Catholic churches seek to prevent flu outbreaks

Bishop offers guidelines, options to priests

For many people, fears of catching the swine flu have now been dismissed. Bishop Robert Cunningham of the Syracuse Catholic Diocese, aware that H1N1 flu can be spread from parishioner to parishioner through certain rites of the weekly mass, last month issued recommendations to area parishes. A number of local presbyters have implemented his suggestions.

The Sign of Peace, reception of Communion from the cup, and reception of the Eucharist on the tongue have been temporarily suspended at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt. Additionally, Rev. Robert Yeazel said Eucharistic ministers now use hand sanitizer prior to distributing hosts.

Rev. Thomas Ryan of Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville opted for the same changes, in addition to removing Holy Water from the fonts at each entrance. Instead, hand sanitizers are being placed at each door.

Last weekend, a Liverpool congregation changed its routine, as well.

"Now that I'm aware H1N1 is in our area, I felt it was time we should take some action," said Rev. James Fritzen of Christ the King Church in Bayberry. "As a result, we've done four things."

The variations mimic those mentioned above, although Fritzen will maintain the Sign of Peace. Rather than a handshake, however, he asks parishioners to extend Christ's peace verbally or with a hand wave.

How do the faithful feel about these alterations?

Janine Spencer of Baldwinsville understands why her parish is responding to feedback, but in the meantime, will miss the mass' sense of community.

"I agree because I don't want people to be sick," Spencer said. "But I feel the loss in church that we can't share between each other. So we did [the Sign of Peace] with our own family today."

"People are nervous about it so I think it's good what they did," said Gloria Fenocchi of Liverpool. "Everybody's been kind of talking about it, you know, so it was wonderful to hear [Fr. Fritzen] mention it today."

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