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Local parishes make changes for flu prevention

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“God bless you.”

This phrase is uttered many times for people with allergies or a common cold. It echoes through churches, as well.

But if it is more than just a cold, there are things you can do to keep your fellow churchgoers healthy.

This flu season has been hard and churches around the country are taking precautions.

Father Paul F. deLadurantaye, secretary for religious education and for the liturgy, sent a memorandum to diocesan priests with suggestions of what should be done to minimize the transmission of contagious illnesses. The memo references the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship.

“First, with regard to the distribution of holy Communion in general, priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion should be especially reminded of the need to practice good hygiene. Ministers of holy Communion should always wash their hands before Mass begins; a further precaution suggests using an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution [a hand sanitzer] before and after distributing Holy Communion.”

If parishes distribute holy Communion under both species, the committee notes “the faithful should be instructed not to receive from the chalice if they feel ill. Pastors may also decide to offer the Eucharist only under the form of the consecrated host during flu season, including the use of low-glute (not gluten-free) hosts for those persons with Celiac-Sprue disease or similar gluten allergies.”

The memo further states that parishioners may be advised to substitute a bow or other appropriate gesture in place of a handshake at the sign of peace, and pastors are urged to inform their parishioners they are not obligated to attend Mass if they have the flu or a severe cold.

Father deLadurantaye said priests need to be prudent and everyone needs to use good judgment. 

St. Philip Church in Falls Church has asked people not to shake hands during the sign of peace.

“We also have installed a Purell Hand Sanitizer dispenser for the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion to use before they begin distributing communion,” said Father Denis M. Donahue, pastor.

St. Mark Church in Vienna places an announcement in their bulletin each cold and flu season. It reads: “Please use common sense if you are sick. If you do come to church while sick with a cold or sore throat, please be considerate of others and refrain from Communion from the cup. Yes, the alcohol content and vigorous wiping with purificator does kill most germs, but it is probably better not to tempt fate.”

Holy Family Church in Dale City will offer Communion only under one species, and cautions the parishioners about the sign of peace. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018