Catholics in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore will find churches open for Mass this weekend, but Bishop W. Francis Malooly has dispensed of the Sunday obligation to attend Mass in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Regulations limiting large gatherings have been adopted in both states and the dispensation is intended to conform to those guidelines, according to a statement from the Diocese of Wilmington.
“Additionally, all diocesan and parish Catholic schools and religious education programs, in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, will be closed or canceled for two weeks beginning Monday, March 16, 2020,” according to the statement. “As of now, schools are scheduled to reopen on Monday, March 30, 2020. All CYM sports events have been cancelled until further notice.”
Schools superintendent Louis De Angelo alerted school communities of the decision March 13.
“Until further notice, all non-essential school personnel should remain out of the school building,” De Angelo said.
The diocese has set up a webpage, www.cdow.org/coronavirus, to provide information and special announcements of interest to the Catholic community and the public, the statement read. The page will also feature a video of the Sunday Mass for those who decide to participate from home.
Bishop Malooly said no one is bound to make use of the dispensation, but said he has seen nothing like the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in his 50 years of priesthood.
“Not in our time,” the bishop said. “9/11 was a disaster, but it was done and we carried forward. This seems like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The bishop emphasized that if people are not feeling well, they should stay home. He said people will be able to maintain a spiritual connection from their homes during this time of dispensation.
“The diocese website will have a Mass online, and people can follow developments on The Dialog website,” he said. “We’re going to have to take one day at a time and we’ll have to see.”
As of now, regularly scheduled parish Masses and other devotional services (Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Stations of the Cross) will be held, the diocese said.
“However, Catholics are urged to weigh carefully the decision whether to attend these, taking into account not only the risk to themselves but also the risk of spreading the disease to others, especially the most vulnerable,” the statement read.
Keeping the health and well-being of the public in mind, Bishop Malooly said he has asked parish leadership to carefully consider cancelling all non-devotional parish events and gatherings, according to the diocese.
Parishes that have notices in The Dialog that are scheduled to appear in Datebook or on its online events page can notify the diocesan news site of cancellations or postponements. Events notices will be updated on thedialog.org.
Changes can be emailed with subject line “DATEBOOK” to firstname.lastname@example.org.