During COVID-19, the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma, and the many parishes it represents, faced a serious challenge in the suspension of public mass.
Father Sylvanus Amaobi of St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Claremore said that after loosing a month and a half of income through offerings, they were forced to consider downsizing their staff of 11.
However, after the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that religious non-profits were included among those who could take part in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Diocese of Tulsa applied on behalf of all the parishes it oversees.
“I want to thank the US government and the SBA for including the church in that program , because the church was also hit hard by coronavirus,” Amaobi said.
Amaobi shared his personal gratitude for Bishop David Konderla.
“The Diocese made sure the staff could be paid and nobody would loose their job,” Amaobi said. “We were contemplating reducing the staff load, but because of PPP we were able to keep them on and pay them so they didn’t lose their jobs.
Bishop Konderla said, “I am thankful that religious non-profits, like the Diocese of Tulsa, were allowed to apply for these critical funds that allowed us to care for our employees and their families. We believe taking advantage of the opportunity offered to us allowed us to be good stewards of all that is entrusted to us without having to jeopardize our Catholic identity.”
St. Cecilia has resumed in-person worship while maintaining social distancing between parishioners, wearing masks, and sanitizing the church after each Mass. The church offers free masks to anyone who arrives without one.
“We want people to be able to worship without fear of getting the virus from the church,” Amaobi said. “Feel free to come and worship with us. We are following the CDC guidelines.”