Guidance for Parishes and Schools in Light of H1N1/Swine Flu Concerns

May 01, 2009

Precautions for Parishes

In light of reports of several probable cases of swine flu in Maryland, parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington have been provided with the following guidance about shaking hands during the Sign of Peace and receiving the Blood of Christ from the chalice:

• Pastors may wish to remind their parishioners, in whatever manner is appropriate within Mass, no one is ever under an obligation to shake hands during the Sign of Peace (a statement of peace, bow or other gesture is appropriate) or to receive from the chalice. Christ is fully present in each species when the bread and wine have been consecrated into His Body and Blood.

• Anyone who is ill, or suspects he or she is ill, should refrain from receiving from the chalice out of good will.

• Ministers, including sacristans, servers and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, also should be reminded to practice good hand hygiene. It may be practical and prudent to have hand sanitizer available in a discreet location near the sanctuary for the EMHCs to use before and after the distribution of communion.

• If there is great alarm, pastors may also consider discontinuing – temporarily – the practice of offering communion under the form of Precious Blood.

The USCCB has prepared a set of FAQs that may be helpful.

Precautions for Schools

The Catholic Schools Office is monitoring the situation closely, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education, local, state and other federal authorities and the public school systems in our area.

• All parents are reminded that any child who is sick should be kept home. The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

• Classroom surfaces, such as desks and doorknobs, are disinfected regularly. There are age-appropriate directions for thorough hand washing above sinks and hand sanitizers also are available in classrooms and cafeterias. Teachers also are reinforcing good hygiene practices with their students.

• Schools should be familiar with the guidance their county public school system is providing to its own schools, as the Archdiocese of Washington will follow the lead of each local jurisdiction, as we do with severe weather and other emergency-type situations.

The archdiocese is continuing to monitor this situation and will provide updated information to parishes, schools and online as necessary.

Continuously updated information on swine flu is available from the CDC.

Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
[email protected]