Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie General Decree Concerning the State of Emergency in Ontario
The government of the province of Ontario has declared a state of emergency and issued a special “Stay-At-Home Order”. This will last until at least February 11, 2021.
The stay at home order does allow for weddings, funerals and other religious services to take place, albeit under important restrictions. It is for each religious tradition to interpret these rules in a way that respects their customs but also the public good.
I have consulted with the three regional public health authorities regarding this government directive. The spirit of the stay at home order is quite straightforward: when at all possible,
stay at home , for the protection of the public. Simply put, it means what it says. There are
exceptions and special cases present in the rule, but they are not meant to contradict the
I have also consulted with the priests of our College of Consultors, the chairs of our pastoral regions, and with the bishops of the neighbouring dioceses (including all of those in northern Ontario).
Based on all the information obtained from these consultations, and considering the particular needs of our diocesan community, I have arrived at the following decisions.
1. All services of the Mass in all the churches of the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie are closed to the public until February 11, unless new government directives allow for an easing of the stay at home order and related restrictions.
2. While the Masses may be closed to the public, we do not want the people to feel cut off from their particular community of faith. The priests are therefore still encouraged to celebrate masses for broadcast from within their churches, whether online or via FM radio. They may be assisted by a small team of people in the organization of the broadcast mass, as long as the total number of those present remains below 10 and all other health protocols are respected. Assuming the parish has an FM broadcast system, people are allowed to assist at mass in their cars in the church parking lot.
3. With regards to Mass intentions, all pastors of parishes still have the obligation to celebrate the pro populo mass on Sunday. For all other Masses with a scheduled Mass intention, the person who requested the mass should be contacted to see if they would prefer to reschedule the Mass for that intention. If the person cannot be contacted, or they wish to continue to have it on that day (for example, because it is a special anniversary of the death of a loved one) the Mass should still be celebrated, albeit privately.
4. With regard to other worship services: celebrations of baptism, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, viaticum, marriage (outside of mass), blessings, and funeral services (outside of mass) are still permitted, provided that the limit of 10 people is respected along with all other health protocols.
5. For the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, additional instructions will be forthcoming.
6. The pastoral care of the people of our diocese must continue despite the stay at home order. Parishes are exhorted to continue to provide, via telephone or online means, services such as pastoral counselling, catechism, times of fellowship and faith sharing, pastoral visits and outreach, opportunities to pray together, and so on. Parishes are also exhorted to examine their means of communicating with their parishioners (phone lists, email lists, web
sites) and make sure they are maintained and efficient.
7. Any questions regarding the implementation of this decree, or requests for dispensations from it, may be sent to the Chancellor of the diocese, Father Jean Vézina, who will refer them to the diocesan bishop and his team.
8. This decree takes effect on January 16, 2021. Its official version will be published on the diocesan website for easy reference. It will be reviewed regularly as the public health situation evolves, such that modifications may occur, possibly even often. People are encouraged to check back for the latest version.
Given at Sudbury, the seat of the diocesan curia, the 14th day of January, 2021.
+Thomas Dowd, Diocesan bishop / évêque diocésain
Jean Vézina, Chancellor / chancelier