The Diocese of Chalan Kanoa has cancelled public Mass in all churches on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota—from March 17 to 28—as part of guidelines to help prevent the potential outbreak of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.
This follows Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ Executive Order 20-04 last Sunday that declared the CNMI under a State of Significant Emergency and under Public Health Emergency.
Instead of public Masses, Mount Carmel Cathedral will be going online or have its Masses broadcasted live. Bishop Ryan Jimenez said that daily Masses will still be held daily, from 6am to 6pm, but without the congregation and streamed live via Facebook and aired on cable and radio.
A schedule for March 17 to 28 will be provided for the priests to preside and deacons to assist. All Mass intentions on Saipan will be offered at the cathedral. Rota and Tinian Masses will also be celebrated without the congregation.
Aside from the cancellation of public Masses, the diocese also ordered priests and deacons to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning from the Philippines for the clergy’s annual retreat.
He appealed to the Catholic faithful to pray as part of a traditional “spiritual communion,” when it is not possible to engage in a full Mass and receive the sacrament due to sickness or being homebound.
“This is considered a beautiful way to express to God our desires to be united with Him when we are unable to complete that union in the receiving of the Holy Communion,” the diocesan guidelines states.
The diocese said churches will continue to be open from 8am to 5pm for those wanting to still go. “Our Lady of Mt. Carmel highly encourages to practice social distancing when visiting the church. It is highly advised for those who are sick, the elderly, those in vulnerable conditions to stay at home and limit unnecessary movements.”
In case of a funeral, the guideline states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to not exceed 50 people in attendance must be followed.
This also goes for pre-scheduled weddings and baptisms that will occur from March 17 to 28. Social distancing will still be practiced by not having guests seated next to each other and by keeping some pews closed.
Today’s fiesta celebration at the San Jose parish in Oleai has also been cancelled. Instead, the fiesta Mass (mass without congregation) will be live-streamed via social media and radio. Santa Soledad and San Vicente fiestas will be announced later, according to the diocese.
Jimenez said the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine will be suspended from March 18 to April 14. CCD teachers will provide online resources to students. In addition, the Annual Diocesan Youth Gathering on Palm Sunday, April 5, will also be cancelled.
Deacons Tony Tarobwemal and Stan Benavente will also be visiting the sick at the hospital and homes upon request. Communion given to the sick at home is temporarily suspended.
Jimenez said office hours at the Diocesan Curia and Cathedral Rectory will still remain the same at 8:30am to 5pm, with lunch break from 12pm to 1pm, except on the weekends for the Curia and except Sundays for the Cathedral Rectory. Parishioners are advised to minimize face-to-face contact and, instead, use the phone or email as primary points for information.
Jimenez also encourages those who can donate canned goods and non-perishable items to do so to Karidat Social Services. He said that requests for assistance from Karidat has increased due to many people who’ve lost their jobs.
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us face this very complex and serious situation with calmness, vigilance, and a great sense of the common good,” Jimenez said.
Final arrangements for the activities for the weekend of March 28 to 29 and Holy Week will be available as soon as possible, the diocese noted.