Mass Cap Lifted, COVID-19 Vaccine Principles, and the Legislative Session Begins

More Minnesota Catholics can attend Mass at a single time starting Monday, January 11. This change to Governor Tim Walz’s COVID-19 restrictions came after the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) – on behalf of several religious communities – requested the administration remove the 250-person cap on religious gatherings. Masses across the state remain limited to a 50 percent capacity.

MCC recently submitted a letter to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Vaccine Allocation Advisory Group outlining principles for vaccine distribution and recommending, among other things, that the elderly and those most vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly those in long-term care facilities and their caregivers, have priority access to the vaccines. The letter reminds MDH that clergy and other direct pastoral care staff come into contact with people each day in multiple settings, and therefore should be considered “essential workers” for the soul and moved ahead in line.

Minnesota’s “Zoom Democracy” Begins

Just before the governor’s announcement updating his COVID-19 restrictions, the legislature began its ninety-second session on January 5. This year starts the “biennium”, or two-year legislative session. As with most things in the COVID-19 era, the rituals normally marking the start of session within the Capitol’s hallowed halls were replaced with a Zoom meeting.

During the first few days of a biennium, newly elected officials are sworn in and the House and Senate agree upon their rules. This year the House of Representatives added four Catholics to its ranks, while the Senate added six, for a total of 36 Catholics serving in the Legislature.

This year, the DFL-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate’s primary job is formulating a budget for the next biennium (fiscal years 2022 & 2023). Our state constitution requires a balanced budget be sent to the governor by the end of regular session on May 17. If not, a Special Session will be required, and a state government shutdown could occur.

Just as you create your budget, so do legislators. They assess income vs. expenses, and both must balance out. Budgets are moral documents that reflect the state’s priorities. What are your priorities? Do not hesitate to share them with legislators!

Action Alert

Most of the Legislature’s activity will take place remotely, and the Capitol building remains closed to visitors amid the pandemic. In response, the Minnesota Catholic Conference has compiled tools for Catholics to stay informed and connected with elected officials.

Join the Catholic Advocacy Network to receive regular updates and alerts enabling you to contact your legislators with a single click!

Read our Democracy at a Distance article to find links to livestreams of legislative committee hearings and more resources for staying informed and for connecting with your elected officials.

Register for Catholics at the Capitol: On Mission for Life & Dignity. You will be formed in the faith, informed by incredible speakers, and sent on mission to transform our state during a Eucharistic Procession to the Capitol before meeting with your legislators.