Throughout the fall, I have participated in regular surveillance testing for COVID-19 as part of taking a class at the University of Illinois in Springfield, and along with the rest of the St. Dominic School staff, I participated in special testing on Tuesday, November 10 and was again tested ‘negative’. But after last weekend’s Masses, I had some very minor symptoms on Sunday going into Monday… a low grade fever which was never over 100F and a general feeling of achiness and malaise… and so, out of an abundance of caution, I had a COVID test ordered by my physician which has since come back positive. Therefore, consistent with the best practices prescribed by the medical community, I’ll be observing a quarantine until at least the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We are currently cooperating in contact tracing, which is intended to identify those in close proximity (less than 6’) for more than 15 minutes over a 24 hour period in the days before symptoms manifested themselves. My closest collaborator in parish ministry, Deacon Harry Cramer would be included in this small group of people who was in close proximity to me during multiple weekend Masses; he is being monitored and has thus far tested negative for the illness.
In the time of my convalescence, the parish office will remain open for normal office hours, 8am to 3pm this week, and then on reduced hours next week going into the Thanksgiving Holiday, M-W, 8am to 12 noon. The office will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, November 27. Daily Mass will be suspended at St. Anthony Church through at least November 30, except for Thanksgiving Day (9am) and for regular Weekend Masses at 4:00 pm and 6:30 pm Saturday and at 8:00 am and 10:30 am on Sunday. Because attendances have been small the past few weeks, with priestly assistance being limited, and in expectation of even more parishioners wisely taking advantage of the dispensation from the precept of attending Mass on Sunday, we will suspend the extra 4:00 pm Mass on Sunday for the time being. Please join me in thanking the priests who will help cover the Mass schedule here at St. Anthony’s in my absence, most especially Fr. Don Blickhan who continues to generously serve our parish.
St. Dominic School has already announced a transition to at-home learning which was implemented separately from my own situation and status. Please pray for our staff and students and their families who are dealing with COVID-19. We look forward to a resumption of in-person learning at St. Dominic School on December 7.
It would have been very easy to have ignored or to simply worked through the symptoms I had, but in light of the seriousness of this disease to some of our vulnerable populations, I took an assertive posture to seek testing and to self-quarantine until results came back. I ask our parishioners to do the same as they not only consider their choice to worship this coming weekend, but as they carry out their daily activities. Symptoms can be very, very mild if not non-existent for some, while being deadly for others. The countermeasures we have undertaken at St. Anthony continue to suggest that we have been effective in protecting each other from spreading this disease, but we are only as effective as each good choice that each one of us makes, day-by-day, and hour-by-hour during these times. We will continue to worship as a family of faith and hopefully in a few weeks or months we will finally find ourselves out of the ‘season of COVID’ as the long-awaited vaccines and treatments become readily available.
I continue to pray for the protection and deliverance of our parish and its people under the mantle of Jesus, the Divine Mercy. As one who now shares in a very small way with so much suffering which has ravaged the world, I offer my time in quarantine and what sufferings I do endure in union with the Divine Mercy, for those especially in our parish and community in the greatest need of God’s mercy.
I’ll send relevant updates to our parish family here and on our parish website, www.stanthonypadua.org. I expect some days to be better and others worse on the way back to full health, so my availability and responsiveness to phone and email will probably be spotty. I know there is a desire to help with groceries, meals, and so on in the coming days, for which I am profoundly grateful, but my needs are minimal right now. I’ll leave it to Pat in the parish office to help coordinate things on this front. Thank you for your concern! — Fr. Tom Donovan