Fr Jorge Ortiz-Garay of Brooklyn, the first US priest to die from complications of Covid-19, was recalled as “a good and saintly priest” by his bishop during a bilingual Mass marking the first anniversary of his death.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio recalled the life of Fr Ortiz-Garay, 49, pastor of St Brigid Church in Brooklyn, describing the native of Mexico as a man dedicated to serving God and the faithful.
He assured the people attending the Mass at St Brigid Church that Fr Ortiz-Garay is with God.
Fr Carlos Velasquez, St Brigid’ pastor, called the anniversary “a sad day in the life of our parish,” reported The Brooklyn Tablet, the diocesan newspaper. The pandemic caused “deep pain” in the community, he said. There were 80 to 90 other deaths in the parish from the coronavirus.
Pictures of the beloved late pastor stood on either side of the altar. On one side, a large framed photo of Fr Ortiz-Garay had been lovingly placed between two large vases of flowers. Another picture stood on the other side of the altar beneath a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a nod of respect to the late priest’s Mexican heritage.
Fr Ortiz-Garay also served as the director of the diocesan Mexican Apostolate.
Saying it appears that the continuing Covid-19 pandemic “does not seem to be coming to an end anytime soon,” Bishop DiMarzio focused on the priest’s life by drawing comparisons to his devotion to God to the Mass readings, which provide encouragement and a challenge.
In the first reading from the Maccabees, Bishop DiMarzio said, the faithful recognise that prayer for those who have died is “not useless” because a collection had been taken up so that sacrifices could be offered for those who had fallen in battle.
“As the reading tells us, it would be superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead unless their sins could be absolved as they awaited the Resurrection. The hope of the Resurrection was already alive before Christ came. And in his coming, we understand that this promise is fulfilled,” he said.
The second reading from the letter to the Romans shows that nothing can separate the faithful from the love of Christ,” the bishop explained, “neither distress, persecution, the peril of the sword or even a pandemic.” For those who remain faithful, God promises eternal life, he said.
Finally, in John’s Gospel, the bishop continued, Jesus reminded the disciples that in God’s house, there are many dwelling places. “Yes, the Father’s house is where God dwells in the Trinity in its majesty, God awaits those who have loved him in this world. The way to heaven, as Jesus tells us, is to follow him,” he said.
“In one way or another, we are all awaiting our turn to return to the Father’s house with the many places prepared for those who love him,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
“Today, we are assured that Fr Jorge who has proceeded us has undergone already his purification and enjoys his place in the Father’s house,” he added.
“We seek in the communion of saints the intercession of Fr Jorge. We pray for him, and we ask him to pray for us that we too may enter the Father’s house when our time comes,” the bishop said.
Following Communion, several parishioners, each holding a white rose, approached the altar. One by one, each person brought the rose to the side of the altar, where a woman received each rose and gently placed it in front of the picture of Fr Ortiz-Garay.
The Mass was the first of four liturgies at St Brigid offered in Fr Ortiz-Garay’s memory to allow as many people as possible to remember their beloved pastor. The priest also was memorialised at a Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Mexico City.
Picture: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., celebrates a memorial Mass for Fr Jorge Ortiz-Garay at St Brigid Church in Brooklyn on 27th March 2021, the first anniversary of the priest’s death from Covid-19. Fr Ortiz-Garay, who was 49 and pastor of St Brigid’s when he died, is recognised as the first Catholic priest in the US to succumb to the coronavirus. Ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., in 2004, he began serving in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2009 and was co-ordinator of the diocese’s ministry to Mexican immigrants. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz).