Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City addressed the following message to the people of the diocese, regarding the response of the Church in this diocese to the current and potential effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19):
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic grows, I ask the people of the Diocese of Jefferson City to join me in praying for those who are ill, their loved ones, the healthcare professionals and all who are working tirelessly to mitigate the terrible suffering caused by the coronavirus.
Our mission as Church continues, even as we alter our normal activities for the sake of the common good.
Nonetheless, in keeping with the federal directives and other public entities in our area, all public Masses will be suspended in the Diocese of Jefferson City until at least April 3.
We offer this decision as part of our effort to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
In lieu of being present for Mass, I ask everyone to participate virtually in the Mass at your local parish through social media and the Internet, if possible.
Spending a similar amount of time reading the Sunday Scriptures (found at www.usccb.org) and praying the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet would be laudable.
While our diocese has not seen the number of confirmed cases as have been reported elsewhere, we should be planning how we can be a witness of God’s love during this terrible crisis.
I ask our pastors and parish leadership to consider practical ways their parish can support those who are most impacted by any crisis: the lonely, the poor and the forgotten.
Parishes may wish to begin collecting information from people who are isolated and would appreciate someone checking in on them, or perhaps offering them support if they become ill.
Healthcare professionals may appreciate knowing there is a community supporting them if they are called to extensive shifts or become ill themselves, and therefore are not able to take care of their families.
Many hourly-wage earners are losing their incomes as major sporting events and entertainment venues close. Catholics may want to increase their support of Catholic Charities and other agencies which will be called upon to provide basic necessities for these workers and their families.
Our diocesan staff is offering a process for parishes to establish these teams of charity and mercy.
All public gatherings are to be canceled, postponed or modified. If the canceled, postponed or modified event was intended to raise money for a ministry or service, please consider offering people an alternative means to contribute to the ministry or service.
The most reliable source of information for all of us is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their website is cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
You may also find more information on how our diocese is working together at diojeffcity.org/public-health.
Many people’s lives are being disrupted by the coronavirus and our attempts to stop its rapid spread. In this season of Lent, let us increase our prayers, fasting and almsgiving, so that God’s great compassion and love may be a source of hope and consolation for all.
With prayers for the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. W. Shawn McKnight
Bishop of Jefferson City