Batavia church, school close after 2 priests test positive for coronavirus

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Temporarily closed sign Photo credit iStock/Getty Images

A Catholic church and school in Batavia have been shut down after two priests there contracted the coronavirus.

The Rockford Diocese says a letter went out to parishioners of Holy Cross Church in Batavia to inform them their pastor, Fr. James Parker, and Fr. Romeo Pavino are recovering from COVID-19 and that the church and the school building are closed.

Both men are in their mid-40s.

Diocese communications director Penny Wiegert said there will be no masses at the church until Oct. 9 and no in-class instruction in the school until Oct. 13. The 420 students at the school are learning remotely until then.

"Unfortunately, we hate to do this but it’s to keep everyone safe," Wiegert says.

Anyone who attended mass or was in contact with the priests between Sept. 10 and 24 should watch for symptoms and get tested, if they like.

"We’re asking everybody to be aware of their own health and to, if they feel they need to be tested, please have that done,” Wiegert said.

Previously during the pandemic, a priest at a Catholic church in Aurora contracted COVID-19 but the church continued to celebrate Mass, she said. It was a different situation at Holy Cross Church.

"It’s unusual that we would have to close the entire parish but, with both priests out, we don’t have someone there to take over and then also to bring into a new community because we try to keep people within their cohorts."

Parishioners are asked to continue to check the parish website for any updates, or they can still call the parish. The dispensation from the obligation of weekly mass continues, Wiegert said.