The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 1:00 am

City priest tests positive for virus

To quarantine; visiting clergy to aid St. Vincent de Paul


A priest at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church has tested positive for COVID-19, and the parish's three other priests and a seminarian are now quarantined.

In a letter to parishioners dated Sunday, the Rev. Daniel Scheidt said the Rev. Eric Burgener, a parish vicar, learned he had tested positive for the illness Saturday night.

The situation has resulted in Scheidt, parish pastor, and the Revs. Polycarp Fernando and Jay Horning  to be quarantined because they all live together with Burgener, the letter says. Visiting seminarian Brian Florin is also under quarantine.

Burgener's symptoms are described as “relatively mild,” but hospital staff instructed him to self-quarantine in his rectory room two weeks, the letter says.

The other priests and the seminarian have not displayed symptoms, the letter continues, and “seem to be in good health and of good cheer.”

They have been instructed to be tested in a week and again the next week to ensure they are negative for the virus.

Services and duties have been shuffled, and some activities have been suspended, the letter, also posted on Facebook, states. Several people who responded to the post expressed thanks for the openness and timeliness of the notification.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly known as confession, will be suspended this week, as will daily evening Mass at 5:30 p.m. Those Masses will be offered privately, the letter says.

Other arrangements:

• A visiting priest from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception will offer the 6:30 a.m. Mass through Friday.

• The Rev. Tom Shoemaker of St. Charles Borromeo parish will offer the 7 p.m. Mass on Saturday and the 7 a.m., 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Masses on Sunday.

• Visiting priests will cover weddings and funerals for “the next week or so.”

• The parish's priests will assist parishioners as they are able, the letter says.

Jennifer Simerman, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, said she knew of two other priests in the diocese who had contracted COVID-19. They were from Elkhart and have recovered, having been infected early in the pandemic, she said.

She confirmed Burgeman had hospital visitation as part of his duties. 

In-person Masses resumed the weekend of May 23-24, Simerman said. Parishioners who attend are required to practice social distancing and wear a mask. Those who distribute communion, including priests, also must wear a mask.

Priests are required to have other sanitation measures in place and use sanitizer if they happen to touch a communicant, according to directives issued by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, she said.

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