St. Patrick Parish in Stoneham, Massachusetts, has canceled Easter masses amid a coronavirus outbreak among staff and clergy, according to the pastor.
Four office staff and one deacon have tested positive, according to Father Mario Orrigo, the pastor at St. Patrick, who explained that the numbers have grown since Monday.
"I don't want the parish to become an area of superspreader," said Orrigo. "So we have to protect one another, and therefore, I made that difficult decision, because this is the most important time of the church year."
Orrigo says he's heartbroken to call off the on-site services.
"I have to, as pastor, take care of the flock, and taking care of the flock means don't put people at risk," he said. "And not putting people at risk means at this point in time, I have to close."
In a letter to the church, Orrigo said all services would be canceled through April 10. The church has suspended all gatherings and masses until then.
Pre-pandemic, there would have been over 1,000 people inside for Easter services.
With capacity restrictions, there have been up to 120 inside, but for the next 10 days, almost nobody is allowed in.
"I was hoping to come for Easter," said longtime parishioner Maureen Mahoney, who says she'll watch services from home. "That's why there's Catholic TV."
Orrigo says he and two deacons will stream a service from the church for Easter, but acknowledges it's not the same as having everyone together.
"We've got the church all decorated," he said. "We're all set to open up the lower church, which we've been working on, everybody's been pumped up to attend the Easter services."
Everyone who tested positive is quarantining, Orrigo said, adding that they are doing OK.