Omicron keeps some Minnesota worshippers at home on Christmas

While plenty showed up for Christmas Mass at the Basilica of Saint Mary, religious leaders say COVID-19 is still keeping some worshippers home. (FOX 9)

The omicron COVID-19 variant put a damper on the Christmas spirit this weekend, with smaller mass sizes at some churches. Home to one of the largest Catholic congregations in Minnesota, the Basilica of St. Mary spread its worshippers out across eight services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

"This is the holiest of days…" parishioner Vicki Brink said to FOX 9. "It’s about rising above your fear."

"The fear that is now with the new variant caused some people not to come back to church today," Basilica Director of Worship Johan Van Parys continued. "But we did have relatively good numbers of people attending."

In all, attendance fell somewhere between 50 to 75% from pre-pandemic levels.

"People are slowly coming back but not in full force," Van Parys said. 

The first confirmed case of the omicron variant was found in Minnesota just over three weeks ago; since then the strain has become the dominant version in our state, threatening to spoil the holidays. But at the basilica, they were prepared for it.

"We’ve been actually very strict in sticking to the protocols even before the new variant appeared," Van Parys said.

That means face coverings, physical distancing and hand sanitizer. And for those unable to come to mass, mass is being brought to them through live-streaming, "particularly people who are elderly, who cannot come to church, for whatever reason they have access via livestream," Van Parys said.

Other parishes in the archdiocese relied more heavily on live stream options. While at the basilica, they were even more creative, bringing the Holy Communion to some parishioners who stayed put in their cars.

"I think it’s even more special because we’ve tasted of what it’s like to have it taken away," Brink finished.