Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

October 29, 2009


(Fr. Peter Daly talks about precautions to prevent the spread of swine flu.)


            Like people everywhere, my parishioners are worried about the “swine flu.”

            I misspoke. I meant to say that we are worried about “H1N1”. It is not politically correct to call it swine flu. Pork producers object. But it does seem like a flu that comes from pigs is something worse than a flu that just sounds like scientific formula.

            Anyway, we are worried, even though it has been a relatively light flu season thus far in our area.  

            Our local hospital reports seeing about 20 people a day “ILI” (Influenza Like Illness). What is it with doctors and initials? They have to call it ILI, instead of just saying “Yep, looks like the flu alright.”

            ILI does not mean they actually have the flu, just “flu like” symptoms. Nearly all of these ILI people are sent home with medication and instructions to stay away from other people.

            But a few people in our area have actually contracted the H1N1. Nobody has died but some have been pretty sick.

            So like most public institutions, our church is taking prudent precautions.

            First, we are telling people, especially children, to stay home if they are sick.

            We published a health department immunization schedule in the bulletin to be sure people got at least the regular flu vaccine.

            We also distributed instructions on how to limit the spread of the flu. Things like don’t cough into your hand, instead cough into the fold of your elbow.

            From All Saints day to Christmas, we are suspended the distribution of the Holy Communion in the form of wine. We will re-evaluate this at Christmas.

            We are still shaking hands at the sign of peace. Some parishes have started doing a little Japanese style bow dance at the sign of peace. We decided instead to installed hand sanitizer in each wash room and at the entrances of the church.

            In the main lobby we got one of those electronic dispensers like you see on cruise ships. You stick your hand under the spout and it shoots out a little golf ball size puff of foam hand sanitizer.

            The kids just love it. They keep sticking their hands under the electric eye and then pull them out before the foam hits their hand. That means a little puddle of hand sanitizer drops to the little tray below. Their parents seem oblivious to this little game. What to do?

            After watching this for a Sunday, I got one a little bowls that we use for distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday. I put it on the shelf below the spout to catch the dripping sanitizer. It worked fine. It caught all the foam, which soon turned to a clear liquid in the bowl.

            Only one problem. Catholics are creatures of habit.

            Seeing a little dish with clear liquid at the door of the church, they instinctively dipped their fingers in the bowl and blessed themselves with the hand sanitizer.

            I stood there watching make the sign of the cross with liquid designed for the body more than the soul. For one weekend, we had the most sanitary foreheads in our community.

            Finally I put a little napkin on the try under the spout to catch the drippings. It works just fine I also posted an usher out there in the lobby to catch those little malefactor children who succumb to the temptation of sanitizer.

            Just goes to show you, today’s solutions are tomorrow’s problems.

            Anyway, I’m not so worried about H1N1 anymore. Now I’m just worried about running out of hand sanitizer.