St. Paul church temporarily closes after visiting priest tests positive for coronavirus

| August 5, 2020 | 0 Comments

St. Louis King of France church in St. Paul was temporarily closed Aug. 5 when a visiting priest tested positive for COVID-19. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

St. Louis King of France to remain closed until Aug. 19

St. Louis King of France church and its ministries in downtown St. Paul temporarily closed Aug. 5 as Marist priests serving there went into quarantine because a visiting priest tested positive for COVID-19.

“Since we’re the whole staff, we have to close the church the next two weeks,” said the pastor, Marist Father John Sajdak, 77, about himself and Marist Fathers Ronald DesRosiers, 83, and Joseph Hurtuk, 74. Marist Father Roland Lajoie, 79, is traveling on vacation.

The decision to close is up to the pastor, Father Sajdak said. The parish has let parishioners know about the need to temporarily close through signage on the church campus, Facebook and the parish website.

The parish’s ministries primarily are celebrating Mass twice daily and five times on weekends, and offering the sacrament of reconciliation before each daily Mass and at 4 p.m. Saturdays.

It would be difficult to find enough clergy to cover those Mass and confession times, Father Sajdak said. The congregations also are smaller than normal because of COVID-19 concerns, nearby churches such as Assumption and St. Mary in downtown St. Paul remain open and Masses can be found online, he said.

Marist Father George Szal, 74, arrived at the parish rectory from Boston July 28 to attend a wedding, Father Sajdak said. He didn’t feel well the night of Aug. 1, his temperature climbed to 103 and he went to a hospital emergency room, where they tested him for the novel coronavirus and released him when his temperature dropped to 99.

Father Sajdak said they learned Aug. 4 that the priest has COVID-19, and that meant he and the other priests at the rectory had to go into quarantine to prevent potential spread of the virus.

None of the other priests were showing symptoms, Father Sajdak said. Father Szal, isolated in his guest room with food brought to his door, is recovering.

The cook for the priests was on vacation and notified not to return until the church reopens, Father Sajdak said. Other contact with parishioners would have been minimal, and restricted to Masses and confessions, when the priests wear masks and disinfect their hands, carefully following the health protocols issued by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, he said.

Father Szal notified the wedding party about his testing positive, as well, Father Sajdak said.

The priests remain hopeful that they will stay well, Father Sajdak said. The rectory is large enough that they can avoid close contact with one another, he said.

“It should work out,” he said. “We’re kind of keeping our fingers crossed.”

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