Covid 19 Updates

Updates: July 30th, 2020
 
The Victim Assistance page on the diocesan website has been updated to reflect  the policy adopted by the USCCB for reporting abuse or misconduct of a Catholic Bishop.  The link to the revised page is https://www.dioceseduluth.org/Vict
Victim Assistance Information | Diocese of Duluth<https://www.dioceseduluth.org/Vict>
Victim Assistance Information Sexual Misconduct. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual misconduct by a volunteer, an employee or a member of the clergy and you need to talk with someone about your feelings of betrayal or hurt due to this abuse, exploitation or harassment,
www.dioceseduluth.org
Please update your parish web page to include the new link to the updated victim assistance information.

If you have any questions, please contact me.  Thank you for your assistance.

​Ernie


 
Updates: July 24th, 2020
Dear Priests and Deacons,
 
On July 22, 2020, Governor Tim Walz signed Emergency Order 20-81 Requiring Minnesotans to Wear a Face Covering in Certain Settings to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19. This executive order will go into effect on Friday, July 24, 2020 at 11:59pm.
 
I have attached copies of Emergency Executive Order 20-81 as well as two companion documents put out by the Minnesota Department of Health; Face Covering Requirements and Recommendations under Executive Order 20-81 and Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings.
 
As we are aware, the virus which causes COVID-19 is thought to be spread by respiratory droplets when people talk, cough or sneeze. The reason for the the mandate is the experience that, despite our previous precautions, "a COVID-19 surge can occur with little warning and disastrous consequences." (p.2). Something we wish to avoid in Minnesota.
 
Order 20-81 states, "Minnesotans must wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public settings, as described in this order and the related industry guidance, available at Stay Safe Minnesota website (https://staysafe.mn.gov), as well any other guidance referenced in this order. Workers must also wear face coverings outdoors when it is not possible to maintain social distancing. When leaving home, Minnesotans are strongly encouraged to have a face covering with them at all times to be prepared to comply with the requirements of this Executive Order." (2.)
  • Masks are required in all indoor spaces unless alone.
  • Masks are required in all outdoor spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distancing.
  • The Mask requirement does apply to places of worship. Minnesota Department of Health Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings, p. 5/11.
In the Order, "Social distancing means individuals keeping at least 6 feet of distance from other individuals who are not members of their household." (3.d)
  • Indoors and Outdoors, Capacity: 6 feet of social distance, max 50%, maximum of 250 people within a single self-contained space.
Those who are exempt from these face covering requirements are:
 
"Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering." (8.a)
 
"Children who are five years old and under." (8.b)
 
"Individuals at their workplace when wearing a face covering would create a job hazard for the individual or others, as determined boy local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety and health standards and guidelines." (8.c)
 
Among the circumstances where mandatory face coverings may be temporarily removed are situations, "When testifying, speaking or performing in an indoor business or public indoor space, in situations such or settings such as theaters, news conferences, legal proceedings, governmental meetings...presentations or lectures, provided that social distancing is always maintained." (10.c)
  • This also includes when singing. See Minnesota Department of Health Face Covering Requirements and Recommendations under Executive Order 20-81, p. 3/7.
  • Priests, Deacons, Lectors and Cantors need not be masked when they are praying, reading and/or singing at Mass, Sacraments and Devotions but they should take care to be socially distancing.
  • Priests and Deacons should mask whenever they are within 6 feet of another individual.
  • Priests and Deacons should mask for the distribution of Holy Communion.
  • The lay faithful should mask unless exempted.
The Order states, "All businesses must update their COVID-19 Preparedness Plans to include the face covering requirements of this Executive Order..." (13)
  • The updated COVID-19 Preparedness Plan should be posted in your churches and schools.
This is followed by, "Businesses must post one or more signs that are visible to all persons-including workers, customers and visitors-instructing them to wear face coverings as required by this Executive Order." (14) 
  • Please post the required signs.
Further, "Nothing in this Executive Order requires businesses or their workers to enforce this requirement when it is unsafe to do so, or authorized them to restrain, assault or physically remove workers or customers who refuse to comply with this Executive Order." (15.e) See: Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings, p. 4/11.
  • Place masks near the door for the use of visitors.
  • Use your own mask as appropriate (Be a good example).
  • There are legitimate reasons why people might not use a mask.
  • If you are concerned, you can socially distance.
  • There is no need to have someone at the doors to enforce compliance, as masks are strongly encouraged but not always required.
  • Remember the good of another and be charitable.
It should be noted there are fines attached to the violation of the Executive Order for Individuals (20.a) and businesses. (20.b)
  • Please do your best to comply with the Executive Order.
Thank you for your attention to the Order and the concerns it raises. I do realize it may lead to other pragmatic questions about when one should wear a mask, so just contact me and we will try to address individual situations in a reasonable way with common sense.
 
Yours in Christ,
 
Fr. Jim Bissonette
Diocesan Administrator
 
Updates: July 16th, 2020
Dear Priests and Deacons, 
 
During a meeting of the Duluth City Council on Monday, July 13, 2020, the Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance  (click here to see the ordinance) requiring face coverings indoors in places of public accommodation. The ordinance went into effect immediately upon passage. 
 
While the ordinance only affects those in the city of Duluth, I am sending this email to all the priests and deacons since you may be called upon to exercise ministry within the city limits. The ordinance is attached. Please read it carefully.
 
The purpose is "to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people..."
 
The definition of a space of public accommodation does explicitly include "places of worship".
 
Face coverings are "required" indoors. This requirement applies to everyone 10 years of age and older.
There are nine (9) exceptions to the requirement. Religious services are not mentioned.
 
The ordinance allows for the city of Duluth to issue fines for failure to comply, ie: $100.00 (1st violation), $250.00 (2nd violation) and $1000.00 (an additional violation).
 
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken steps, as a Church, to stem the spread of the disease and put in place protocols to keep people safe, especially the most vulnerable and at risk such as the lifting of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation, proper social distancing and sanitation procedures and measures to safeguard those coming to Holy Communion. We have also strongly encouraged the wearing of masks during Mass and by the clergy at the distribution of Holy Communion. We have hand sanitizer and masks available at our church doors. When the clergy are not wearing masks during Mass and other services, they are socially distanced (recommended 6 ft.) from the congregation. I urge continuation of these practices.  This we have done throughout the Diocese of Duluth and we continue to do it as faithful Catholics who are concerned about their neighbors and as good citizens.
 
I have received advice on the Duluth ordinance from our Diocesan Attorney and the Minnesota Catholic Conference. I have also been in contact with the Office of the Mayor. Given what we are already doing to stem the virus and protect the most at risk and in consideration of the the City of Duluth emergency ordinance, I ask all clergy and faithful in the city of Duluth to comply with the ordinance according to a straight forward reading of the ordinance and common sense.
 
Should you have any questions about the application of the ordinance, please contact me (218-591-3973).
 
Also, should your local civil authorities move toward a similar ordinance in your locale, please let me know so that we can track developments to address COVID-19 in the Diocese.
 
Sincerely in Christ,
 
Fr. James B. Bissonette
Diocesan Administrator 
 
Update: June 20th, 2020
New Bishop Appointed for Duluth Diocese.

Dear Parishoners,

As you may already have heard our Holy Father, Pope Francis, did appoint yesterday a new bishop for our diocese. 

Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy of the Diocese of Rapid City as Fr. Bissonate shared with us "has served the faithful of South Dakota as a priest since his ordination in 1979. He comes to us with a wealth of both Bishop Mulloypastoral experience, having served in parishes from 1979 to 2017, and administrative experience, having served the Rapid City diocese in various capacities since the late 1980s. He served the Rapid City Diocese as vicar general from 2017 to 2019 and has been serving as diocesan administrator as they await the installation of Bishop-elect Muhich for their diocese".

Attached you will find a more complete biography and curriculum vitae. His ordination and installation have been set for Thursday, Oct. 1. More information can be found at www.dioceaseduluth.org 

Please let us pray for Bishop-elect Mulloy as he begins transitioning into this new ministry as our new shepherd.

Father Francis Kabiru
Parish Administrator

 
Update:  June 6, 2020
As we all are aware, public masses began last weekend at 25 % capacity. At St. Francis Church with extra chairs into the social hall at each mass at best we can sit around 60-70 people. At St Mary and Joseph we can also sit around 50-60 people.
 
We encourage you to continue praying and discerning when you might be able to rejoin us for public masses. We are doing our best to follow the protocols on social distancing and cleaning.
 
May God protect and keep you and your family safe. Blessings.
 
Fr. Francis
 
Update: May 20, 2020:
 
Dear brothers and sisters,

Attached you will find a letter signed by Father Bissonette, our diocesan administrator, and by the bishops of the other dioceses in Minnesota. Father Bissonette asks you to please read it carefully.  Click here to Read the Letter.

Some of its key points:

  • The bishops of the other Minnesota dioceses and Father Bissonette in our diocese are giving parishes permission for a broader public celebration of Mass beginning Tuesday, May 26.
  • Parishes will be required to follow the strict protocols for sanitation and social distancing that were released previously and will have to limit attendance to one-third of the seating capacity of the church.
  • No one will be obliged to attend Mass, as the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass continues.
  • Parishes are not required to offer public celebration of Mass until they are comfortable that they are ready to safely do so.

Media inquiries can be directed to me.

Please post this on your websites and disseminate it to your people. Thanks for your attention, and let’s continue to pray for each other during these difficult days.

In Christ,

Deacon Kyle Eller
Communications director

 

Update: May 15, 2020:

Dear Parishioners,

Public Masses: As maybe aware the good news are, we shall begin cautiously in a very structured and phased plan  regathering for masses starting May 20th following protocols established by the Diocese of Duluth. (Click Here to Read the Protocols).  We encourage you to take the below information with underlying important fact: Your Personal  Health and well-being and that of your loved ones and those you care for most-come first. As we do our best to welcome you back to our worship areas through guidance of the protocol given, we want urge you to take that personal responsibility that we have been educated through out this pandemic period.  We have a few summarized thoughts we want you to reflect about as you plan to attend any masses in the near future.

Caution Given!
In summary, if you are sick, you have certain conditions that might put you and your loved ones or neighbors in danger- kindly consider to continue to stay home and join the rest in spiritual communion. If you are grouped in the bracket of age of those regarded as 'vulnerable persons' as defined by Federal  and State guidance on this pandemic, consider of not rejoining quickly larger groups at this stage. Lastly If you are unsure and might be wondering if this is the right time to start coming back, kindly take your time- the dispensation for Sunday obligation from the Diocese for non attendance is still in place.

Masses Schedules: I have met with a few leadership team to prepare for a slow re-opening under the guidance given and we have resolved to progressively review various steps as things unfold but ready to start by Sunday weekend of 24/25th:-The Ascension Sunday with very limited persons-Please let us know via email, or text or call you might be coming. The weekly daily masses starts from Tuesday thru Friday 8:30 am on May 20th at St Francis. Weekend masses May 24/25th: St Francis: Saturday: 4 pm, Sunday 8:30 am, **added mass Sunday  4pm. Masses: St Mary/Joseph Sunday 10:30 am. 

Volunteers: We need definitely more volunteers especially in helping clean, organize things before and after masses. Also if-anyone out there may know how we can livestream our Sunday masses to those at home, can also call or text Fr. Francis at 218-831-0964.  Also call the office and leave a message for more details this coming week or email us back.

Kindly read the attached Reverend James B. Bissonette, Diocesan Administrator's letter and the Diocese of Duluth's Covid-19 Final Protocols. Click here to read the letter!

Again, your individual health and protection of this virus and those of others is important hence kindly make a cautious informed decision before starting attending masses offered. We definitely want everyone back soon with some sense of comfortability to worship and celebrate sacraments together but want be cautious and prudent as possible. We want our parish to be as prepared as possible in the coming weeks and seek you patience and collaboration.  Again  The obligation to attend Mass on Sunday will continue to be suspended until it is safe for all to return to Church.  

 
God bless you.
 
Fr. Francis

 

Update: May 8, 2020:

Mass Updates: As shared last week, we are awaiting to receive protocols from the diocese of how best we should prepare to re-open when time comes. We are reminded it will be a slow and thoughtful process intended to help us resume our liturgical worship with dignity but at the same time adapt, due to current circumstances that comes with Covid-19 Pandemic. What we are hearing so far is, come May 18th with end of "stay-home-orders" there will be a possibility of re-entering hopefully to  "Phase 2" of the 3 phases as have witnessed with other organizations in different localities. 
 
We hope and pray that this would allow us have at least public masses again with limited-attendance by following certain protocols that provide necessary precautions. We want to consciously as we do any preparations be in solidarity individually and collectively with the most vulnerable among us. No doubt we seek your understanding, patience and collaboration as we all anxiously maneuverer ways to safely get back to some normalcy and our normal routines in the near future.
 
Weekly Offertory Giving: To all who have mailed or dropped your Donations-THANK YOU SO MUCH for your gift of Treasure. Our giving under this circumstances at St. Francis is down by 24% and 33% at Sts. Mary & Joseph at this time of the year. We continue to pray for those who might be hardly affected economically and are not able to give as before, that they may have ways and means to meet their needs and where we can directly help them. 
 
We also kindly ask those of you who can still do more and support the parishes that have been in existence for more than 90 years there before us to do so in kindness. Our Christian predecessors underwent all kinds of challenges of their own times as we know and thankfully they remained steadfast in their faith that we still have these physical places of worship that still nurtures our spiritual corpus. 
 
Online Giving: We continue to encourage you to consider Online giving as it is Easy, Safe and Secure!-Just Click www.stfmjcatholic.org and go to Online Giving tab. You can find more information and instructions attached to this email but also feel free to contact Kathy Erickson if you have any questions at 218-384-4563 or 349-2568. You can also mail your donations to: St. Francis Office: 509 Sunshine Drive, Carlton MN 55718.
 
Peace and happy Mother's day to all our Mothers and Grandma's! May Mary our mother and of the Church intercede for us her children always! Blessings!
 
Fr. Francis.
 
Update: May 2, 2020:
 
Dear Parishioners,

Peace be with you and my prayers you are holding on well under this tough and unique circumstances we all are in! Personally I am well, missing getting together for worship weekly as unfortunately we were separated while was still new here to get to know each other better as a result to this pandemic. All in God's hands praying for protection and health of everyone. My people in Kenya as some have asked, are in the same boat as this is affecting the entire world and we are in prayers and solidarity with everyone.

Now, there are A lot of information here that I think is important to share now. Kindly take a moment to read it through and share it with any other of our parishioners who might not receive it directly because we aren't able have their email information yet! Thanks to Amy Feely, one of our parishioner who despite her busy and important schedule as a health provider and caring of her family with 3 young children she volunteered to help us have a parish website to be launched soon. We are so appreciative to Amy and her family for compiling these emails together and once our parish website is established, we shall also be able to often broadly communicate more of parish news/events into the future from our parish office.
 
I want to start by first thanking you and your families for remaining faithful in prayers and action as best as you can to the call of being good citizens of our beloved country who have embraced the present moments with great faith and hope. And secondly for being invested and interested to the day to day of our parishes through your commitment and support financially. As a new priest here I have been inspired and appreciated much your response to my letter of appeal. It is through your responses we got more than now a 100 email contacts to communicate  and keep you posted more so now that we are not able to gather weekly for Sunday worship at our respective churches.

Weekly Donations Update. To all of you who have mailed or dropped your Donations-THANK YOU for keeping the Parishes Bills get taken care! We continue to encourage you to consider Online giving--it is Safe and Secure! If interested, please contact Kathy Erickson our bookkeeper to set  it up. You can also mail donations to: St. Francis Office: 509 Sunshine Drive, Carlton MN 55718.

 
Preparing for the next phase?
 
Most all want to go back to our normal scheduling and are anxious to that end as I am. I have been asked by a few parishioners when we meet as to when we might start to recongregate and in that desire, I liked what Pope Francis preached one day during of his daily morning masses reflections. He prayed for us Catholics and in general all the people God, that yes we are not called to be disciples of 'lockdowns and fasting' from actual celebration of our sacramental life replaced by virtual masses but rather we are people of communion who congregate and worship together. We are truly a Eucharist people who are made to live that reality and want to get back to our normal sacramental celebration in our parishes soon. 
 
Duluth Diocesan Administrator -Fr Jim Bissonette.
 
Yesterday we received an email letter from the diocese about this issue of possible re-opening for masses. As I have stated to any inquiries on this topic, the diocese is keenly following the guidelines of our Federal and State authorities to be in sync with every actions of re-opening for safety of all. I thought it would be good to directly share here some quoted words from Fr. Bissonette email to all Priests and Deacons of the Diocese as it gives a clear vision as to what is been discussed among our Church leaders who will eventually give us as parishes the go-ahead and re-opening guidelines.

A Three-Phase approach. 

"The Bishops of Minnesota and myself gathered yesterday after Governor Walz's speech to carefully consider our own phased approach back into having public Masses. We recognize that when we return to public Masses we will have to do so with carefully defined protocols in order to keep people safe and to prevent the spread of the virus. We know that if we work together we can do this safely. We need to begin now to work with our priests and parish leaders so that we can be ready to begin some limited public Masses on May 18. We are developing a gradual, multi-phase approach to return to public worship. These phases will allow for the ability to re-evaluate the process as necessary in order to ensure the health and safety of the community going forward. Our plan presumes that throughout the state the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will continue until such a time that it is safe for all to return. 

All phases of this plan anticipate that we are following strict guidelines for social distancing and sanitization. 

We are currently in phase 1. During this time our churches can be open daily for prayer, and priests as they are able can provide for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Confessions can happen in spaces that are well ventilated with adequate social distance yet still assure the privacy of the sacrament. It is also permissible to have weddings with no more than 10 people and funerals with no more than 10 people. 

We anticipate beginning phase 2 on May 18, and will work with state officials in a collaborative way to meet that goal. During phase 2, public Masses in churches will be allowed in smaller groups limited to no more than 1/3 of the seating capacity of the church (every 3rd pew) in order to allow adequate social distancing between those not of the same household. 

Churches will have to develop ways to ensure that this capacity limit is strictly followed, such as online signups and ushers. Since there will be no Sunday obligation, Catholics will be encouraged to attend other Masses during the week instead of Sunday in order to spread out the numbers. More Masses will need to be offered in some cases to accommodate everyone in the parish who wishes to attend Mass. 

We intend to publish detailed protocols to be followed for the celebration of Mass and the distribution of Holy Communion well in advance of May 18 when public Masses will resume so that parishes can get ready for the careful way we will have to move forward. Social gatherings and other small group meetings will not be allowed during phase 2 as they do not have the same controlled movement as Mass. Some other sacramental celebrations may be allowed, but never exceeding 1/3 of the seating capacity of the Church. If a liturgical celebration or event cannot maintain the capacity and social distancing requirements, it may not take place. 

At this point, it is unknown when we would be able to enter Phase 3, which would provide more opportunity for us to have larger celebrations. We will continue to evaluate and follow the guidance of civil authorities and public health experts." Fr. Jim Bissonette.

My Action Plan Intent:  I would like to highlight my prayerful vision plans with the help of our parish staff and volunteers moving forward if we are allowed to re-open soon. At St. Francis Church I have already engaged a sound technician (ESC Systems-Jim Morse) to see how best we can have a live sound feed through the current speakers in the social hall . This will help create extra space to accommodate willing more people at masses once opened and at the same time maintain expected social distancing. The sound feed will be easier and cheaper at this time to install before we can even think of a need for cameras for live feed of mass into the Television which is already mounted in social hall. At Mary and Joseph Parish we are still debating if the basement can be used as part of a social distancing if need be and what that might entail to make it ready. I'm open to practical cost effective solutions on any approach.

Masses and volunteers: We shall be calling upon  for more volunteers to start thinking on how we can step up for organized group masses schedules when time comes and as suggested have sign-up scheduling as possible for whom will attend which particular mass if need be. I have offered to celebrate an extra mass at St. Francis at 4pm every Sunday as majority preferred that time (for the time been) once we are allowed to congregate. Please note, this extra mass will be offered ONLY as need be with intent to give an option for parishioners of both parishes to re-adjust and attend weekend masses for a brief transition to normalcy. We shall also move Sunday morning mass from 8 am to 8:30 am. The extra 4 pm mass on Sundays will have no music.

Sanitization:

Susan and John Murray are no longer able to  do janitorial work at St. Francis  moving forward. As we thank them for their dedicated service to the parish over the years, we definitely need of someone soon or volunteers to take these janitorial duties. It takes about 7 hours to clean the church or even more every week and with more sanitizing requirements into the future, we shall definitely need help. I am making an appeal if you have a recommendation of someone  you know who is a detailed person to cleanness and order, please reach out to me through the parish office soonest possible.

Update of weekly Sacramental Celebrations.

We are not able to do any life stream masses but hoping you are able to watch from ETWN as has several Sunday masses options and also those on Facebook. I'm still celebrating daily and Sunday weekly Masses at St. Francis and Mary and Joseph Parishes for all parishioners accompanied by Deacon Steve and Bryan at respective Churches. (Maybe with a tech person willing to livestream, at churches,is welcomed to help).Thursdays we have Adoration of  the Blessed Sacrament from 9 am to-1 pm at St Francis Church. Saturday 3pm I'm always available for individual confessions and before mass at 10 am at  St. Mary and Joseph Church. I have been called  a couple times to anoint parishioners at their homes and regularly do go for anointing of the Sick at Inter-Faith-Care Center which has been a blessing. Note, baptisms or weddings are still allowed during this time of social distancing with amount of people allowed to be present still remain less than 10.

1st Communion and RCIA Candidates.

As soon as we have a more public gathering of worshippers, we shall set a Sunday to have our regular 1st Communion Sacramental Celebrations. We thank parents whom have truly continued to take their main role of teaching and passing on the faith to their children as that truly as our Catechism teaches us, it is their first main responsibility as Christian parents to do so. Just like in any education sector, the Church as an institution is there to just assist and facilitate as the primary unit of teaching is that of a family- mom and dad, siblings, grandpa, grandma, relatives and all Christian witnesses. God bless you parents and grandparents for all you do  to witness and support these next generation of Christians. Please don't give up when it gets tough as I know it can be tough coming aso from a large family myself-sometime we were stubborn also.

On going Updates.

Now that we have more emails and text message numbers of most of you, we shall keep you posted from the office now and then with any progress. Please encourage others to sign up on the email list. We hope the website which will be www.stfmjcatholic.org will be also roached soon hosted by LPi.

May we continue to remain hopeful as we pray for those in difficult situations in our midst due to this pandemic. If we can be of any direct help to anyone you know or collectively  want us to and have practical ideas to do so, please let us know how we can facilitate your ideas to fruition. St. Francis remind us, "Preach more by your deeds and less by your words". That is a call to true discipleship for all of us as these are unsettling times no doubt. May we keep though respecting and obeying our civic instructed measures in calmness and optimism,  and pray more for all the efforts to cure the sick and eliminate the virus so that we can get back to a new normalcy sooner in all our fields and even start recongregating for masses. 

Peace and God Bless.

Fr. Francis .

Cc Deacon Steve and Deacon Brian.