Recently, the health and safety conditions in our diocesan community have shifted. The spread of the COVID-19 virus is a moment for Catholics to rely more deeply on their faith, deepen our prayer life and find ways to show loving kindness towards our neighbors. Offering special prayers of intercession for the healing of those infected, for the protection of the elderly and infirm who are at greatest risk, for the prevention of the disease’s spread, and for the courage and strength of care providers who minister to the sick, their families and those most in need, should become part of our daily prayer offerings. As your bishop, know that I am just as concerned about the health of our priests, especially those who are over the age of 60 and most at risk. There are sobering reports from Italy about priests’ virus-related deaths and hospitalizations.
Therefore, based on current guidelines from civic leaders and public health officials, I, as bishop of Lafayette-in-Indiana, together with all the bishops of the Province of Indianapolis, have mandated the suspension of all public celebrations of the Mass, other liturgical services and gatherings of the faithful effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 and until further notice. Of course, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass from March 13, 2020 continues until further notice. It is not a permanent dispensation.
The following decisions and directives have been formulated with local and statewide consultation. As a bishop, it hurts my heart to limit access to our churches and to the Divine Liturgy. I am in a position to make decisions that others cannot or will not, so I ask your prayers for the yet unforeseen challenges that we face in slowing down the contagion.
Today’s Mass reading from Daniel 3:25, 34-43 seems appropriate. “Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud.” We are there with him in some way, so let’s make his prayer our own. And let us commend each other to God’s daily protection and strength.
Bishop Timothy Doherty
The following linked document includes directives for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana going forward. These are effective 12:01am EST, March 18, 2020 (this means no public Masses on Wednesday, March 18)