Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a question? Submit questions to Diocese@dowr.org or contact us via phone at 507-454-4643 and we'll answer as many as we can here.
November 20, 2020
Did Governor’s Walz’s recent restrictions affect churches at all? Can we still hold our Faith Formation sessions in-person, or do our Mass protocols need to change? Are social events such as funeral luncheons and wedding receptions still allowed?
The recent restrictions apply only to the social events connected with religious events, not the religious events themselves. Mass, Faith Formation activities for all ages, and necessary parish functions are not affected by these changes.
Social events, including those connected with religious events such as funeral luncheons and wedding receptions, are not allowed to be held from November 21 through December 18.
The diocesan Protocols for the Public Celebration of Masses and Other Liturgical Celebrations have been slightly revised, to provide greater clarity and bring them into line with the current guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health.
September 15, 2020
Some dioceses are lifting the dispensation of the Sunday obligation, so that Catholics are once again required to attend Mass on Sunday (or Saturday evening). Will the Diocese of Winona-Rochester be soon resuming the Sunday obligation as well?
At this time, there are no immediate plans to reimpose the Sunday obligation for Catholics in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. There are still many restrictions in place due to the ongoing presence of COVID-19 in our communities, and many church buildings could not accommodate all of their parishioners coming to the weekend Mass(es). Additionally, those who are, or care for someone, in a high risk category, are still encouraged to limit their contact with others and may not be comfortable returning to Mass with large crowds of people.
However, while all Catholics are still dispensed from attending Mass on Sunday, those who are healthy are encouraged to begin returning to Mass in-person, if they have not already done so. For those who would prefer to avoid larger crowds, attending Mass during the week can provide an opportunity for spiritual nourishment while also mitigating the risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Our parishes have implemented many protocols that have been shown to be effective in avoiding the spread of COVID-19 in a church setting.
In the Catechism, we read that, “the Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and His Eucharist is at the heart of the Church's life” (CCC 2177), and, “participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to His Church” (CCC 2182). In gathering for the celebration of the Mass, we give due worship to God, and are strengthened by His grace, particularly through receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. As Catholics return to Mass, this is a wonderful opportunity to increase our knowledge and appreciation of the gift of the Mass and the Eucharist.
August 27, 2020
What are the requirements for holding Faith Formation and Youth Ministry events this year?
Faith Formation and Youth Ministry classes are able to be held and each parish is offering these in the way that follows COVID-19 precautions both from the Minnesota Department of Health and the CDC. The Diocese of Winona-Rochester has established Guidelines for Faith Formation and Youth Ministry Programs, which are applicable for adult formation, youth ministry, family formation, and programs of systematic catechesis and sacramental preparation for children.
Do I have to wear a mask when I go to Mass or other activities at my parish?
On July 22, Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order mandating the wearing of face coverings statewide. This applies to all indoor spaces, including places of worship, so all those over five years of age are required to wear masks at Mass. However, celebrants, lectors, and cantors are not required to do so, except for the celebrant if he processes through the congregation and when he distributes Holy Communion.
Masks must also be worn at other indoor parish activities, and outdoor events when social distancing of six feet is not possible. In parish offices, staff are not required to wear a mask when they are alone in a room or are in a cubicle with walls that are at or above face height.
The Minnesota Department of Health also provides its own FAQ on the face covering mandate, which can be found here on the Minnesota Department of Health website.
July 7, 2020
Will our parish be able to hold Faith Formation programs this fall? Is it possible to have a shared meal as part of the event?
Religious education programming is allowed as long as it follows the host parish’s COVID-19 preparedness plan, includes social distancing, and attendance is capped at 50 percent capacity for indoor gatherings, with a maximum of 250 people. General social events (e.g., coffee and donuts after Mass) are limited to 25 percent capacity with social distancing.
If parishes want to hold a meal in conjunction with any event, they must follow current guidance from the State of Minnesota for faith-based gatherings and celebrations (see FAQ “Will my parish be allowed to have our parish fall festival this year?” from June 29, 2020).
June 29, 2020
Will my parish be allowed to have our parish fall festival this year?
Possibly, if your parish can adhere to the guidance recently issued by the State of Minnesota for faith-based gatherings and celebrations. Two documents were issued that assist parish staff and volunteers in understanding and putting in place protocols necessary to safely hold a parish festival or dinner.
The first document, issued on June 15, 2020, is titled Guidance for Gatherings: Faith-based Communities, Places of Worship, and Ceremonies. This document describes the protocols necessary for gatherings taking place in indoor and outdoor venues such as event centers, faith-based buildings, community centers, rental halls, or at similar outdoor spaces and that are providing food and beverages for on-site consumption.
The second document, issued on June 12, 2020, is titled Guidance for Providing Food and Beverages for On-site Consumption at Indoor and Outdoor Gatherings. This document describes the protocols necessary for gatherings taking place in indoor and outdoor venues that are providing food and beverages for on-site consumption. This document provides more specific guidance on food and beverage preparation and venue occupancy management. It is to be used in addition to the other applicable document mentioned above.
It is the responsibility of the parish staff to assess your parish’s ability to adhere to these suggested guidelines before scheduling your parish fall festival or dinner.
June 15, 2020
Can my parish hold its annual rummage sale this summer?
According to guidance from the Governor’s legal counsel, rummage sales are permitted for churches. Those organizing the rummage sale would need to adhere to the current Industry Guidance for Reopening: Retail for the state of Minnesota, which includes (as of June 10) conducting the rummage sale at 50% of the capacity of the space utilized and having a COVID-19 preparedness plan.
May 15, 2020
I heard some dioceses have started or are starting Masses soon. When can we attend Mass again in our diocese?
Two months ago, Bishop Quinn suspended the public celebrations of Mass until May 15. That suspension was then extended to May 18. However, the executive order given on May 13 stated that religious gatherings of over 10 people are prohibited. Our world is yearning for hope as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives in profound ways. We are all wondering when we will be able to resume our normal lives of work, school, social gatherings, and worship. Here in Minnesota, the Bishops of the state are meeting weekly to assess the current recommendations of the government and public health officials, and the particular circumstances in each of our dioceses. In the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, we have seen a large outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Worthington, and other places across southern Minnesota have also been impacted by large numbers of people contracting the virus. On May 18, public Masses may resume, with the limit of 10 people in attendance. The process for resuming normal worship will come in phases, with parishes following set protocols to ensure proper social distancing and sanitization requirements. Because of this and other factors, not every parish may be ready to resume Masses on the same date, depending on their individual circumstances. However, we will be working with pastors to help them figure out how they can gradually bring larger groups back to church for Mass, while doing our best to keep everyone healthy. Thank you for your patience and most of all for your prayers. ***This answer will be updated as we gain more clarity.
May 1, 2020
Recently I heard that the Minnesota Governor said that some employers with office employees can return to their workplace rather than be on lay-off status or work from home. Is that true?
Effective April 27, 2020, office-based businesses that have “non-customer facing” employees would be allowed to re-open as long as they meet the following conditions:
Create a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan which:
- Meets MN Dept. of Health, Centers for Disease Control and OSHA standards.
- Follow health and safety protocols, including the health screening of workers
- Continue to encourage teleworking as much as possible
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has developed a template for the creation of a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. The template (in both WORD and PDF formats) can be found at the following page on the DEED website:
The Diocese of Winona-Rochester encourages all parishes, schools and related entities to review and utilize this template as a first step towards “re-opening” offices in a deliberate and safe manner. While many employees would be considered “non-customer facing,” many would not, making decisions regarding who should return and not return more complex. At this time, it is encouraged that the return of employees to the workplace be done incrementally, while allowing as many employees as possible to work from home (telework).
April 20, 2020
How can couples still get married if the county offices are closed and not issuing marriage licenses?
Some counties are still issuing marriage licenses by request, and marriage licenses issued in Minnesota are valid for any county, regardless of what county issues them. In southern Minnesota, the Olmsted County Property Records and Licensing office is still offering many services via phone and online; you can contact them for more information at 507-328-7670. Ramsey County, which encompasses part of the Twin Cities, is also handling marriage license requests with a critical timeline by appointment; to reach them, you can call 651-266-1333.
My wedding is coming up after Easter. What do we do?
First you will want to check with your pastor. Currently the Center for Disease Control is not recommending gatherings of more than 10 people in one place, so couples can choose to get married with a very small ceremony that meets these guidelines, and perhaps have a reception with family and friends at a later time, or they may decide to reschedule their wedding for a later date. You will want to check with your pastor for details.
April 13, 2020
Is it possible to receive Holy Communion? Is anything being discussed on how this could safely be done with an outdoor Mass?
Priests throughout the Diocese are doing their best to find creative ways to administer the sacraments safely and while following CDC guidelines. However, the circumstances are different in each parish, and not every idea is prudent or feasible in every situation, especially regarding the Eucharist. If you have specific questions about what might be possible, check with your pastor. While not the same as attending in person, Catholics may attend Mass on TV or online, using a Spiritual Communion, and spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in church as available.
Why do the diocese’s TV Masses show a congregation, and include shaking of hands and reception of Communion? Aren’t public Masses suspended in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester?
The Diocese of Winona-Rochester's weekly TV Masses are taped in advance, and are not live. Those that show a congregation shaking hands and receiving Communion were recorded before the suspension of public Masses, when Masses were still being held across the diocese.
When will the Bishop celebrate Confirmations at our parish this year?
Confirmations affected by the suspension of public Masses will be rescheduled at a later date, taking into account the current public health guidelines for large gatherings of people and the parishes’ schedules. The Office of the Bishop will be in contact with parishes later in the spring to reschedule Confirmation dates.
April 3, 2020
How is it possible to experience God’s forgiveness and mercy during this time of pandemic?
First of all, contact your parish priest to see what the options are. Some parishes have normal hours for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, some are limited, and in some parishes Confession is available by appointment only. Reconciliation can be scheduled by phone, but cannot be celebrated by phone, as it is a requirement of the Sacrament to be in person. When the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not able to be celebrated, the forgiveness of sins may be obtained by making an Act of Perfect Contrition with the intention of confessing to a priest as soon as it is possible. Information about perfect contrition can be found on the USCCB Statement section of this website, in the document entitled “Care of Souls and the Forgiveness of Sins.”
I have heard that the Church has made more indulgences available during this time. Where can I find more information?
Indulgences can remit temporal punishment due to sin (purgatory) and are available to those who pray for an end to the epidemic, those suffering with the illness, and those who care for them. For more information, please go to the USCCB Statement section of this website, in the document entitled “Care of Souls and the Forgiveness of Sins.”
March 27, 2020
What about Holy Communion to the sick? If someone requests to receive it by coming to the Church, can it be given by a priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion?
Special requests for the reception of the sacraments should be directed to the pastor who will determine if it is an appropriate time for their distribution given the current circumstances. Communion Services outside of Mass are not permitted at this time.
March 24, 2020
What should be done about those who were preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil?
Those who were preparing to be baptized or received into full communion with the Church should first contact their pastor and / or RCIA Coordinator, who are receiving instructions on how they might accommodate the elect and candidates this year. For further questions, parish staff can contact the diocesan Office of Divine Worship (Fr. Patrick Arens: email@example.com) or Office of RCIA (Todd Graff: firstname.lastname@example.org; Camille Withrow: email@example.com).
Should we plan to reschedule First Communion?
Yes, most parishes have First Communions scheduled for the end of April or beginning of May. Even if yours is scheduled to take place a little later, it seems best to delay.
March 20, 2020
Can I offer sacramentals to parishioners?
Absolutely – yes!
What do you mean by “Sacramentals?”
Sacramentals are spiritual items or prayers that are not considered one of the Sacraments, such as holy water, blessed candles, rosaries, scapulars, stations of the cross, etc.
But I thought holy water fonts were supposed to be emptied?
While holy water fonts may be covered or emptied to limit the spread of COVID-19, holy water may be made available in other ways, such as pre-filled bottles or having a single basin that can be sanitized regularly.