Wichita Catholic church temporarily shuts down after priest tests positive for COVID-19

Coronavirus

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For the Catholic church, gathering for mass is of the utmost importance every Sunday. But for one Wichita church, that is on hold as the coronavirus hits them close to home.

Father Dan Spexarth at St. Catherine of Siena has been isolated for nearly two weeks and is still battling symptoms.

“I’ve been sicker in the last week than I have been in my life.”

Symptoms aside, Father Dan says the worst part is being away from the church where he can practice his faith.

“You know I can’t do their wedding, and I can’t do their funeral. I can’t go see their mom in the hospital and all of these things have been just devastating.”

Leaving the doors shut at St. Catherine of Siena as he recovers.

“It’s hard not to be able to go to your own church,” he said.

Usually, churches can shift around a priest or two to cover mass or confession but this has recently become a stumbling block for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

“Few of our priests are either testing positive or being exposed to the virus and then having to quarantine and that’s putting a little pressure on our ability to have all of our masses,” Bishop Carl Kemme said.

Bishop Kemme says it’s tougher in rural areas of Kansas with a smaller pool of priests to shift around.

He says while it’s not ideal if priests need to quarantine and cancel mass for the safety of the church then by all means do it.

“That’s how we’re going to approach this as we perhaps experience this more and more in the next weeks or months,” Kemme said.

Bishop Kemme and Father Dan say through this pandemic they have received helped from multiple priests to continue. They now ask for those in the church to help them by practicing coronavirus safety guidelines.

“Hopefully, we’ll weather this and we’ll get through the worst of it and feel like we did our very best to serve our people,” Kemme said.

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