Two Steele County Catholic churches temporarily suspended Mass and closed their parish offices after their priest tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday, the Rev. Jim Starasinich, of Owatonna, announced that he had received a positive test result for the novel coronavirus. He reported that he was “doing fine” in a letter sent out to the parishioners of both St. Joseph Church, in Owatonna, and Christ the King Church, in Medford. Starasinich is pastor for both churches.

Both parish offices and churches will be closed until June 19 as a precautionary measure following Starasinich’s positive test result.

Starasinich also reminded his parishioners of the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. According to a statement by Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda from the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the obligation to participate in Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation has been suspended until further notice due to COVID-19. The obligation was first suspended on March 12.

The Diocese of Winona-Rochester, which is the diocese that the two churches in question falls under, issues a similar suspension of obligation on March 13.

In his letter to the two congregations, Starasinich encouraged his parishioners to not travel to a new parish for Mass in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Starasinich continues to provide daily messages for the St. Joseph Church Facebook page.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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