Bishop of Fargo, ND May Have Unwittingly Exposed His Flock to Hepatitis A

Bishop of Fargo, ND May Have Unwittingly Exposed His Flock to Hepatitis A October 25, 2013

The North Dakota Department of Health has issued a warning that people who attended any of four Catholic churches and received communion on specific dates may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus.

The four churches listed in the Health Department warning are:

  • Holy Spirit Church, Fargo, school mass on September 27.
  • Cathedral of St. Mary, Fargo, noon mass on October 6.
  • St. Paul’s Catholic Newman Center, Fargo, mass on October 7.
  • St. James Basilica, Jamestown, priest convention from September 29 to October 2.
Bishop Folda

The source of the infection is none other than Bishop John T. Folda, new bishop of the Fargo diocese.  Bishop Folda was named bishop of the diocese by Pope Francis on April 9 and installed and ordained on June 19, 2013.  He then traveled to Rome this summer to attend “bishops’ school,” an orientation program for new bishops.  While there, he apparently ate contaminated food, contracting the Hepatitis A infection.  Upon his return to the diocese, the bishop celebrated Mass and distributed communion at the four locations.

The Grand Forks Herald reports that Bishop Folda has been out of the office since October 10 due to illness, but he is on the mend.  Aliceyn Magelky, director of communication for the Fargo Diocese, said, “He has improved greatly. He is doing just fine; he is slowly getting back to his regular schedule.”

Magelky reported that the diocese had issued pulpit announcements to each of the four churches listed in the health department’s news release.

Although the risk of infection is considered extremely low, health department officials felt that the public should be informed of the possible exposure.  Symptoms of Hepatitis A include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, pale stools or jaundice.  Symptoms can take 15 to 50 days to appear.  Since it’s a virus, there is no treatment which will cure it; sufferers are given palliative care to relieve their symptoms until the virus runs its course.

A vaccine for Hepatitis A is now available and is often recommended for persons traveling  outside of the United States.  However, the vaccine is given as two doses over a six-month time period; so Bishop Folda may not have had sufficient time to complete the full course of immunization before his European travel.


UPDATE:  A second U.S. bishop, also a participant at the Bishops’ School, has now taken ill with Hepatitis A.  Read that story here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Maria

    As far as I know, all Hepatitis A vaccines available in the USA are made from aborted fetal cell lines (Vaqta, Havrix, Avaxim, Epaxal), which I in good conscience cannot support. Does anyone know of other options in the USA?

    • kathyschiffer

      Maria, your question raises an entirely different issue! I don’t know the answer, so I hope a reader will be able to inform us both regarding this particular vaccine.

      • Conor

        The National Catholic Bioethics Center has a section under FAQs devoted to this issue:

        I hope that helps.

        • Chicktoo2

          Yes, it does. Thank you. One should use an alternative if one is available. End of story. Keywords, “if one is available”. So many people today don’t vaccinate their children based on erroneous information. This has led to human beings put in harm’s way unnecessarily! For instance, the belief that vaccines cause autism has been pretty much debunked. Don’t put children in harm’s way by not vaccinating out of ignorance. You don’t have that right, morally, I would suggest.

    • Matt

      That is very much incorrect. Some vaccine components have been derived from human fetuses (i.e. that is how they were discovered or developed). The abortions were not conducted for the purpose of vaccine discovery
      or vaccine production. Additional abortions are not needed for the production of these vaccines. In the case of rubella vaccine, abortions are prevented by the use of the vaccine.

      • Kat C

        The cell lines WI-38 and MRC-5 are derived from tissue from aborted fetuses. Any product grown in the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines, therefore, has a distant association with abortion. The cells in these lines have gone through multiple divisions before they are used in vaccine manufacture. After manufacture, the vaccines are removed from the cell lines and purified. One cannot accurately say that the vaccines contain any of the cells from the original abortion.
        Are there any vaccines for which there are no alternatives?

        Unfortunately, at present there are no alternative vaccines available in the United States against rubella (German measles), varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis A. All of these are grown in the cell lines WI-38 and/or MRC-5. (See note #7 of the statement of the Pontifical Academy for Life for a listing of vaccines and their source).

        • Kat C

          I forgot to add:
          What do I do if there is no alternative to a vaccine produced from these cell lines?

          One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.

          • Maria

            I think “morally free” is putting it much too mildly. We have an obligation to make it known that we are morally opposed to these vaccines, even if we choose to use them.

            “In a letter from Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical
            Academy for Life to Mrs. Debra Vinnedge, executive director, Children of
            God for Life in July, 2005. Bishop Sgreccia says that Catholics have “a
            grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a
            conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems.
            The lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted
            as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and
            use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation
            (emphasis added) and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active
            material cooperation , morally justified as an “extrema ratio” due to
            the necessity to provide for the good of one’s children and of the
            people who come in contact with the children — especially pregnant
            women. Such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the
            conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their
            conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the
            population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice,
            which must be eliminated as soon as possible.” ”


    • Pat

      Is it true that the chicken pox vaccine is also developed this way? The research I have been doing on the current vaccines that are given to children and, also, those recommended for adults, is revealing alarming evidence that these vaccines are more dangerous than any of the stated diseases or illnesses. has eye-opening information on this subject. I wonder if Bishop Paprocki took the Hepatitis vaccine and this actually caused the hepatitis. In any case, he is a wonderful Bishop and I am glad to read he is almost fully recovered. My prayers are with him for this intention.

      • Maria

        Yes, the currently developed chicken pox vaccine was developed this way. I’m not suggesting in any way that Bishop Paprocki’s illness is related to the vaccine, just trying to find alternatives to the vaccine.

  • Carmelo

    How about all the people who received communion from him or touched his hand?

  • jenny

    Hard to believe.
    Is this another tactic ….? Why the department of health does not publish such info about the non-food ingredients that make up our food….?

  • jenny

    “..He then traveled to Rome this summer to attend “bishops’ school,” an orientation program for new bishops. While there, he apparently ate contaminated food…”
    Why not the food in the airplane ? Why the health department assumes that the contaminated food was in Rome?

  • Fr. Lawrence Love

    My bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Strickland, of Tyler, Texas, contracted hepatitis A also, I have just learned from a press release from the diocese. He attended the same “bishops’ school.” He ordained me to the transitional diaconate last May. Please pray for them both that they recover quickly and have no complications.

    • kathyschiffer

      Oh my gosh! Who else was at that bishops’ school?!

  • Siobhan

    I have always believed that Jesus under the species of bread and wine will not communicate illness. As an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, I routinely consumed the remains of the Precious Blood at the end of Communion, and in 18 years I never fell ill, nor did anyone else in my parish. Please let us know if there are instances of Hep A being communicated through the Holy Eucharist.