COVID-19 Response

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, the Catholic Schools Office and a diocesan task force continue working on outlining appropriate steps to be taken in response to COVID-19. This page will be updated as information becomes available. Last updated July 29, 2021

Lifting of the General Dispensation

The celebration of the Eucharist at Mass is the source and summit of our life and mission as Catholics. Effective June 11, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass is hereby lifted throughout the state of Indiana, except for unique situations as described in the full statement by the Indiana Catholic Bishops. The obligation to attend Mass is a joyful one, reflecting the very character of who we are as Catholics.

Directives for Conducting Public Liturgies

Updated May 21, 2021

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

Anyone (whether vaccinated or not) with a cough or fever, or who may otherwise be feeling sick, should still remain home.

From the Indiana Catholic Bishops statement “Lifting of the Dispensation from the Obligation of Mass”: Except for the unique situations as described below, those who are otherwise healthy are obliged to return to Sunday Mass by the weekend of June 12-13, 2021:

• Those who are seriously ill, exhibit flu-like symptoms and/or may have a contagious disease (including quarantine due to exposure).
• Those who are unable to attend Mass through no fault of their own (e.g. transportation issue).
• Those who are homebound and/or incapacitated due to age, infirmity and/or medical restrictions.
• Those who have compromised health conditions and/or at high risk of contracting the virus.
• Those who are caretakers of person who are sick or of persons at high risk of serious illness if they contract the Covid virus.

If you have any questions about any specific needs, concerns or protocols, you are advised to contact your parish directly. Your pastor, who has the authority to dispense in individual cases, may be helpful in addressing individual fears and concerns.


MASKS AND FACE COVERINGS

Masks or face coverings are now optional at public liturgies. Health authorities recommend that unvaccinated individuals still wear masks. 

Pastors who perceive sufficient support among their parishioners for the opportunity to continue worshiping with a fully masked congregation can designate particular Mass times at which masks continue to be required. Another possibility, if deemed adequate at a parish, is that a clearly defined section of the church could be demarcated as reserved just for those who wish to continue wearing masks. Having such provisions available and publicized as needed would be welcomed by the immunocompromised and by those families concerned about the health of their children. 

For Catholic school Masses, the directives from the Catholic Schools Office, which follow state and local directives, should be followed. 

DISTANCING

Strict social distancing is no longer required in churches. However, it is encouraged that, for the time being, a part of each church still be specifically set aside with socially distanced seating at Masses in order to accommodate those who would be more comfortable with that arrangement. At least part of this distanced-seating area may also be designated as requiring masking. Massgoers may also be encouraged to leave some open space within pews between households and individuals, as a courtesy. 

Where feasible, outdoor Masses may continue for the time being. 

RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION

The distribution of the Precious Blood to the people remains suspended. Concelebrating priests ought still to receive by intinction or via a separate chalice.

It is recommended that those distributing Holy Communion continue to wear masks while doing so. 

SACRAMENTS & OTHER LITURGICAL RITES

Baptisms may proceed in normal fashion. Per the CDC, currently “there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through recreational water.” By extension, immersion or wading in a baptismal pool is therefore permitted, so long as the individual or the parents of the one being baptized are comfortable with it.

If an individual or family would prefer that baptism occur with freshwater, the water should be blessed in an individual vessel and then poured over the candidate’s head into the font. 

Confessions: Small confessionals may be utilized again, though maintaining the use of larger/more ventilated spaces for the time being would be good to help encourage those who would still not be comfortable with the smaller space.

Pastoral Care of the Sick & Homebound: No one with symptoms of illness should visit the sick or homebound. The protocols and directives of hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities must still be followed in pastoral visits to the sick.

More information may be found in the full directives.

LITURGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Choral and cantor singing no longer have any restrictions from the diocese. A pastor may continue to enact particular precautions for choirs and cantors as he sees fit.

It is recommended that long-handled baskets held by an usher still be used for the collection so that individuals do not have to grab the basket if they’re uncomfortable doing so. Giftbearers can be utilized without any special precautions.

It is encouraged that the sign of peace resume whenever possible, but still with non-physical contact out of respect for those who would prefer that approach.

More information may be found in the full directives.

Mitigation and Preventative COVID-19 Strategies for School Year 2021-2022

Published July 29, 2021

We are grateful for the extraordinary efforts of our teachers and administrators, pastors and parents, students, and community throughout the 2020-2021 school year. As we prepare for the 2021-2022 school year, let us pray for a safe and productive school year in which we work closely with parents to help form their children into the saints they are called to be.  

Below are the mitigation and preventative COVID-19 strategies intended to keep all who work in and attend our schools safe. 

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Read the latest letters from our Catholic Schools Office

JULY 31, 2020 ​​PRESS RELEASE – SCHOOL YEAR UPDATE
Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend announces pastors and principals will ­­decide how to best begin their school year. Media ContactDr. Joe Brettnacher, Ph.D., Superintendent of Catholic Schools [email protected] ​The coronavirus has had… Read More
JULY 31, 2020 LETTER – SCHOOL YEAR UPDATE
Dear Parents, Guardians, Administrators, Faculty, and Staff, The coronavirus has had a dramatic impact on families, Catholic schools, parishes, and the diocese. Besides the obvious challenges to life, health, and… Read More
JULY 20, 2020 LETTER – SCHOOL YEAR UPDATE
Dear Parents, Guardians, Administrators, Faculty, and Staff, We believe parents are their children’s first and most important teachers.  Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, in The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools, indicates… Read More
JULY 6, 2020 LETTER – SCHOOL YEAR UPDATE
Dear Parents, Guardians, Administrators, Faculty, and Staff, Blessings to you and your family.  COVID-19 and racism occupy our minds as we prepare to reopen our schools for the school year… Read More
APRIL 3 – ​BISHOP RHOADES’ MESSAGE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOLS
The Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades wants our school communities to know that you are in his thoughts and prayers during this unprecedented time of building closures, and distance learning… Read More

Bishop’s Letter to Faithful Regarding Resuming Public Liturgies

May 6

“After much consultation, I have decided to lift the suspension on public liturgies here in our diocese beginning on the weekend of May 23-24, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.”

“There is no ‘perfect’ plan in the situation we face, and we are all doing our best in resuming public liturgies while, at the same time, taking the necessary precautions to protect people from the virus and to serve the common good. This will require everyone’s cooperation, patience, and understanding. I know I can count on you, the people of our diocese, who have been so cooperative these past two months. It has been beautiful for me to see our spiritual solidarity during this pandemic.”

– Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.