Public Masses suspended, schools closed due to COVID-19 pandemic, but ‘we remain united in Christ’
By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
MOBILE — While public Masses were suspended and schools were closed in the Archdiocese of Mobile and countless ministries impacted, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi asked all to pray during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Prayer is powerful and I request that we pray even more fervently during these challenging days,” Archbishop Rodi said.
The Archdiocese of Mobile closed its schools at 3 p.m. March 16 and they are closed until at least April 3. About 24 hours later on March 17, Archbishop Rodi announced that public Masses were suspended beginning March 18 through at least April 5, Palm Sunday.
Other steps were announced to protect faithful, but it’s generally believed to be the first time that public Masses have needed to be suspended since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.
“Although we will not gather for worship, we remain united in Christ,” Archbishop Rodi said.
Churches have not been closed and Archbishop Rodi requested they remain open for private prayer. Confessions have also continued, but with specific guidelines to protect the safety of priest and penitent.
The Archdiocese of Mobile, which comprises of about 85,000 Catholics in the southern half of Alabama, was far from alone in suspending public Masses and ministries. The other dioceses of the Province of Mobile – the Dioceses of Birmingham, Biloxi, Miss., and Jackson, Miss., also suspended public Masses.
Most dioceses across the U.S. and many across the world have suspended public Masses.
As of March 24, Alabama reported 217 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“We’re praying that we be spared the ravages of this pandemic that has affected other people in other places so much greater than we have experienced so far,” Archbishop Rodi said on March 17. “(We should) pray, (we should) be concerned about neighbor. Use common sense and follow the advice from civil authorities.”
As of press time, public Masses have not been suspended for Easter, April 12.
“We’re monitoring events and the advice we get from our civil authorities,” Archbishop Rodi said. “Things are changing so quickly.”
In order to try and provide the public a Mass, many priests went online.
Archbishop Rodi has been broadcasting a Mass at 8 a.m. daily on the Archdiocese of Mobile’s website, mobarch.org.
Others have used similar means, including live-streaming on social media channels such as Facebook.
Catholic schools have also used online resources to continue teaching students. Archdiocese of Mobile Catholic Schools began implementing “distance learning.”
While each school implement its own plan, distance learning encompasses various forms of technology to coordinate teacher-student connection.
It’s not ideal and Archdiocese of Mobile Superintendent Gwen Byrd and Archbishop Rodi acknowledged the “challenging times” in a joint statement.
“We ask that everyone support our schools, principals, faculties, students and their families during these trying times,” the March 13 statement said. “Working with our community and each other, through prayer and sacrifice we know that we will soon return to a stable and healthy school environment. Let us pray for the recovery and health of all those who have been or who will be diagnosed with (COVID-19).”