Statement from Bishop LaValley regarding Mass attendance during the coronavirus outbreak

OGDENSBURG, NY —  In light of the serious health risks to vulnerable populations, and mindful of the instructions of medical professionals, the Bishops of New York State have urged the faithful to use their prudential judgment on whether or not to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days during the coronavirus outbreak. This is in keeping with the teaching of the Church, which has always exempted those with serious medical issues which would prohibit them from attending Mass, as well as for all people in times of general emergencies. This is especially true during this coronavirus outbreak, particularly for adults over the age of 60, people with underlying medical conditions, and family members of such individuals, who should take special care in discerning the best course of action.

Masses throughout the Diocese of Ogdensburg will continue to be offered at this time, contingent on emergency restrictions regarding large gatherings. We are taking steps to make attendance at Mass safe for those who attend. Additionally, to those choosing not to attend Mass due to illness or having an underlying condition, Bishop LaValley hereby grants a dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass beginning immediately and continuing until further notice. Persons with underlying health conditions are especially encouraged to remain at home at this time. Those who do attend Mass are reminded that they should follow the guidelines in place, such as receiving Holy Communion reverently in the hand, not receiving the Precious Blood, being sure to wash hands/use sanitizer before and after Mass, and avoiding physical contact with or close proximity to other persons.

Additionally, at this time, we are asking pastors to ensure good and regular cleaning of surfaces that are touched regularly (such as door handles), that ministers of the Eucharist exercise good hygiene (washing or sanitizing their hands prior to distributing Holy Communion), and that holy water fonts are emptied.

During Mass, the sign of peace will not be announced or exchanged. If the parish has the habit of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, this practice should be halted at this time. We ask all participants to refrain from shaking hands before, during or after Mass. A complete listing of precautions can be found our diocesan website via a link on the diocesan homepage.

Those who will not attend Mass can follow the Mass on radio, television, or online where possible. This includes The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM (10:15 a.m. EDT from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and 1:00 p.m. EDT from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels), and the Mass from St. Mary’s Cathedral at 8:00am Sunday on WQTK 92.7 FM, and television broadcasts (8:00am and 12:00pm on EWTN, 9:00am from St. Andre Bessette Parish, Malone, on Spectrum and 11:00am and 8:00pm from St. Bernard’s Church, Saranac Lake, on Spectrum).

All are urged to keep in prayer those who are suffering from the coronavirus, as well as for doctors, nurses, caregivers, and all those who are working to combat the disease.