Both churches reopened after the governors of Texas and Georgia relaxed stay-at-home orders

May 20, 2020 02:13 PM
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Two Catholic churches, located in Georgia and Texas, have closed their doors for a second time after faith leaders and congregants tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Ringgold, Georgia, and Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston, Texas, have both suspended in-person services indefinitely due to positive COVID-19 cases.

Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle had restarted in-person services on April 26 after Georgia's stay-at-home order was loosened by Gov. Brian Kemp.

However, Church representative Joan Lewis told The Christian Post on Monday that they decided to suspend services for the "foreseeable future" on May 11 after learning several families had contracted the virus.

“Our hearts are heavy as some of our families are dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 virus, and we ask for your prayers for each of them as they follow the prescribed protocol and recuperate at home,” the church said in a statement.

"Though we feel very confident of the safe environment we are able to offer in our facilities, the decision was made … that we would discontinue all in-person services again until further notice in an effort of extreme caution for the safety and well-being of our families," the statement said.

About 25 percent of Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle's congregants had attended the in-person services once the church reopened, The Christian Post reported.

The church did not specify the number of members that tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Georgia has 37,214 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,650 deaths, according to The New York Times.

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In Texas, Holy Ghost reopened on May 2 after in-person services had been suspended at the Houston church for over a month. The May 2 mass was downsized from the parish's 900-seat building to just 179 churchgoers, the church said in a statement.

However, two priests involved in the mass have since tested positive for COVID-19, as have three members of the church’s Redemptorists religious community.

The church also confirmed that Rev. Donnell Kirchner, a priest at the church, died on May 13 of what is believed to be COVID-19.

Kirchner was diagnosed with pneumonia at a urgent care clinic, but was not admitted to the hospital and was sent home with medication, the church said. He died at the residence he shares with seven other members of the Redemptorists religious order.

Harris County, where Holy Ghost is located, has the highest amount of positive coronavirus cases in the state, according to ABC News.

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Holy Ghost said that all masses have been canceled "until further notice," and both the parish and The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston have informed the City of Houston Health Department.

"If you have attended Masses in person at Holy Ghost Church since the reopening on May 2nd, you are strongly encouraged to monitor your health for any symptoms and be tested for COVID-19, as a precautionary measure," the church said.

Texas has over 51,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, while over 1,400 people have died in the state from coronavirus-related illnesses.

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