As you know, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has issued a Shelter in Place order for our state. We have reviewed the order and believe our current method of operating the chancery is in compliance with this order.
To review our current operating procedures: all employees are encouraged to work remotely. Essential staff who must report to the office should stagger their presence so they can remain isolated while they work. Facilities is taking extra care to clean and sanitize surfaces in the building and is taking care of delivering packages and mail.
I would like to note that we will still observe the days off scheduled for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Monday. I know everyone has been working hard and adjusting to new schedules and work environments. I ask that you also take time to observe Holy Week, to rest and to pray. Please be sure to put an automatic reply on your email so people will know you are not working on those days.
Earlier today, I sent a memo to our parishes with new directives for them to follow for the duration of this order. Since many of you will get questions about it, a copy of the memo appears below.
As you know, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has issued a shelter-in-place order for our state. While it is regrettable that this order will be in place for Holy Week, we feel it is imperative to protect our congregations and be good citizens during this time of crisis. This memo attempts to address the many questions we have received since Wednesday. Please know my office is available should you have an individual concern or particular situation you need addressed.
At this time, we cannot open churches for prayer or adoration and be in compliance with the mandate to shelter in place. We are looking into ways to comply with the shelter-in-place order that would allow us to reopen our churches on a limited basis, including guidelines on who would have the task of enforcing regulations and sanitizing facilities, but any activity that would encourage people to leave their homes between now and Monday, April 13 (the duration of Governor Kemp’s order), would be unwise.
If your parish is offering Mass or devotions via social media or some kind of streaming service, you can continue to do so, provided you use only the minimum number of people needed to accomplish it and you maintain social distancing. Look for a memo from the Office of Communications asking about what online services you are offering so we can help promote opportunities for the faithful to stay connected.
The governor’s order does allow for minimal business operations so essential staff who keep the parish operating can continue to work in your offices if the following conditions are met. First, you must provide a safe environment including a sanitized workspace where they can remain six feet apart. Second, only ten or fewer people may be in the building at any one time. If possible, staff should be working from their homes.
The order specifically states that funerals should include fewer than ten people. Weddings and Baptisms should be postponed if at all possible, but pastoral discretion will need to be exercised in both cases. In no instance should more than ten persons be gathered.
As to the sacrament of reconciliation, please see the attached instruction regarding provisions from the Holy See.
Anointing of the sick should be carried out according to necessary pastoral practice, adhering to the directives from the CDC relative to symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.
Drive-through sacraments or devotions should be suspended until this order is lifted. We should refrain from encouraging people for the present moment to leave home to come to such Church-sponsored activities.
Palms should not be blessed or distributed at this time. If you have already ordered palms, you can spread them out in a sunny spot so they dry out rather than rot, but we cannot risk the potential for infection that this kind of distribution may cause.
PSR and Faith Formation
The suspension of in-person Parish School of Religion and faith formation opportunities should extend to the end of the shelter-in-place order. We do appreciate your many efforts to continue to offer online opportunities to your parish. The Office of Faith Formation is offering additional resources, including a weekly conference call, to support these activities. You can see details hereunder the At-Home Faith Formation tab.
Works of Mercy
Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul and many other charitable entities continue to serve people in need. Please encourage your faithful to continue to support your parish as well as these organizations with donations. Non-profits are working with civil authorities to work safely during this time.
Expression of gratitude
Once more, I am grateful for your pastoral services rendered in a thousand forms and not in the customary manner. Bishop Ned and I are thankful for your cooperation and daily pray for the spiritual and physical health of our clergy religious and faithful throughout the archdiocese.
The word quarantine refers to a confinement of 40 days. Aware of this connection to our current circumstances, I hope that the 40 days of Lent provide you with ample opportunities to minister the renewal and blessings attendant to the holy season of Lent.