The Diocese of Trenton and its parishes, along with several area Catholic schools, are responding to coronavirus concerns as the number of reported cases continue to increase.

On March 12, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., granted a dispensation from the obligation to attend weekend/Sunday Mass to all the Catholic faithful in the Diocese until further notice. 

“I am NOT instructing that parish churches be closed or weekend Masses be canceled in the Diocese of Trenton,” he said. “All weekend Masses should be celebrated as regularly scheduled.  The Sacrament of Penance should also remain available.”

“Those who are feeling sick or are in high risk groups should not celebrate or attend Mass and should stay home,” he said. “I recommend that the faithful pray and take advantage of/participate in Holy Mass that is broadcast on television.”

The Bishop’s statements follow the Diocese’s instructions regarding Mass and the coronavirus, in which the practice of distributing the Precious Blood from the Chalice and the sign of peace were suspended.

In addition, two Catholic schools in the Diocese announced they have suspended classes out of caution due to coronavirus concerns.

Though neither Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, nor Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Princeton, has reported any cases of COVID-19, both canceled classes for the time being.

“The recent evolution of the coronavirus situation in our immediate area behooves CBA to take proactive steps in order to aid in mitigating further spread of the virus,” Christian Brothers Academy faculty said in a statement. “The fact that we have students from a myriad of towns across three counties increases the possibility of cross contamination.”

The school will go to online learning March 17, and “all extracurricular activities and community gatherings are canceled or postponed until further notice.” The campus will be closed until at least March 30, school president Christian Brother Frank Byrne and principal R. Ross Fales said in the school statement.                  

Meanwhile, Stuart Country Day School officials explained that classes were being canceled after they learned several people in the Princeton area “were exposed to individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.” The building, they said, will be thoroughly cleaned over the two-week spring break, scheduled to begin March 16. Classes are set to resume March 30; if the school is unable to reopen at that time, classes will move to a remote model of learning, officials said.

Other schools across the Diocese have announced early dismissals or brief closures to prepare for the possibility of online classes. In addition, announcements are being made in many parishes canceling fundraisers, weekly events, social gatherings, etc.   

Events sponsored by the Diocese are also being affected. For example, the “Kerygma – An encounter with Jesus Christ” retreat, set for March 15 and March 21, have both been canceled. 

The faithful are encouraged to check their local parish and school websites for event updates as well as and and the diocesan social media outlets.