Returning to Mass: Sunday obligation to be reinstated July 4th weekend

The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation in the Diocese of St. Cloud will be reinstated on the weekend of July 3-4, Bishop Donald Kettler said in a letter to pastors June 3.

The Archdiocese of St.  Paul and Minneapolis and the four other dioceses in Minnesota — Crookston, Duluth, New Ulm and Winona-Rochester — also will reinstate the obligation July 3-4, according to a statement from the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a painful time of separation that necessitated, for a short while, suspension of public Masses and the dispensation from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass,” the MCC statement said. “Now, as the pandemic subsides, and public gathering restrictions and safety protocols are lifted, it is time to gather as the Body of Christ once again.”

Attending the in-person celebration of Sunday Mass and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist are core practices of the Catholic faith, the MCC statement noted.

“I ask that you use these next few weeks as a time of invitation and outreach to those who have been away from parish life — some perhaps for as long as a year,” Bishop Kettler said in his letter to pastors. “It is with great joy that we welcome them back to the celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. At the same time, please be sensitive to those who are still not able to return to Mass and ensure that their pastoral needs continue to be met.”

Although the general dispensation will no longer be available, persons in certain circumstances will be excused from observing the obligation:

1) Those who have reason to believe their health would be significantly compromised if they were to contract a communicable illness (i.e., they have underlying conditions or are in a high-risk category);

2) Those who exhibit flu-like symptoms.

3) Those who have good reason to think they might be asymptomatic of a contagious illness (e.g., they were in recent contact with someone who tested positive for a contagious illness such as COVID or influenza).

4) Those who care for the sick, homebound or infirmed.

5) Those who are pregnant or are 65 years of age or older (per the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation for high-risk individuals).

6) Those who cannot attend Mass through no fault of their own (e.g., no Mass is offered; they are infirm; or, while wanting to go, they are prevented for some reason they cannot control, such as their ride did not show up).

7) Those who have significant fear or anxiety of becoming ill by being at Mass.

If situations 1 through 3 apply, a prudent concern for neighbors should lead a person to stay home, according to the MCC statement. If situations 4-7 apply, they should “exercise good judgment, consider the common good” and know they would not be held to the obligation of attending Mass.

Questions about the application of these situations should be directed to pastors. The categories “will be reviewed in due course and revised as needed,” the statement said.

Those within the categories listed above “must still observe the Lord’s Day and are encouraged to spend time in prayer on Sunday, meditating on the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection,” the statement added. “An excellent way to do this is by praying the Liturgy of the Hours and participating in a broadcast/livestream of the Sunday Mass.”

More information, links to parish websites, and a portal to each diocese’s protocols can be found at

In addition to Bishop Kettler, the MCC statement was approved by Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis; Bishop John Quinn of Winona-Rochester; Bishop Daniel Felton of Duluth; Bishop Richard Pates, apostolic administrator of Crookston; and Msgr. Douglas Grams, administrator of New Ulm.

Feature image: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

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

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