The North Dakota Catholic Bishops' Voice on Public Policy

Formed in 1970 by the Roman Catholic Bishops of North Dakota, the North Dakota Catholic Conference is the means by which the Catholic bishops of the state act together on public policy matters for the mutual well-being of the Catholic Church and all citizens throughout the state. By collaborating with political and public organizations, the North Dakota Catholic Conference, inspired by Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church, works at the appropriate level of government for legislation and regulations that reflect the Gospel message of respecting for human life and promoting the common good.
COVID-19 Micro

COVID-19 Updates

Bismarck Diocese

April 30, 2020
To the Catholic Faithful of the Diocese of Bismarck,

As we have been living under the restrictions to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic and especially the restrictions on our Catholic liturgical and sacramental life, it is my fervent prayer and hope that our appreciation and longing for the Most Holy Eucharist have been deepened and strengthened.

In recent days our Governor has decided to modify some of the restrictions placed upon us and listening carefully to him and in consultation with Bishop Folda, I have decided to modify some of the directives I issued for the Diocese of Bismarck on March 19, 2020 (see below). I am not lifting all restrictions, but I am modifying some for the present. What I ask is your continued patience and cooperation for your own welfare and that of others.

To this end and first, the dispensation from the obligation to attend and participate at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains in effect until further notice for all who may be hesitant or afraid at this time to be in larger gatherings. Parishes will continue to provide the opportunity to view Mass online.

If you or anyone in your household is sick in any way or is in one of the more vulnerable groups of persons at a higher risk of contracting the COVID-19, please stay at home until such time as you or that person is able to return to Church for Mass.

However, I must emphasize this: what we have come to understand as “social distancing” must be strictly kept by all priests, deacons and lay faithful at all times in all liturgical and sacramental settings. Therefore, I make the following modifications to some of the directives of March 19, 2020.
Daily Mass may resume according to the schedule determined by the Pastor as of Wednesday, May 6, 2020. Sunday Mass may resume according to the schedule determined by the Pastor as of: 4:00 P.M. Saturday, May 9, 2020 under the following conditions:

  • Family households may sit together in one pew and all other persons must maintain social distancing in Church; from front to back, in every Church every other pew is to be left empty.
  • Holy Communion will continue to be distributed under the sacred species of the Consecrated Host only, and Holy Communion is to be received in the hand only.
  • Only ordained clergy (priests and deacons) and canonically instituted Acolytes are to distribute Holy Communion, no Extra-ordinary ministers are to distribute until further notice. Social distancing is to be maintained by the faithful as they receive Holy Communion.
  • The exchange of the Sign of Peace remains suspended.
  • There is to be no Offertory procession to present the gifts for Mass until further notice.
  • If the Pastor has accompaniment for Mass, only a cantor and a musician are to be present and there is to be no Choir.

The directives for weddings and funerals are modified as follows:

  • For weddings all immediate and extended family members of the Bride and Groom may be present but are to maintain social distancing. The restrictions on the wedding party itself and the priest/deacon remain unchanged.
  • For funerals, all immediate and extended family members may attend but are to maintain social distancing. The directives for the Wake and Vigil Service and luncheon after the funeral at the Church remain unchanged.

The directives for the Sacrament of Baptism are modified as follows:

  • For Baptisms, all immediate and extended family members may be present but are to maintain social distancing. No more than one person may be baptized in any given ceremony until further notice.

As mentioned, all other directives given on March 19, 2020 (see below) remain in effect until further notice. Let us continue to pray daily for the powerful intercessions of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Saint Joseph before Almighty God, seeking His mercy upon each of us and all of us.

Know that I pray daily for all of you and asking your kind prayers for our priests and deacons, may we increase in virtue and holiness of life for the greater honor and glory of God!

The Most Reverend David D. Kagan
Bishop of Bismarck

Mr. Dale Eberle

Fargo Diocese

30 April 2020

To the Faithful of the Diocese of Fargo:
The COVID-19 health crisis has led to extraordinary measures being taken throughout the world. As Catholics, we have a serious responsibility, not only in charity, but in justice, to prevent the spread of this disease to those who are most vulnerable. On March 17, 2020, I made the difficult decision to cancel public celebrations of the Mass, other sacraments, and parish events for a limited time.
After consulting with experts, I judge that provided we diligently observe the safety protocols which I elaborate below, we can reasonably resume the public celebration of the Mass and other sacraments beginning on May 4. I am grateful for the patience and cooperation of the faithful during this difficult time without the ability to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, and I once again call upon their good will to observe the guidelines listed below for the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the entire community.

Therefore, effective Monday, May 4, the following directives are to be observed throughout the Diocese of Fargo until further notice:

  • The faithful are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass.

  • Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those exposed to someone with COVID-19 should follow quarantine guidance from medical professionals.

  • Those who are at higher risk from COVID-19 (i.e. those who are older or who have underlying health conditions) are strongly encouraged to stay home. If they have spiritual needs, they should contact their parish priest.

  • Anyone with a cough of any sort, and anyone feeling sick, should not come to the church for a visit or for any public liturgies or activities.

  • The Diocese of Fargo will continue to livestream Masses for the good of those who cannot attend.

  • In accord with current public health recommendations, the faithful should practice good hand hygiene, washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, or using an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

  • In accord with current public health recommendations, the faithful should wear cloth face coverings when they come to church. Please remember that face coverings are not just for one’s own protection, but also for the protection of others. (See CDC recommendations on face coverings.) Children under 2 years of age are not recommended to wear a face covering.

  • Federal and state guidelines for strict physical distancing will be observed, namely, the faithful should maintain a 6-foot distance from each other at all times.

  • Members of a single household do not need to practice physical distancing with each other, but will need to practice it with those who are not members of their household.

  • The 6-foot distance should be maintained not only in the pews, but in all spaces within the church complex.

  • In order to follow guidelines for physical distancing the number of persons admitted to each church at any given time will be limited.

  • Because the virus seems to be spread largely by dispersion of respiratory droplets, and vigorous singing tends to produce such droplets, congregational singing and singing in choirs is not allowed.

  • Although the faithful are entitled to receive Holy Communion either on the tongue or in the hands, in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, the extraordinary measure will be taken of only receiving Holy Communion in the hand. For this to have its intended effect, however, the faithful must practice good hand hygiene.

These directives are subject to change, depending on the development of the COVID-19 health crisis.

I am confident that the return to the public celebration of the Mass will be an occasion of great joy for the faithful of our diocese. Following these directives during the celebration of the Mass will feel strange, as it should, since they are extraordinary measures only adopted out of necessity. Nevertheless, our Lord, Jesus Christ, is always present in the Church’s liturgical celebrations, most especially in the Eucharist. The awkwardness of the current situation need not distract us from his presence, nor prevent us from receiving him with open and eager hearts. And may our renewed encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist fill us with his charity, that we may in turn love and care for our brothers and sisters.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Most Rev. John T. Folda Bishop of Fargo

Very Rev. Andrew Jasinski Chancellor

Catholic Charities

In order to help ensure the health and safety of our clients, staff and the public, Catholic Charities North Dakota has made the difficult decision to temporarily close our offices to unscheduled visitors until further notice. Although there may be changes to how we provide services, we remain committed to serving our clients during this unprecedented time through the increased use of technology or other means.

Should an in-person meeting be necessary, please call your local office to make arrangements. Reasonable safety precautions should be used such as practicing social distancing as recommended by the government and proper handwashing and personal hygiene techniques. Anyone who may be experiencing symptoms or has reason to believe they may have been exposed to the Coronavirus should stay home and contact us by phone or email.

If you have questions please call our main office in Fargo at (701) 235-4457 during normal business hours. We continue to closely monitor the situation as it progresses and will make decisions based on the guidance of local, state and federal health authorities. For more information about the COVID-19 Coronavirus in our state visit the North Dakota Department of Health website at:
What We Do

The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.
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North Dakota Catholic Conference
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Bismarck, North Dakota
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