We are a people in community, which means we are drawn to one another for the good of the whole. Our lives in community, however, are often disrupted by unexpected things beyond our control, things such as accidents, natural disasters and illness. These things disrupt our communal life and challenge us to respond. As the world become increasingly impacted by COVID-19 (the coronavirus), the American National Catholic church wants our communities to be prepared with a thoughtful and compassionate response to counter the fear and anxiety associated with this illness.

Fear and anxiety are best confronted and countered by Information, Practical Responses, and Compassionate Pastoral Care. In these ways we, as a Catholic community, can offer a response that strengthens us and those with whom we live in community.

 

Information

Access to fact-based, scientifically accurate information is essential in combating fear and anxiety when our lives are disrupted. Information about COVID-19 and the prevention of the spread of respiratory disease include the following:
 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

How it Spreads

Prevention & Treatment

World Health Organization: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak

Information available from previous flu outbreaks:

CDC: Get Your Community and Faith-Based Organizations Ready for Pandemic Flu, April 2017

CDC: Preparing for the Flu (Including 2009 H1N1 Flu)

 

Practical Responses

While our primary concern is for our communities at worship, practical responses include things we all should do. These practices include:

  • Frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • When you cough, cough into your bent elbow, not into your hands. If you blow your nose, deposit the tissue as soon as possible, preferably into a waste container with a lid. Wash your hands immediately and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Try to avoid large crowds. Consider using electronic conferences instead of physically meeting together.
  • Always avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because these are entry points for germs.
  • If you are sick or feel that you might be ill, stay home and encourage others to do the same if they are sick.
  • Avoid those who are obviously ill, coughing or sneezing.
 
We sacramentally express our community when we gather for Mass. Practices we recommend our parishes consider regarding Mass include:
  • Encourage anyone who feels ill with cold or flu-like symptoms to remain at home.
  • Clergy should always wash their hands before celebrating Mass
  • Consider not holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Consider a nod, bow or hand wave in place of shaking hands or hugs during the exchange of the Peace.
  • At communion, consider placing the Host in the hand, not on the tongue: no intinction or sharing of the chalice.
  • Clergy and Eucharistic Ministers make use of hand sanitizer before distribution Holy Communion.
  • Take extra care in cleansing communion vessels.

 

Compassionate Pastoral Care

We are called to bring Christ to others, to reflect his light in our world. Medical conditions like COVID-19 challenge our ability to be that Christ-presence for others. Nonetheless, our clergy and pastoral care ministers are confronted with how best to be present with those who may be ill from the coronavirus. The following recommendations may be helpful to consider.
  • Clergy and Eucharistic Visitors should take care not to visit medical and other enclosed facilities when they themselves are not feeling well.
  • Clergy and Eucharistic Visitors should follow medical advice when visiting anyone known to be ill with the virus or its symptoms or consider postponing a pastoral visit until the individual is healthy, unless pastoral necessity requires a visit (such as in extremis).
  • Pastoral visitors should always thoroughly wash their hands before AND after visiting a facility and, if visiting more than one person in the same facility, they should wash hands between visiting each person.
  • Parish leaders should develop a communication system to reach out to parishioners noticeably absent, especially the elderly, to be sure they are being taken care of and to determine whether any additional assistance may be required.
  • This would be a good time to make sure your parishioners are familiar with your parish social media, website and email newsletters as a way of keeping in touch, especially if opportunities to gather become restricted.
We are the Body of Christ, and individually members of it. When crises arise we are especially challenged to remain faithful to our calling as God’s people in the world, to provide information that combats fear and panic, to provide practical ways for us to live during a time of crises and to share ways to maintain effective pastoral responses. Above all, let us hold one another in prayer and to especially pay for those who are living with this illness and those most frightened by it.
 

Prayer

Faithful God, your Holy One, Jesus of Nazareth, spoke the truth with authority, and you confirmed his teaching by wondrous deeds. Through his healing presence, drive far from us all that is unholy, so that by word and deed we may proclaim him Messiah and Lord and bear witness to your power to heal and save. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.  Amen.