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Catholic churches resume mass next week. Will parishioners feel safe attending?

In a letter Wednesday, Minnesota bishops wrote that "no one will be obliged to attend."

MINNEAPOLIS — Catholic churches in Minnesota can resume mass next Tuesday at one-third the seating capacity of the church, and while following sanitation and social distancing measures.

In a letter Wednesday, Minnesota bishops wrote that "no one will be obliged to attend, as the bishops of Minnesota will continue to dispense from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass."

Some Minnesota Catholics are ready to get back to in-person mass. 

"I just miss going to mass," said Corene Bjorkedal, who attends St. Andrew Catholic Church in Elk River. "Being together communally has been missing from a lot of our lives and a lot of our hearts."

Bjorkedal said she feels safe returning and says parishioners at her church will have no problem keeping the recommended six feet apart. 

"We can sit every other pew and space ourselves out," she said. 

Some who commented on the KARE 11 Facebook page Thursday agreed with Bjorkedal, saying churches have space for parishioners to practice social distancing. 

But others said they'd prefer to continue attending church virtually. 

"I definitely prefer streaming at this time," wrote Cindy Hoffbeck on KARE 11's Facebook post on the topic. "It’s too early for the inevitable contact, singing, etc. that make church "church."

Meanwhile, at two Minnesota Catholic churches, the Church of St. Timothy in Maple Lake and St. Ignatius in Annandale, in-person mass appears to be on hold. A post on the St. Ignatius Catholic Church Facebook page Wednesday, reported that a priest and some St. Ignatius parishioners had tested positive for COVID-19. The post, signed by Fr. John Meyer, who serves at both parishes, goes on to say that a monsignor and Fr. Meyer himself were exhibiting symptoms Wednesday and awaiting test results. 

"This comes as a major surprise to us, as we have tried to respect the guidelines of the CDC, and social distancing, and the MDH to the best of our ability," the post read. "While I’m hopeful that this presents minimal risk to all of you, I wanted to share so that you were aware and could be especially attentive to any symptoms that might develop."

Archbishop Bernard Hebda was asked about the churches during a press conference Thursday. 

"We're certainly living in a dangerous time and we can expect that we're going to have priests and faithful that are infected with COVID. That's going to be part of life," he said. "What's important is how we handle that, certainly individually, but also as a church."

Hebda went on to say he "appreciated the speed" with which St. Ignatius informed parishioners of the situation, and was praying for the priest who tested positive. 

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