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Diocese of Gaylord's Response to COVID-19

Michigan Bishops Release Joint Statement on COVID-19 Vaccine (12-18-20)

Today, Michigan’s bishops released a joint statement addressing moral considerations associated with the COVID-19 vaccine. This statement can be found below and on the Michigan Catholic Conference website.


December 18, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Peace be with you!

In these Advent days of preparation for the coming of our Lord, we hope and pray that the Prince of Peace may console you and draw you to himself. Over this past year the struggles with the global COVID-19 pandemic have weighed heavily on our hearts, yet our Lord has been with us to deepen our faith and trust in him. Know of our prayers for you and for all health care workers who are so diligently caring for those who are ill.

As vaccines for COVID-19 are now becoming available, we wish to address the moral questions that have arisen, insofar as some vaccines are developed using cells lines that have originated from the tissue taken from babies who were aborted decades ago.1 Abortion is a grave evil, and we must avoid complicity in abortion. Let us also pray for God’s peace, healing, and mercy for all those who have had abortions.

At the time of this writing, the Food and Drug Administration has given approval for the emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer. Two other vaccines, one developed by Moderna and the other developed by AstraZeneca, might also gain FDA approval.2

It is morally permissible to receive the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. Neither of these vaccines have used cell lines originating in tissue taken from aborted babies in their design, development, and production. However, both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine did use such a cell line in the confirmatory testing. This connection to the abortion is very remote, however, and it is important to keep in mind that there are varying levels of responsibility. Greater moral responsibility lies with the researchers than with those who receive the vaccine. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has indicated that it is morally permissible to be vaccinated if there are no alternatives and there are serious health risks.3 Such serious health risks are present due to the current pandemic.

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca is more morally problematic, however. It did utilize in the design, production, development, and confirmatory testing a cell line that originated from tissue taken from an aborted baby. This vaccine may be received only if there are no other alternatives. If one does not have a choice of vaccine and a delay in immunization may bring about serious consequences for one’s health and the health of others, it would be permissible to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine. It is somewhat similar in production to the Rubella vaccine, which the Pontifical Academy of Life indicated could be received for grave reasons and if there are no other alternatives.4

If one were to choose not to be vaccinated, one would have a moral responsibility to embrace the necessary precautions to avoid spreading the disease to others.

At this same time, we join our voices to call for the development of vaccines that have no connection to abortion. Our consciences must not be dulled, nor may we imply in any way that abortion is acceptable.

Let us implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that God may bring an end to the pandemic and that all esteem and respect the dignity of human life.


Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit

Most Reverend Earl A. Boyea
Bishop of Lansing

Most Reverend Paul J. Bradley
Bishop of Kalamazoo

Most Reverend John F. Doerfler
Bishop of Marquette

Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss
Bishop of Saginaw

Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley
Apostolic Administrator, Diocese of Gaylord

Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak
Bishop of Grand Rapids



1. For more on the morality of COVID-19 vaccines, see the joint statement of the chairmen of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and Pro-Life Activities on which our statement is based.
2. For more information about specific vaccines being developed for COVID-19 see this reference chart from the Charlotte Lozier Institute
3. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Certain Bioethical Questions (Dignitas Personae) (2008), nos. 35–36
4. Pontifical Academy for Life, “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses,” (9 June 2005) in National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 6:3 (2006): 541–49




Extension of COVID-19 Protocols through Dec 20 (12-8-20)

Yesterday’s December 7 Emergency Order, issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, has extended the protocols outlined in the previous Nov. 15 Emergency Order. This extension is now in effect through December 20, 2020.

To review the protocols that will continue to be in place in our parishes and schools through December 20, please see below.



Updated Guidelines for Regarding Nov 15 Emergency Order (11-17-20)

DATE:             November 17, 2020

TO:                  Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians, Diocesan Staff

FROM:            Karina Bak, Director of Human Resources, Beth Hicks, Director for Worship and Liturgical Formation

RE:                  Updated Guidelines for Regarding MDHHS Emergency Order MCL 333.2253  

On November 15, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services issued an updated Emergency Order that impacts all regions in Michigan. The following updates are effective November 18 through December 8:

Liturgical Gatherings 

Further guidance for liturgical gatherings will be forthcoming, however the current protocols for all liturgies remain in place, particularly the requirements for all to wear a mask; social distancing; proper sanitization of the parish; and capacity must not exceed the number of persons that can safely be accommodated while maintaining social distancing. Of note, Funeral Masses in our parish churches may also continue to take place in the same manner, so long as the protocols for liturgical celebrations remain in place.


Our diocesan Office of Catholic Schools published guidelines which can be found on the diocesan website. In summary: preschool, elementary and middle school classes will continue in-person, and High School classes will transition to virtual learning November 18 through December 8. Extracurriculars and school-sponsored sports for all grade levels are immediately suspended, and there will be no athletic practices or competitions until the order expires. After School Care will continue to be offered while school is in session.

Faith Formation

Faith Formation in our parishes should continue to follow our diocesan school guidelines. With this in mind, preschool, elementary and middle school Faith Formation will continue in-person. Adult classes and High School classes and activities (youth group, etc.) will take place online beginning November 18. Fr. Nicholas Cooper, Interim Director of Faith Formation, will be sending an additional message to Faith Formation leaders in this regard.

Non-Liturgical Gatherings 

With the exception of parish Faith Formation, indoor gatherings are not permitted during this time. These indoor gatherings would include meetings (parish and outside groups); fundraisers, such as craft shows; fellowship and meals; or use of the parish hall for family reunions, etc. Outdoor gatherings are permitted with capacity limitations, which can be found on the MDHHS website.

If you have any questions, please contact: 

Karina Bak at or 989-705-3511 / 989-619-8468 
Beth Hicks at or 989-705-3519 / 989-619-8553



Updated Guidelines for Faith Formation (11-17-20)

November 17, 2020

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Dear Directors of Religious Education, Catechists and Youth Group Leaders: 

First, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for your steadfastness in teaching our students in the faith of Jesus Christ. What you do on a daily basis is one of the greatest missions of Holy Mother Church. You are helping to educate the next generation in an era of uncertainty. During the past several months, I have been reminded of the early church as they left Jerusalem tovarious parts of the Earth. Christ ascended to the Father, and he left his church in the care of twelve men. The apostles went out into the world with an encounter with the Risen Lord. They had none of the writing of Sts. Peter, Paul, Clement, or Augustine, nor did they have the Catechism of the Catholic Church — they had an encounter with the Risen Lord, and they went off evangelizing. We have more resources available through various mediums than they could have ever imagined. I have talked with various directors from around the diocese, and I am utterly amazed at your dedication to our students through this entire pandemic. Keep going strong, we need you … the priests need you, Christ needs you! 

Second, with the Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services updated Emergency Order, issued on Sunday, November 15, I would like to address Faith Formation policies for the diocese. All Faith Formation policies are to follow the school guidelines published through the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. Applicable to Faith Formation, a summary includes:

  • Preschool, elementary, and middle school Faith Formation classes will continue in-person. With this in mind, the following guidelines must continue to be put in place for in-person faith formation for these students:
    • All volunteers should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms are present, they should not attend in person. 
    • Parents should monitor their children for symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms are present, children should notattend in person. 
    • Drop-off and pick-up procedures need to be established in order to maintain social distancing.
    • Each student needs to provide his/her own supplies. The parish should help those parents who cannot provide these supplies for their children.
    • Social distancing (maintaining six feet) must be observed while having in-person classes.
    • Masks must be worn. Parishes must provide masks for those who do not have one. 
    • Hand sanitizer must be provided.
    • All surfaces must be sanitized after every class.  
  • High School Faith Formation classes will take place online beginning November 18. High school youth group meetings and other gatherings should also be held virtually beginning on Wednesday. 
  • Adult Faith Formation classes will take place online beginning November 18.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me; I am more than happy to help in any way that I can. You are all an inspiration. Please pray for me and I will pray for you all. 

In Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 


Rev. Nicholas J. Cooper

Interim Director of Faith Formation / 989-705-3570




Extending the Dispensation: "Sperabamus ... we used to hope ..." (11-9-20)

November 9, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In early March, and again in August, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation was granted in the Diocese of Gaylord in view of the pandemic that engulfed our state, country and world. The latter extension expires November 22, 2020. We had hoped that by that time, things would return to normal and all could safely return to our celebrations of the Eucharist.

Sadly, that hope is not being realized, and we continue to find ourselves not in a diminishment of cases, but in an increase here in Michigan and our own area. People continue to be at risk. Some are fearful, and many for good reason. While most of our churches have observed the required protocols for safety, such as wearing masks, not all have done so, placing others at risk. If safe distancing is maintained in the diocese, many of our churches would be unable to accommodate all. 

Considering these and other factors, I am extending the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation for the people in the Diocese of Gaylord until further notice. I do so that anyone who needs to stay at home to protect the common good, themselves and others can do so in good conscience. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the situation and make a determination when we can safely return to our “normal” patterns of worship. A day we all look forward to.

The granting of this dispensation is not meant to be a reason to absent oneself from Mass. Without a dispensation, many would be excused from this obligation because of age, health or other family situations or issues. Conscience will always need to be our guide. If you are able to do so, I invite you to come back to the parish celebrations. Whether we are able to attend or not, we all have a serious obligation to “Keep holy the sabbath day.” If you are not able to attend Mass, I ask that you set aside time for prayer, not only everyday but especially on Sunday. While not a substitute for Mass attendance, the various “virtual Masses” can be useful in focusing our prayer and our union with all our brothers and sisters. The recitation of the rosary, other devotions, visits to the Blessed Sacrament at the church or chapel, and Scripture or other reading can all be helpful.

As we continue through these difficult and challenging times, let us always be mindful the Lord is walking with us and speaks to tell us, “Do not be afraid.” Let us also commend ourselves and our local church to the love and care of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patroness of our diocese. 

Sperabamus … we used to hope … and now we do, because God has come and made His dwelling with us.  

Sincerely yours in Christ,


+Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

Apostolic Administrator



COVID-19 Update (10-30-20)

October 30, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I thank you for your sustained concern for the well-being of all who enter our churches during this pandemic, which has continued far beyond what anyone could have anticipated, and I suspect will continue for the near foreseeable future. You continue to make great sacrifices and remain flexible with the ever-changing situation, and I am grateful. 

Out of charity for one another, we must not slow down in our safety practices or become weary with these measures, as out of the ordinary as they may be. With Advent and Christmas approaching, it is critical that we remain diligent in safeguarding those in our parishes to the extent that we are able. 

I understand that you may have questions regarding Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services Epidemic Order, issued yesterday (Oct. 29), and that questions continue to surface regarding the proper procedures in the event of a positive test result or possible exposure within your parish or parish staff. The enclosures [below] are meant to assist you with these questions as you continue to navigate the daily operation of your parish. 

Additionally, further information will be forthcoming next week regarding any changes to the protocols for our worship and liturgy; our Advent and Christmas liturgical celebrations; and the possible extension of the general dispensation. Please “stay tuned” for such an update in the near future. 

While it is possible to feel weighed down with such safety considerations, I find it helpful to remember that physical health and spiritual vitality are both of great consequence. I remain grateful for your concern for the physical well-being of your people, as well as the matters of eternal significance. It is my hope that we can keep everyone safe, and at the same time, continue to prioritize their spiritual care and direction during these times when it is needed most. 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

Apostolic Administrator



DATE:       October 30, 2020

TO:            Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians, Diocesan Staff

FROM:      Karina Bak, Director of Human Resources

RE:          Updated Guidelines for Non-Liturgical Parish Activities

On Thursday, October 29, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services issued an updated Epidemic Order that impacts all regions in the State of Michigan. The following updates to our earlier guidelines for non-liturgical parish activities (Oct. 1) are effective immediately. These modifications to earlier guidelines can be found in red text for quick reference: 

1.  Social distancing (six feet) must be practiced. 

2.  Facial coverings are required to be worn by all. If masks are not worn, these parish activities should not take place.

3.  Regular venue sanitization protocols must be continued.

4.  The following indoor capacity restrictions must be maintained in all parishes in the diocese:

  • Indoor events of fewer than 500:
    • In venues with fixed seating, limit attendance to 20% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, no more than 50 people should be gathered and attendance is limited to 20 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of each room within the venue space. 
  •  Indoor events of 500 or more are not permitted.
  • Only six people are permitted at each table for indoor gatherings.

5. The following outdoor capacity restrictions must be maintained in all parishes in the diocese: 

  • Outdoor events of fewer than 1,000:
    • In a venue with fixed seating, limit attendance to 30% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to no more than 30 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of any distinct area within the event space.
  • Outdoor events of more than 1,000 are not permitted. 

6.  Contact tracing must be achievable with any non-liturgical parish gathering, and it is strongly encouraged that parishes do not allow gatherings of outside groups in their spaces at this time. (Considering the anonymous nature of certain groups, parishes are responsible for ensuring that contact tracing can take place if these meetings must be held.) 

If you have any questions, please contact me at or 989-705-3511 / 989-619-8468.



DATE:       October 30, 2020

TO:            Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians, Diocesan Staff

FROM:      Karina Bak, Director of Human Resources; Beth Hicks, Director for Worship and Liturgical Formation

RE:          COVID-19 Procedures if a Parish Staff Member Tests Positive or has Potential Exposure

To assist parish staffs in the event of a positive COVID-19 test result within the staff (including the pastor) or in the event that a staff person is quaranting due to potential exposure, the following guidelines are provided to aid in the facilitation of safe management of the situation:

  1. If you have been in close contact* with someone who has tested positive: You should self-quarantine away from others for 14 days since the last day you had contact with that person. Your employer should contact you with further instructions. It is possible that your local health department will call you to discuss your risk; you can also reach out to your local health department. If you develop symptoms of respiratory illness, and are concerned about your health, please call your healthcare provider. *Close contact is currently defined as being within 6 feet, for cumulative 15 minutes, over a 24 hour period.
  2. If your coworker (or someone you have had close contact with) is quaranting because of their possible exposure: You should monitor yourself for symptoms of respiratory illness and remember to practice good social distancing, but quarantine is not required. You should follow any instructions from your employer carefully. If you develop any symptoms, you should self-isolate at home and contact a healthcare provider if you are concerned about your health. Remember to follow appropriate precautions for cleaning your work area, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  3. Parishes must perform enhanced cleaning of all areas after learning that someone has tested positive and has been in the space. 
  4. Masses may continue to be held if a substitute priest is available and there is someone available to assist with all the necessary set-up before and clean-up after Mass.
  5. Provide a general (no names, no specifics) communication to the parish if someone tests positive and has been in the space. This helps with rumor control and misinformation.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Karina Bak at or 989-705-3511 / 989-619-8468 
Beth Hicks at or 989-705-3519 / 989-619-8553



Modifications to COVID-19 Protocols for Liturgical Celebrations (10-13-20)

DATE: October 13, 2020

TO: Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians

FROM: Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

RE: Modifications to COVID-19 Protocols for Liturgical Celebrations

In these challenging times, we are committed to keeping our people safe and at the same time maintaining the best (near normal) liturgical practices that are possible under these circumstances. We have had several months with certain protocols in place; I want to thank the parishes that have taken these protocols and observed them carefully and seriously. I must admit that I find it troublesome that some very small number refuse to wear masks and place everyone at risk. I know that some of the parishes have been very strict on the issue of wearing masks, and I commend you for your care and concern for all the people. 

Effective immediately, you may begin to make the following modifications to parish liturgical protocols. 

CAPACITY: With the winter months coming up, where it is possible to do so, our pastors are allowed to admit the number they can safely accommodate while maintaining the required sanitizing; social distancing (six feet minimum); and the required use of face masks. This number is determined by the seating capacity of the church and is no longer limited to the previous 25% capacity. Due to church size, this means that there will continue to be occupancy restrictions in some parishes. This modification presumes high touch surfaces are being disinfected after each liturgy and that hand sanitizers are available and used by all.

MUSIC: The absence of music has been a burden for many, and we are making these modifications to the present protocols to gradually resume our normal liturgical practices. Effective immediately — with the continued expectation that all in the congregation will wear a face covering — the proper parts of the Mass may be sung by all: Psalm response; Alleluia Verse; the Holy Holy; Eucharistic Acclamation; and Lamb of God. 

The Gloria, Creed and Our Father should not be sung. A cantor or other singer may sing a hymn or special music at other places in the liturgy. 

COMMUNION DISTRIBUTION: As much as possible, we should return to the usual practice of people coming forward to receive Communion (observing social distancing of at least six feet). Markings can be placed on the floor as needed. This practice is already used in many parishes in the diocese. Some parishes will be limited by narrow aisles and pew layout. Only where this is the case and social distancing cannot be maintained should the ministers go between the pews to distribute the Eucharist. The practice of distributing Communion after Mass and as people are leaving the church should be discontinued and returned to its proper place within the liturgy.

THE PRESENTATION OF GIFTS: The presentation of wine and hosts may resume during the Offertory. The members of the assembly who will present the gifts are to be wearing masks and must sanitize their hands before picking up the vessels and after presenting them. 

MASS SERVERS: Using appropriate safety measures, hand sanitizers and masks in procession, a limited use of Mass servers is permitted. They should not hold the Missal for the Collect or Prayer after Communion (a stand for the Missal or Excerpts from the Roman Missal can be placed in front of the presider’s chair). They may assist by carrying the cross and candles in the entrance procession and recessional. They may assist in setting the altar with proper sanitizing of hands. They may participate in a simple Gospel procession with candles.

An entrance procession and recession to greet people can be resumed with the required masks for priest, etc. in these processions. 

AFTER MASS: People should be asked to exit row by row to the degree that is possible to keep the appropriate social distancing requirements and not gather after Mass for visiting. 

A caution: As you know, things are constantly changing. In the event of changing circumstances, we remain flexible in the case that we have to return to a more restricted approach again in the future.

It is our hope that these modifications will help to bolster people’s hope and feelings of joy as a worshipping community, and at the same time keep safe. Let us pray for each other and those whose lives have been lost or affected by this virus as we journey though this time of uncertainty.



Guidelines for Non-Liturgical Parish Activities (10-1-20)

With regard to the State of Michigan Executive Order 2020-183, the following guidelines for non-liturgical parish activities will take effect on Friday, October 9, 2020: 

1.  Practice social distancing (six feet).

2.  Require facial coverings to be worn. 

3.  Maintain regular venue sanitization protocols.

4.  Maintain the following indoor capacity restrictions: 

Region 4 (Alcona, Iosco, Ogemaw, and Oscoda counties) 

  • Indoor events of 10 or fewer are permitted.
  • Indoor events of more than 10 but fewer than 500:
    • In venues with fixed seating, limit attendance to 20% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to 20 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of each room within the venue space. 
  • Indoor events of 500 or more are not permitted. 

Region 6 (All remaining counties in the Diocese of Gaylord)

  • Indoor events of 10 or fewer are permitted.
  • Indoor events of more than 10 but fewer than 500:
    • In venues with fixed seating, limit attendance to 25% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to 25 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of each room within the venue space. 
  • Indoor events of 500 or more are not permitted. 

5.  Maintain the following outdoor capacity restrictions: 

  • Outdoor events of 100 people or fewer are permitted.
  • Outdoor events of more than 100 but fewer than 1,000:
    • In a venue with fixed seating, limit attendance to 30% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to no more than 30 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of any distinct area within the event space.
  • Outdoor events of more than 1,000 are not permitted. 

If you have any questions, please contact Karina Bak at or 989-705-3511 / 989-619-8468.



Memo from Bishop Hurley to Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons (8-21-20)

Click below to view Bishop Hurley's Aug 21 memorandum to priests, pastoral administrators, and deacons as a reminder of steps that should be taken if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as corresponding health department information and contacts for each county.



Sunday Mass Dispensation Extended (8-17-20)

For Immediate Release 

August 17, 2020

Sunday Mass Dispensation Extended

GAYLORD, MICHIGAN — Bishop Walter Hurley, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Gaylord, has announced the extension of the dispensation for all Catholics within the Diocese of Gaylord from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass through and including the feast of Christ the King, Sunday, November 22, 2020. The granting of this dispensation is not to discourage those who are able to attend Sunday Mass from doing so, but rather to enable so that anyone who needs to stay at home to protect the common good (their own or that of others) can do so confidently and in good conscience.

The protocols for Mass that have been established during this pandemic for the well-being and safety of all remain in place for parishes within the Diocese of Gaylord, namely: the required use of masks; limited singing; social distancing; cleansing of the churches according to CDC guidelines; as well as a congregation that does not exceed 25% of the capacity of the church. 

“All are asked to carefully observe these protocols because we care for each other and love each other as the Lord has called us to,” said Bishop Hurley. “The celebration of the Eucharist/Sunday Mass should be at the very core of our faith life, and we are all called to keep holy the Lord's day. We must each seek to find time for prayer and spiritual Communion with the Lord, even if we cannot be present for the celebration of Eucharist. 

“Please continue to pray with me for consolation and relief from the pandemic. May we look forward to the First Sunday of Advent, on November 29, with fervent hope that we may be able to return to Mass together at that time.”




Update Regarding Current Executive Orders (7-30-20)

DATE: July 30, 2020

TO: Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians

FROM: Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

RE: Update Regarding Current Executive Orders

With the newest Executive Orders issued from Governor Whitmer yesterday, July 29, revised protocols have been put in place for the maximum number in attendance for indoor gatherings in the state of Michigan. 

Bearing this in mind, I want to clarify the following for parish gatherings:

  • The following indoor parish gatherings are NOT affected by the July 29 Executive Orders and should continue to be celebrated in the same manner: 
    • Masses
    • Weddings
    • Funerals
    • Baptisms
    • Eucharistic Adoration
  • All other indoor gatherings, such as bible studies, council meetings, faith formation classes, etc. are restricted to 10 people in attendance. 

We will keep you informed of additional changes as they become available. Thank you for all that you are doing for your people. Be assured of my prayers and continued support to you in any way I can.




Protocol Reminders from the Office of Worship and Liturgy (7-29-20)

July 29, 2020

As this time of pandemic continues to unfold, we remain attentive to the safety and well-being of all who enter our churches to pray and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We recognize that during this unprecedented season of the Church, all are called to make sacrifices that are uncomfortable and out of the ordinary. We do this in charity for one another, despite the difficulty and challenges it may bring. Bearing this in mind, these reminders are shared to help and assist you and your parish leaders to continue to maintain proper safeguards to protect the health of our assemblies and others whom they will encounter.  These reminders follow the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) through resources prepared by members of the Thomistic Institute of the Dominican House in Washington DC and the Federation of Liturgical Commissions (FDLC).



Wearing a mask is one act of charity we do to protect others. Masks continue to be required for everyone in the Church, except children under the age of five, those with medical conditions and the ministers when in the sanctuary. Members of the assembly who refuse to wear masks should be invited to sit in a designated area. 



Refraining from singing is also to protect those around us. Therefore, we need to ask our assemblies to not sing during Mass to reduce spreading airborne particles (even while wearing masks).

What does this look like during the Mass?

  • The only singing is to be by the musician or cantor, who may sing the Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon. 
  • The Gloria, Psalm responses, Holy Holy, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Lamb of God should all be spoken. The celebrant/presider should also recite the prayers of the Mass. 
  • Instrumental music may be used during the Preparation of the Altar, Communion and Recessional.



When using extraordinary ministers, the last action they should take before being handed the ciborium is to sanitize their hands. The sanitizing must occur after they have received communion and put their masks back in place. 


I recognize how difficult these protocols are, but cannot stress enough the critical task set before us to make sacrifices out of charity for one another. Thank you for your continued efforts and for your leadership to your people. 




New Executive Order Requires Masks in Any Indoor Public Spaces (7-10-20)

DATE: July 10, 2020

TO: Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians

FROM: Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

RE: Requirement to Wear Masks (Face Coverings)




We have received notice that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order this morning that will go into effect on Monday, July 13, 2020.  This executive order requires that individuals wear a face covering when in any indoor public space, and in outdoor public spaces that are not able to accommodate social distancing. I expect that all of our parishes will comply with this requirement and properly instruct your parishioners of this protocol, even though we find it to be difficult. 

To prepare for this, please review today’s Executive Order, which can be found at:

It is important to note that:

  • As has been the practice to date, priests and altar servers may remove their face coverings while in the sanctuary, with the exception of during the distribution of the Eucharist. 
  • Parishioners are required to wear a mask to celebrate Mass, but can remove them temporarily to receive the Eucharist. 
  • The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to certain individuals, including those younger than five years old. The additional specifications for which individuals are not required to wear a face covering can be found in the Executive Order.

Thank you for your continued concern for the care and safety of your people; I know these are difficult times and I am here to support you in every way I can.




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (5-12-20)

May 12, 2020

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the Risen Lord!  The First Letter of St Peter exhorts us: “There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials: but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.” These past few months, I pray, have helped us to realize and cherish our faith, family and friends with even greater intensity. 

It has been two months since we last celebrated public Masses together in our parishes, shrines and chapels across the Diocese of Gaylord. With this public statement I share with you the good news that we are at a stage of beginning to re-open our churches for public celebrations of the Eucharist beginning on Wednesday, May 20. Churches should not open, if they are not ready to do so. Parish opening information should occur through the parish website and on other social media. Each pastor or pastoral administrator, working with their pastoral council, should be sure they have the diocesan directives in place prior to opening for the public to attend Mass. 

As we open up our churches for public Mass, expect that these celebrations will not be exactly what we may be used to or expect. Even though the coronavirus curve is flattening, the pandemic is not over. We must take precautions that will keep our risk as reduced as possible. 

Protocols have been developed through a committee working with the Director of Worship, that have considered expert advice from the medical field and liturgical experts. The protocols are meant to complement the wise guidance of the federal, state and local health agencies for the sake of the common good. Below is a list of some things you can expect when you return to public worship.

  • Expect that you will not see everyone at Mass. In the Diocese of Gaylord, dispensation from your Sunday obligation is extended through Sunday, September 6, 2020. Not all will feel comfortable returning to public worship right away and some people should not return right away, including those over 65 years of age and those in a higher-risk category because of health issues and those who are currently ill. However, if you wish to return to Mass your Sunday obligation may be fulfilled at any Mass during the week.
  • Expect that not all parishioners will be able to attend Mass on a Sunday because of reduced capacity. Churches are not to exceed 25% capacity in order to maintain proper social distancing. It is possible that Masses may be held outside. 
  • Expect to see all people over the age of two wearing masks.
  • Expect that Communion distribution will be different to afford safe distancing between individuals.
  • Expect the music to be led only by the musician and cantor. Or, you may not have any music at all for a while.
  • There will be no hymn books or missals or worship aids in the pews.
  • Expect other directives that may affect your local community and expect differences between parishes. We are striving for unity in our celebrations from parish to parish, not uniformity. What works one way in one parish, might work differently in another. 
  • Expect that each parish may open on a different schedule. We need patience to guide us these next few months.

I ask for and beg your patience as we learn all over again what it means to gather together. This will take some getting used to. I believe it can be done – so that we will be respectful of each other and our desire to resume our public Masses with decorum and dignity.

During this time, let us pray for each other and support each other as we resume our public celebrations. May what we do in these next few weeks as we re-open, as St Peter urges, lead to “praise, glory and honor” when Jesus Christ appears in our midst. “We adore you O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.”

Invoking the prayerful embrace of our Lady of Mt Carmel, the patroness of our diocese, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,


+Most Reverend Steven J Raica

Bishop of Gaylord







Decree for Dispensation during Coronavirus (4-3-20)






Bishop Raica's Video Message for our Diocese (03-24-20)

Bishop's video message of March 24, 2020




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-19-20)




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-13-20)

Decree for Dispensation during Coronavirus




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-05-20)