By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross
The pandemic is still with us.
A significant surge in Covid-19 cases in Minnesota continues to affect the life of the community and the church in parishes and schools, although the effects of Gov. Tim Walz’s latest executive order, which went into effect Nov. 20, did not directly affect churches and their worship in the same ways it affected some other areas of life.
Diocesan officials urged continued attention to safety protocols that have been put in place to keep parishioners safe and encouraged the faithful to continue healthy practices such as washing hands, remaining home if not feeling well, wearing a mask or face covering when required or recommended, and observing proper social distancing.
Some other kinds of gatherings, such as parish council meetings, have again moved to virtual meetings for the time being.
In anticipation of Christmas Masses under the pandemic, which in normal times are some of the most heavily attended of the year, the diocese also gave pastors some additional scheduling flexibility so that they could take into account the needs of their parishes in providing Masses safely.
In the diocesan schools, decisions are depending in part on the number of Covid-19 cases affecting the student population within a given community, said Cynthia Zook, director of Catholic schools for the diocese.
However, she said the schools, taking into account the varying levels of access to technology, are continuing to offer “face-to-face instruction for those who need that methodology and distance learning for a good percentage of our students who desire or need to stay home. Some schools are trying to provide the youngest students a face-to-face option, as that works best for them.”
She said it’s difficult to predict what happens week to week, but the “strongest desire” remains to provide “in school” instruction, which is made possible by good health and lifestyle choices outside of school.
“Because of the cooperation we are getting from our families, I remain optimistic,” she said.
Zook said the number of cases among students has “been quite low. We have experienced some exposure through family interactions and among acquaintances, but positive results have been very low.”
However, she noted that that situation may change after the Thanksgiving holiday.
In more personal terms, she said the schools communities have “done an extraordinary job” in the midst of challenges and uncertainty.
“I want to acknowledge the great effort our teachers and school staff have put forth to make our plans work so well,” she said.
She asked that as the faithful pray for those affected by the virus they would also include school personnel, who need “our support and God’s loving care as they faithfully provide a Catholic education for so many.