The number of priests with COVID-19 in the archdiocese is the highest it’s been since the pandemic began, said Father Michael Tix, episcopal vicar for Clergy and Parish Services for the archdiocese. It has impacted priests in their 20s to their 80s, he said. Some are mild cases, even asymptomatic, he said, but one priest was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
So far, parish Masses have been covered by other priests with no disruption to people in the pews, Father Tix said. But if cases continue to climb and it becomes harder to find available priests, parishioners expecting Mass on a Saturday night or Sunday might find a Communion service instead, he said.
“Priests have been incredibly generous in covering for one another,” Father Tix said. But “without a lot of people on the bench, then the likelihood becomes more possible that we may not be able to cover all Masses.”
One priest who contracted and then recovered from COVID-19, Father Thomas McCabe, parochial administrator of Holy Trinity in Goodhue, said he fell ill enough Oct. 25 to drive at 11 p.m. to the emergency room in Red Wing.
“People were so patient and generous,” he said. “I was overwhelmed with soups and other food.”
Even before he was diagnosed with COVID-19, he took a precautionary 10 days in mid-September, believing he might have contracted the virus. A deacon presided at a wedding in his absence, he said.
Father McCabe, 56, serves about 100 families at Holy Trinity. He also serves at the parish’s two other worship sites, ministering to about 100 families at St. Columbkill in Belle Creek and about 82 families at St. Mary’s in Bellechester.
Father McCabe said he called about 10 of his brother priests for assistance and they responded “very generously.” No weekend Masses were interrupted at the three churches, but some weekday Masses had to be canceled.
Many parishes have a list of “go-to priests,” Father Tix said, and an archdiocesan staff member developed a centralized email system to help parishes find priests. But with numbers of COVID cases rising, parishioners need to understand that they may not be walking into a Mass at the usual time, he said.