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.
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
Will blessed palms be available this year?
Please check with your pastor about your parish’s plans for the distribution of blessed palms.
I hear about an “Easter Obligation / Duty,” where we have to receive the Eucharist each year. How do I do that this year?
Canon Law does say that after First Communion we are to receive the Eucharist at least once a year during the Easter season. It also says that for a just cause, this teaching can be fulfilled at another time of the year. The current pandemic is a good example of a “just cause.”
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
Do priests need special papers when traveling for ministry during the shelter-in-place order?
No, clergy and key staff of religious organizations will still have the freedom to travel as needed. In the governor’s executive order establishing the two-week “shelter-in-place,” there is an explicit exemption for faith workers, which includes, “officials, workers, and leaders in houses of worship and other places of religious expression or fellowship, wherever their services may be needed.” Thus, no special documentation is needed when traveling for ministry.
Will any of the Triduum Masses / services be broadcast on TV or the internet?
Yes! As always, the televised Easter Mass - this year being brought to you from the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels - will be broadcast on most of our TV Mass affiliate stations. Additionally, Palm Sunday all Triduum liturgies will be livestreamed from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on the diocesan Facebook and Youtube pages, and afterwards available for viewing on demand. All of these liturgies will be presided over by Bishop Quinn. Check https://www.dowr.org/about/weekly-mass.html for the complete schedule and links to the live-stream.
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.
What will happen to the diaconal ordination on May 2?
Unfortunately, due to restrictions on large gatherings, this, too, will be rescheduled. A celebration of this magnitude should not be celebrated privately, but should be celebrated joyfully with the people of the Diocese.
My daughter is turning 15 this year and is looking forward to her Quinceanera; what do I do?
While a private blessing with immediate family may take place, the full celebration and reception should be delayed until such time as seems prudent.
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.
Will Bishop Quinn come to our parish for Confirmation?
All Confirmations before May 15 will be rescheduled, and later Spring Confirmations should be prepared to reschedule.
The statement references “immediate family.” Who is that?
Immediate family would consist of parents, spouses, siblings, and children. Please keep in mind the CDC recommendations on the size of gatherings.
If a loved one passes away, what should I do?
Funerals may still be celebrated, but with limited attendance. A visitation may take place later, or you may choose to delay the funeral and have a Memorial Mass at a later date. Even without a funeral, a graveside service may take place. At this time, obituaries should not include the date and time of the funeral.