Catholic churches throughout Indiana are suspending all public activities – including Masses – starting on Wednesday.
Bishop Timothy Doherty issued a statement late Tuesday morning about the situation. He cited health and safety concerns about the potential of spreading the COVID-19 virus and the safety of priests as the primary reasons for the decision.
“Based on current guidelines from civic leaders and public health officials, I, as bishop of Lafayette-in-Indiana, together with all the bishops of the Province of Indianapolis, have mandated the suspension of all public celebrations of the Mass, other liturgical services and gatherings of the faithful effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 and until further notice,” he wrote in statement published on the diocesan website.
Like other parishes, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 535 W. State St. will be observing the temporary suspension of Masses. The Rev. Patrick Baikauskas, St. Tom's pastor, hopes the ban ends shortly.
"With events changing on what seems an hourly basis, I don’t think we can guess when we can expect resumption," he wrote in an email.
Baikauskas sees empathy coming from this increased awareness of the virus' threat, too.
"Maybe this is when the best in people surfaces," he wrote. "We come together because we care about one another. We pray. We hope. We show our love for one another. That’s what we do and we do it pretty well at St. Tom’s."
As of Wednesday, St. Tom's is closed and the doors are locked. Only essential personnel are permitted in the building until further notice, but staff members can be reached by phone or email. The priests will be saying daily private Masses during the week and on the weekends. Parishioners will eventually be able to see the recorded Masses at:
Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass during the weekends, but a special “dispensation” by the bishop is allowable. That dispensation was in force for last weekend and “continues until further notice,” but it is not a permanent decision.
“The following decisions and directives have been formulated with local and statewide consultation,” Doherty Tuesday statement said. “As a bishop, it hurts my heart to limit access to our churches and to the Divine Liturgy. I am in a position to make decisions that others cannot or will not, so I ask your prayers for the yet unforeseen challenges that we face in slowing down the contagion.”
Several churches in the diocese have live streaming of Masses. That includes the Church of the Blessed Sacrament at:
and St. Thomas Aquinas Church near campus at: