VERONA (WKOW) -- The H1N1 flu virus is considered highly contagious, especially in places where people shake hands and drink from the same cup. That's why many churches in Madison are changing their services to try to prevent an outbreak.
Holy communion is an important part of Christian worship, but St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church in Verona has decided not to offer wine from its shared holy chalice.
"Once [the H1N1 virus] was declared a pandemic, we decided it would be most prudent if we refrained from the cup at this time," said Fr. William Vernon of St. Andrew Parish.
The Catholic diocese of Madison is leaving the decision up to the individual priests. According to Catholic belief, you can still receive the sacrament of Holy Communion without drinking the wine.
"They receive Jesus fully when they receive the host [in the bread alone]," said Vernon. "[The wine] is a fuller sign value for the community to receive from the cup the precious blood, but it's not necessary. They don't receive any less of Jesus by only receiving the host."
St. Andrew parishioners certainly have noticed the change, but Vernon says most church members understand the rationale behind it.
"Their concern was just whether this would be permanent," said Vernon. "I don't know yet; I just don't know at this time."
Vernon says as far as he knows, no one at St. Andrew has gotten the virus so far. Still, he says it's best to take a proactive approach to keep his congregation healthy.
"It's just like any family," Vernon said. "You're going to take care of your children, and the pastor is going to take care of the parishioners the best that he can and in all the ways that he can."
Of course, there are other ways to spread the virus in this setting, including via money in the offering basket, the holy water at the back of the church, or by the "sharing of the peace," during which parishioners shake hands with one another.
For now, Holy Communion at St. Andrew will look, and taste, a little different.