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The Omicron variant of COVID-19 made its presence felt at the dawning of 2022, with some Catholic schools forced to temporarily close campus and Masses rescheduled because of outbreaks among the clergy.

“Like you, after almost two years of challenges with the pandemic, I have very much looked forward to a return to ‘normal,’” wrote Bishop Alberto Rojas in a statement released Jan. 12. “But instead, we find ourselves in the midst of another COVID spike, due to the Omicron variant.

“God continues to walk with us through this darkness and if we keep the light of hope in our hearts and minds, we will recognize His loving presence.”

As the number of COVID-19 cases in San Bernardino and Riverside counties rose sharply following the holiday season, schools, parishes and the Diocesan Pastoral Center began to reflect the trend. More than 400 children in the Catholic schools tested positive for the virus. Cases among the faculties and students at St. Adelaide Academy, St. Edward School, St. George School, St. Hyacinth Academy and Holy Rosary Academy were so numerous that on-campus instruction at the schools was temporarily halted, though several of them have since reopened. Notre Dame High School pivoted to online instruction for the week of Jan. 18-21 due an outbreak among students.

Concerns about the spread of the virus among youth, which are less likely to be fully vaccinated, were strong enough that the Diocesan Office of Catechetical Ministry issued an emergency protocol calling on parishes to move all catechetical sessions from in-person to online beginning Jan. 5 through March 31.

“Most parishes have had a plan in place for online catechetical sessions since last year. We are requesting that they implement that plan or refresh it as needed,” reads a Jan. 5. memo from Maria Covarrubias, Director of the Department of Ministry of Educational Services for the Diocese.

On Jan. 14, the Diocesan Pastoral Center announced that most employees there would be working remotely until the end of February.

Although COVID cases among clergy did require some rescheduling, at press time the surge had not caused any attendance limitations or other restrictions on the offering of Masses. In his Jan. 12 message Bishop Rojas encouraged the faithful to attend Mass to help cope with the fear and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.

“Our churches remain open, and we can gather together at the table of the Lord to receive the Bread of Life, which sustains us and brings us to a greater communion with God and one another,” he wrote.