Office of the Vicar General, Moderator of the Curia, and Acting Chancellor
TO: Pastors and Administrators, Principals and School Administration
FROM: Rev. Msgr. John E. Doran, Vicar General, Moderator of the Curia, and Acting Chancellor
RE: Swine Flu Concerns
DATE: April 30, 2009
With news updates reaching us every day about the number of cases of H1 N1 (“swine”) flu both throughout the United States and in our area, parishioners, school families and students are raising questions about how we here in the Archdiocese are preparing for the possibility that cases may occur among our Catholic community.
Some of this concern is quite natural, since gathering as a community is a central part of our expression of faith and worship, and of our education program. Thankfully, as I write this memo, none of the cases that have been reported in New Jersey appear to have occurred among any of our communities or schools. While dramatic measures at containing the possible spread of the swine flu do not appear to be warranted now, we should be cautious and careful to ensure that we do our part to prevent the spread of the illness. I suggest that there are a number of sensible basic steps that each of us can and should implement to help ease the concerns of our people.
Advice for Parishes
I am recommending that all pastors, lay ecclesial ministers and pastoral ministers exercise common sense precautions when it comes to the liturgy. Influenza is often spread from person to person through contact with coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Simple hygiene such as washing hands and using alcohol based hand sanitizers before Mass and after the distribution of Holy Communion can prevent the spread of influenza. If a priest, deacon, lector, altar server or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is sick -- whether it is the flu or the common cold or whatever -- then he or she should not serve until the sickness has passed. If a priest needs to serve even while ill, he might consider a separate chalice for his own use during Mass and refrain from shaking hands.
At this time, Archbishop Myers is not suggesting any changes in the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue or under both species; nor is he restricting the Sign of Peace. However, I would ask that each of you be sensitive to the concerns of those members of your parish community who may be reluctant at this time to either extend their hands to other parishioners or drink from a common chalice.
Parishes should communicate to parishioners in a way that would not create consternation or panic to use common sense practices when participating in the Mass. Please ask parishioners to be courteous and understanding if someone merely nods or waves rather than extends a hand. It should also be clear that when people are ill or contagious, they might consider refraining from assembling in large groups and consequently hold themselves excused from the Sunday obligation.
Advice for Schools
Every principal and teacher in a Catholic school and religious education program can tell stories of children becoming ill during the
day. That certainly is part of life with children. Thankfully, all schools in the Archdiocese have in place procedures for maintaining health standards when children are ill, as well as processes for communicating with the Archdiocesan Schools Office and local municipal and county officials concerning instances of outbreaks of illness. I urge each of our principals and their faculties and staff to continue to follow the recommendations of the health agencies of our state to mitigate the spread of disease.
I have listed below several websites containing specific information about how to deal appropriately, both liturgically and educationally, with the current situation. These resources include the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the federal Centers for Disease Control, and the State of New Jersey Health and Senior Services Department. I encourage you to publish these websites in your bulletin to help the faithful be aware of the steps that we are taking, and that they can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of this disease.
I also encourage you to check these sites regularly, since the information is subject to change based on developments that may occur concerning the swine flu in the weeks ahead.
On behalf of Archbishop Myers, I thank you for your dedicated service to this local Church of Newark at this particularly tense time in our nation’s and region’s history, and for your commitment to help bring peace and understanding to the people we serve in our parishes and schools.