St. Anthony of Padua parishioners in Manteca may continue receiving Communion from the chalice in the wake of the coronavirus scare.
That is the message that Father Chad Wahl, church pastor, is sharing this weekend during all the Masses, including today's Saturday evening service.
The pastor's information, including additional guidelines to all the faithful, are also included in the weekly parish bulletin which churchgoers can pick up at all the Masses.
In the prominently placed "Message from Fr. Chad" regarding this national and global Catholic issue, the pastor goes straight to the point right away stating, "Bishop (Myron) Cotta has advised pastors that they may, at their discretion, suspend Communion from the chalice due to the concern about the Coronavirus. I have spoken to many of you about this and have decided at this time we will continue to provide the Precious Blood.
"However, both I and the Bishop are telling parishioners it is OK not to partake of the chalice if you have a concern. At a later date, with more information, I may decide to suspend it completely for a time. My point is that I want you to be comfortable at Mass and not overtly concerned about these choices."
To further minimize the faithful's inevitable concerns, parishioners are also asked to refrain doing handshakes and hugs for the sign of peace during Mass.
While those who prefer to receive the Eucharist on the tongue may continue to do so, the pastor strongly recommend(s) that they "prayerfully consider" receiving the Body of Christ in the hand, at least until the end of the flu season.
"Inevitably the priest has contact with saliva in this manner and then uses the same hand to give communion to others, not to mention his own contact," he explained.
Those who are sick with the flu or experiencing cold symptoms are being asked to stay home. "It is not a sin to miss Mass if you are sick," he said.
Father Chad additionally cited factual reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicate, as of Feb. 26, 2020, the regular flu is showing a greater impact on Americans than the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, and cautioned that there is "a learning curve to this virus" given that not everything presented by the news media has been fact checked.
The pastor concluded his message by stating, "We do not want to panic early. However, we will start with some precautions and monitor updates and information provided by the San Joaquin County Health Department and the State of California."
There are some preventative measures that the church has already undertaken. The small fonts at the side-door entrances to the church have been removed. However, the large baptismal font just inside the main church entrance remains available to those who choose to perform the usual ritual of dipping one's finger to make the sign of the cross. The holy water in this "big basin" is chemically treated.
The normal practice of greeting the priest after Mass is also up to each parishioner and the discretion of the priest. Parishioners are not obligated to do so; likewise the priest.
The latest update from the CDC on Friday showed that the number of Americans with the coronavirus is now 213.