By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
As of March 19, 2021, numbers permitted to gather for worship under COVID-19 public health orders in Saskatchewan will increase to 30 per cent of building capacity or 150 persons – whichever is lower – as opposed to a 30-person limit no matter what size the building.
The change announced by Premier Scott Moe and Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab on March 9 is a welcome increase for parishes living with a 30-person limit on worship gatherings put in place Nov. 27.
It comes after a multi-faith leaders group met with the premier to request the change, and a call by Saskatoon’s bishop to write government representatives asking for a building-capacity percentage rate for worship services.
“I am very grateful for the enlargement of numbers,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen. “It comes as we are anticipating our Holy Week and Easter celebrations.”
The adjustment to a percentage of building capacity means that numbers allowed for worship services will be consistent with percentage amounts being permitted in retail spaces and other locations, the bishop noted.
“As a faith community we want to carry our weight during COVID — we certainly share in the difficulties that the government and the health authority are dealing with on this — but we just need a little bit of consistency,” Hagemoen said.
On March 11, Bishop Hagemoen announced updated directives for celebration of sacraments in the diocese of Saskatoon, incorporating the recent government announcement related to numbers permitted to gather for worship.
Since the start of the pandemic, the diocese and its parishes have been diligent in following public health directives related to numbers, distancing, cleaning, etc, notes the bishop. Over the past year, pastors and ministry leaders have strived to stay in touch with parishioners, providing outreach, sacraments and pastoral care in the face of the challenges, often in new and creative ways.
“Profound gratitude is expressed to all who persevered in faith and charity during these times of challenge, offering the Sacraments, ministry and support in the many creative ways you have reached out to your people,” said Bishop Hagemoen in his March 11 update.