Bishop Duca calls for continued diligence on COVID mitigation

Staff Report

Bishop Michael Duca of the Diocese of Baton Rouge called upon those in the Catholic faith throughout the area to remain diligent on COVID mitigation as the pandemic enters its first full year.

Bishop Michael Duca of the Diocese of Baton Rouge

In a letter he released during the weekend, he asked parishioners throughout the Diocese to continue efforts to minimize the spread of COVID.

The Diocese includes the civil parishes of Iberville, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Assumption, Pointe Coupee, East Baton Rouge, St. James, Tangipahoa, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Livingston and St. Helena. It covers 68 churches across the region.

Duca commended parishioners and pastors throughout the Diocese for their adherence thus far to mitigation efforts such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“Your cooperation has proven that our procedures have been successful; few, if any, have been infected from attending Mass (where our procedures have been followed) and there have been no super-spreader events (as far as I know) originating from our liturgical celebrations,” he said.  “The way we attend Mass now is far from ideal but not unprecedented in Church history. Christians of the first century celebrated the Eucharist in underground catacombs fearing for their lives.

“I am proud of how we have worked to protect one another, especially the most vulnerable members of our parishes,” Duca said.

“Despite the strong adherence to the mitigation efforts, the ongoing surge necessitates a stronger effort than ever before, he said.

the virus is surging and, if you are like me, you feel that it is all around you, with friends and family being infected, some even dying from the disease,” Duca said. “In the past few weeks several of our priests have been infected and others have been exposed directly sending our priests into quarantine for two weeks and unavailable for sacramental ministry. 

“I believe that the present surge of the virus demands that now, more than ever, we need to follow all the recommended practices in order to diminish not only its spread but, more importantly, to lower the number of deaths that have resulted from COVID-19,” he said.

Duca said he has asked for priests to continue the Diocesan safety guidelines for two more months.

The guidelines include wearing masks, and observing physical distancing at all times, and at all Church liturgical and social events.

“I have also asked that our priests personally avoid social events where masks are not worn to protect their health, so they are available to their parishioners to celebrate the Sacraments and provide needed pastoral care,” Duca said.

He also encouraged parishioners to give strong consideration to taking either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which he hailed as “justifiable and morally acceptable ways to end the pandemic.”

“Being vaccinated should be considered as an act of charity toward others in our communities.  I encourage all of the faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge to take this moral evaluation to heart as you make your decision to receive the coronavirus vaccinations as they become available,” Duca said.

He called for continued patience with mitigation rules as COVID fatigue becomes a bigger part of the challenge moving ahead.

“All the restrictions and rules we have in place as a Church are simply imposed to stop the spread of this virus that has the potential to kill,” Duca said. “I know these guidelines demand that we make personal sacrifices, but real love demands sacrifice.”