, through the end of 2020, events and gatherings that posed the greatest risk of spreading the virus. This included the suspension of in-person social activities, faith formation classes, retreats, youth gatherings, and board and council meetings.
“The spread of the virus has slowed a bit since then, but we still face a precarious situation with regard to the pandemic,” he wrote in the Dec. 18 letter. “While the governor’s latest executive order lessens some restrictions, it still maintains strict limits recommended by state health authorities on various types of gatherings.”
Gov. Tim Walz’s order, announced Dec. 16 and effective from Dec. 20 through Jan. 10, is an extension of a previous four-week pause on certain activities to slow the spread of COVID-19, including indoor bar and restaurant service. Indoor gatherings are not recommended and are limited to two households and a maximum of 10 people.
Worship services and prayer opportunities, which are allowed under the governor’s order, can continue under the diocese’s current liturgical protocols.
“I will continue to monitor the virus situation as we enter the new year,” Bishop Kettler wrote. “This will ensure any decision about whether or not to allow in-person gatherings after Feb. 1 is made with the most current and accurate information available. I will give you as much lead time as possible regarding any protocol changes so you and your staff have time to communicate and implement them.”
In the meantime, the bishop is encouraging pastors and parish staffs to plan for a variety of possibilities for conducting faith formation and other activities after Feb. 1. The hope is that these gatherings could return to being done in person, he said, but hybrid or “virtual” models may be necessary depending on the status of the pandemic. Catholic schools will continue to follow current evaluation models and other strict protocols to determine when in-person and periods of distance-learning are most appropriate.