Iowa’s bishops encourage mask wearing

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Father Bernie Weir, left, greets mask-wearing parishioners at St. James Parish in Washington in June. Iowa’s bishops are encouraging Catholics throughout the state to wear their masks.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Iowa’s bishops encourage Catholics throughout the state to wear their masks. The four recorded a video at https://youtu.be/ejeeBoNdIxY that addresses the celebration of faith and keeping everyone healthy.

Bishop Thomas Zinkula of the Diocese of Davenport begins the video saying the decision in all four Iowa dioceses to suspend Mass in person (in March) was not an easy one. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The good news is that across the state, we are back to celebrating public Masses once again — but in a little different way for now. We encourage you to begin attending Mass.”

For those feeling safe to attend Mass in person, Bishop Zinkula says to do so with social distancing, not spiritual distancing. “And one more thing —remember to wear your mask.”

Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Diocese of Sioux City said when churches were closed the bishops had to look for new opportunities for prayer, spiritual growth and comfort. “The COVID-19 situation has given us an opportunity to be more intentional about the practice of our faith.” Even though churches are now open, he said, “We shouldn’t give up looking for new opportunities to invite others to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.” He encourages Catholics to foster growth in their faith in the Lord and to find ways to help support the Catholic community. “And one more thing. Wear your mask.”

Bishop William Joensen of the Diocese of Des Moines said the pandemic “upended our lives” and led to various opportunities for shared presence and celebration, compulsory staycations and familiar forms of faith participation. He said live-streaming Masses, Zoom video conferencing and FaceTime encounters with loved ones are far from satisfying. The spirit of the risen Jesus seeks us out where we are.

He said, “Our ultimate respect is for the authority of God, the Lord of the living.” Mitigation measures and practices in churches, wearing clean face coverings, social distancing and thorough cleaning “reflect our awareness that there are both sacred and human friendly spaces.” “Might I add,” he said, “when you’re out and about, wear your mask.”

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Archbishop Michael Jackels of the Archdiocese of Dubuque said, “There are smart people on both sides of wearing a mask. So how do we know what is right? I would recommend asking the following questions. ‘Am I acting for the common good, focusing on we, you and ours and not on I, me and mine?’ ‘Am I inspired by the readiness to serve, sacrifice, even suffer in order to benefit others?’ No one likes to wear a mask. It involves suffering — they are hot. They make your nose run. It’s hard to hear what the mask wearer is saying. And no one can see how good looking you are,” he said, in good humor. “But this is a suffering that comes from the cross that Jesus asks us to shoulder.” The archbishop said, “We wear masks to protect others from sickness and for health professionals from being overwhelmed. We wear a mask to enable schools and the workforce to do their thing.”

He advised people to stay home if sick, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into your elbow, wear a mask, and keep a six-foot distance from others. Receive Eucharist in the hand and do not exchange the sign of peace. “Thank you for doing your part in the name of Jesus. Amen.”


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