The Louisiana pastor who preached courage from his deathbed. The nun who always insisted that you have to focus “on the important things” and help people. The rabbi who made sure his students had clothes and books.
Many clerics serving worshipers distressed by the coronavirus outbreak are falling victim to the pandemic.
The newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, Avvenire, spoke of 96 priests killed until April 6.
Below are brief reviews of some of the deceased priests.
A few days before COVID-19 killed him, a 64-year-old Louisiana preacher transmitted a message from his bed in an isolated area of a hospital via livestream: Don’t be afraid, keep your faith and praise God.
“I think everything is fine, and that suits my soul,” said the Rev. Ron Hampton, pastor of the New Vision Community Church, a Free Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. “I have a praise at hand in my heart. I carry a word with me and keep trying to enforce the Lord’s will even from a hospital bed. ”
Two days later, he learned that he had contracted the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The next day he passed away.
“I don’t think this scared him,” said his wife, Elsie Hampton. “I couldn’t see it. But I saw your video. “
—By Janet McConnaughey
Freshly ordained, the Rev. Franco Minardi arrived in Ozzano Taro, a farming town of 1,200 inhabitants about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where he was born, on the most fertile plain in Italy, in 1950.
He was the pastor of the local church for 70 years, until the coronavirus took him away. He was 94 years old.
He built a tennis court, a game room and what is still the main meeting place today: A room where the first movies that were seen in the city in the mid-1950s were shown. People sat in containers used in the grape harvest.
“Don Francisco wanted to have people near the church, so he could take them to mass,” said Giuliana Savi, who was the director of the post office, speaking on the phone from Ozzano. “Sometimes it didn’t work, but I tried.”
Minardi showed the same energy in his church. He restored it and replaced bells.
“Masses were not a 35-minute affair, they were a solemn ceremony, with chants. He scolded us if we rushed into the readings, ”says Savi.
—By Giovanna Dell’Orto
In mid-March, the nun María Mabel Spagnuolo transmitted the bad news to the 600 nuns of her order via YouTube: Sister María Ortensia Turati had passed away. She was one of six nuns who were victims of the coronavirus in a convent in Tortona, a town in northern Italy.
“It is as if a person disappeared in an instant,” Spagnuolo told the AP by phone. A very bitter departure from an 88-year-old nun who had fulfilled her vocation to serve the poorest.
Originally from Lombardy, Turati studied as a social worker, was superior of the Little Missionaries of Charity congregation from 1993 to 2005 and traveled the world, founding missions in the Philippines and the Ivory Coast. He directed his order and several schools in Chile, and helped reform practices in the formation of nuns.
From Rome to Madagascar and Peru, the nuns sew masks, serve in hospitals, and offer food and water to those most in need, as Turati requested. “I don’t want pious exhortations. Let’s take care of the important things. ”
—By Giovanna Dell’Orto
He had been in the priesthood for more than five decades, but the Rev. Marc Frasez wanted to continue working after his 75th birthday, or at least delay his retirement and continue serving in his parish.
He died of COVID-19 at 74, leaving the memory of a priest committed to his mission, with a sensitive soul and a strong passion for painting.
He was ordained 49 years ago and was a prominent figure in the Catholic community of the Versailles region, on the outskirts of Paris.
Since 2007 he was the parish priest of Saint-Germaine de Paris in Fontenay-le-Fleury, in a small stone church where he served with his usual enthusiasm and warmth.
Marc, as he was known, had “artistic inclinations and painted in his spare time,” according to Monsignor Bruno Valentin, Auxiliary Bishop of Versailles.
He added that Frasez had been “an original and sensitive man.”
Ayatola Hashem Bathaei Golpayegani was a Shiite cleric, moderate in the Iranian context. He was one of Tehran’s representatives to the Assembly of Experts, an agency made up exclusively of religious figures that will elect the successor to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Jameinei.
He was an enlightened person. He had two doctorates, he had studied at Qom (the Vatican of Iran, which offers the main Shiite seminaries). The late Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, was one of her teachers. He taught at the university level.
There’s an undated video of him accusing the United States of creating the coronavirus to fight China. He looked like he was sick, but he believed he would be cured.
He passed away on March 16.
Rabbi Yisroel Friedman was an expert on the Talmud, the ancient text that is the basis of Jewish law. But his students say that his main passion was much more earthy.
Friedman helped his students incorporate into their lives one of the holiest documents in Judaism, according to Rabbi Mendel Rubin, who was Friedman’s student at the Oholey Torah Talmudic Seminary in Brooklyn.
When he passed away on April 1 at age 84, Friedman had been one of the leading scholars at the seminary in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a major Hasidic Jewish community in New York, for 50 years.
Born in the former Soviet Union, he settled in the United States in 1956. Known for his keen intellect, Friedman was an expert analyst of the writings of Rashi, a medieval Rabbi who specialized in the Talmud.
Rabbi Elyahu Silverberg, who also studied with Friedman in the early 1990s, recalled that the late rabbi called him one day and asked about his fellow student’s worn out clothing.
He said he would help him if he needed to buy a new suit.