Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Up to now, we at SV have asked that everyone at Mass continue masking, regardless of vaccination status. In response to changed masking requirements from the Sonoma County Department of Public Health and questions from parishioners, I will address once again our approach to COVID-19 masking here at St. Vincent’s:
1) County masking requirements have changed only for the fully-vaccinated, not the unvaccinated, who by law must continue masking while indoors. We simply do not have the staff, paid or volunteer,to examine vaccination cards at all entrances for more than a dozen Masses per week. If masking depends on vaccination status, privacy of choice will be nearly impossible to maintain.
2) Masking is still required regardless of vaccination status at health care and senior care centers, and on public transportation. Given the number of seniors in our congregation – and I am only one year away from being a senior citizen myself – it seems prudent to remain masked for at least awhile longer.
3) Many businesses, whether or not they are open to the public, continue requiring masking of all individuals. I would like all parishioners to feel at least as safe at Mass as they would, say, at a supermarket or movie theater.
4) Many have not returned to Mass because they still feel vulnerable, and others have returned despite their fears. There are medical treatments – for cancer and cardiac issues, to name but two – which greatly reduce immunity for extended periods of time. Such people should feel as safe as possible to receive the spiritual fruits of Mass attendance at a time when they need them most.
5) My appeal for continued masking is not based on legal rights, but on charity and regard for others. Over the past generation, some of our most basic institutions have been weakened or altogether broken, in large part due to what I regard as a false definition of freedom. On this Presidents’ Day weekend, the words of Abraham Lincoln are more fitting than ever, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.” We should give priority to the more vulnerable among us, not as a matter of state authority, but out of charity for others. It is in this spirit that I strongly urge continued masking regardless of vaccination status for the time being until this pandemic and its variants are more completely behind us.
Fr. Bill Donahue