June 26, 2020
|Bishop Michael Olson is seen wearing a mask while leading deacon candidates in vespers June 24, 2020. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)|
Editor's Note: The full text of Bishop Olson's latest pastoral letter can be read here.
FORT WORTH — Responding to the upturn in COVID-19 cases in the state of Texas and the subsequent measures enacted by Governor Greg Abbott to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth reinforced the safety protocols put into place the weekend of May 2-3, when the 91 parishes of the diocese reopened for public celebration of the Mass.
In his June 26, 2020 pastoral letter, Bishop Olson thanked the laity for adopting the precautions for the safety of all. “You have generously inconvenienced yourselves by wearing face coverings at Mass, maintaining social distancing, generously donating for the works of charity, ever more frequent hand-washing, and even staying home from Sunday Mass so as not to spread the virus among the more vulnerable,” he wrote.
The letter states that the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass continues. The bishop urged those over 60 and individuals with compromised immune systems, underlying health conditions, or symptoms of any illness to stay home. Some parishes offer Masses designated for those 60 and older. Many parishes, including St. Patrick Cathedral, began livestreaming Mass during the shelter-in-place order and continue to offer this means of spiritual Communion.
The faithful who attend Mass must keep at least three feet of distance between themselves and those outside their household. This limits the number of people who can safely attend Mass to 50 percent or less, in accordance with the guidelines of state health and public officials.
For individuals 2 and older, wearing a mask or scarf over the nose and mouth during Mass continues to be mandatory.
Other measures enacted to reduce the spread of the coronavirus include hand sanitizer at the entrances, sanitizing the church between Masses, removal of worship aids and collection baskets, and an orderly dismissal with no gathering afterwards. Holy Communion is received in the hand only.
Modifications made to the liturgy during the flu season in January, which eliminated a shared chalice, holding hands, and handshakes, remain in effect.
|Deacons Jason Allan and Joseph Moreno are showing wearing masks during vespers at St. Patrick Cathedral. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)|
These same safety protocols apply to Baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Priests offer Reconciliation according to the parish’s schedule; however, wearing a mask and remaining at a distance or behind a screen is necessary.
Outdoor processions, picnics, and festivals are prohibited, as people tend to gather in groups without social distancing. Likewise, no overnight retreats are permitted, but educational activities may be held with appropriate social distancing and the requisite wearing of masks.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Olson praised local Catholics for their “extraordinary generosity” by giving nonperishable food and gift cards to their local parishes and Catholic Charities Fort Worth. He encouraged those who can to continue giving to outreach services and their parishes.
With Independence Day approaching, the prelate asked the faithful to “especially thank God for the gift of our religious liberty that He alone has given us and that our government is established to respect and to protect.”
He concluded his pastoral letter by requesting prayer for those affected by the COVID-19 virus, along with those in essential services and those faced with economic hardship. He reminded the faithful “that we are walking together on a challenging path to recovery as sons and daughters of the Resurrection. With God’s Grace, we are more than able to accomplish this.”
FORT WORTH — Responding to the upturn in COVID-19 cases in the state of Texas and the subsequent measures enacted by Governor Greg Abbott to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth reinforced the safety protocols put into place the weekend of May 2-3.