The financial impact of COVID-19 was felt by employees of the Diocese of Richmond on Friday, March 27, when Bishop Barry C. Knestout announced temporary layoffs and reduction in work hours for 41 people who worked in the Pastoral Center and campus ministry.
In a letter to priests of the diocese, noting that the Church had not been immune from the impact of COVID-19, the bishop called the decision “one of the most painful” he has made.
“Recognizing the fiscal reality in which our parishes and diocese find themselves, and after considering multiple options, I made the heart wrenching decision to temporarily lay off and reduce the work hours of the Pastoral Center workforce by one third,” Bishop Knestout wrote.
He continued, “Guided by the principles of stewardship, I did this to reduce our operating costs in order to bring relief to our parishes at a time when collections are down due to the suspension of Masses and ongoing concerns about the economy due to the coronavirus.”
The layoffs and reduced hours impacted all offices in the Pastoral Center. Employees affected by the decision are eligible for unemployment insurance or partial unemployment insurance, and those enrolled in health insurance will be able to continue with their existing coverage and premium rates through the end of the current fiscal year.
“Nonetheless, that does not lessen the pain we feel in this separation from these dedicated, faith-filled coworkers,” the bishop wrote. “Please pray for them and their families, and please reach out to those you know or who are members of your parish.”
Noting that reports focus upon bad news, he told the priests “it is imperative that you and I are making a concerted effort to focus the faithful’s attention on the Good News.”
Bishop Knestout continued, “I am most grateful to you for the work you are doing in the midst of the challenges we face. None of our seminary formation addressed what we should do in a worldwide crisis, yet, we do what we can do each day: We turn to God in prayer and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That has always worked, and it will work today and, in the days, and months ahead.”