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.
March 24, 2021
Did Governor Walz's recent lifting of restrictions affect churches at all? Will the protocols for Mass or Faith Formation activities change? Are social events such as funeral luncheons or wedding receptions allowed at a larger capacity?
Social events, including those connected with religious events such as funeral luncheons and wedding receptions, are allowed to be held according to the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for entertainment venues. Capacity is limited to 50%, up to a maximum of 250 people. Effective April 1, venues with over 500 occupant capacity may accommodate more than 250 people, according the set guidelines above.
The diocesan Protocols for the Public Celebration of Masses and Other Liturgical Celebrations and Guidelines for Faith Formation and Youth Ministry Programs have been slightly revised, to provide greater clarity and bring them into line with the current guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Can my parish hold its annual rummage sale this spring and summer?
Rummage sales would fall under requirements for retail business. Those organizing the rummage sale would need to adhere to the current COVID-19 Preparedness Plan Guidance: Requirements for Retail Businesses, which includes having a COVID-19 preparedness plan.
Recently I heard that the Minnesota Governor said that employers with office employees can return to their workplace rather than work from home. Is that true?
Beginning April 15, 2021, the State of Minnesota's position on working from home changed slightly from "employees who can work from home, must work from home" to "employers are strongly encouraged to allow employees who can work from home to continue to work from home".
Employers are strongly encouraged to implement reasonable accommodations for employees:
- Considered "at-risk"
- With one or more members of their household who have underlying medical conditions.
- Who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination.
Those employees that do work in the office will be allowed to do so under the following conditions:
- That a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan be in place.
- That the MN Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and OSHA standards be in place.
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 continues to encourage all parishes, schools and related entities to review, update and utilize this template as employees move towards being in the office on a regular basis. It is encouraged that the return of employees to the workplace be done incrementally, while continuing to allow as many employees as possible to work from home (telework).
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.
April 13, 2020
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 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.