By Catholic News Service
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) — The Diocese of Brooklyn announced March 25 that an elderly parishioner from Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica in the New York borough of Queens has died of COVID-19.
“Our hearts and prayers are with this parish family during this difficult time,” the diocese said, adding that this parishioner was last at the church March 15 at the 1 p.m. Mass.
The diocese also announced five additional confirmed cases of coronavirus within several of its parish communities. The affected individuals include a woman religious. This follows an announcement a week earlier it had learned of at least 12 confirmed cases, including two priests who
tested positive for COVID-19.
The parishes with these additional five cases are:
— Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica, one confirmed case. The individual last attended Mass March 15 at 11 a.m.
— St. Patrick’s Church in Long Island City in, one confirmed case. The individual last attended 12:10 p.m. Mass March 11 at the chapel in the church, then attended a meeting in the rectory basement.
— St. Michael’s Church in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, one confirmed case. The individual works at the rectory and last worked on the evenings of March 17 and 18.
— St. Therese of Lisieux Convent in Brooklyn, one confirmed case. The individual is a woman religious who lives at the convent has tested positive for the coronavirus. She last volunteered at St. Catherine of Genoa-St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Academy March 12.
— Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Kensington in Brooklyn, one confirmed case. The individual is a choir member who was last at a church fundraising event March 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School gym. The choir member last attended Mass at 11:45 a.m. March 15.
“If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms,:” the diocese told Catholics, “call your health care provider, per guidelines issued by the CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html.”
As a result of these confirmed cases, all of these locations “are undergoing a deep cleaning and sanitization, with approved disinfectants,
following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the diocese said. The same cleaning and sanitizing occurred at the churches in the parish communities with the previously confirmed cases; Presentation had one of the earlier cases.
“At all times, but especially now, the safety and well-being of our faith community is our primary concern. The Diocese of Brooklyn will continue to deliver important information in a timely manner,” it said.
The diocese had canceled all public Masses as of March 16 and closed all churches and rectories in the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the territory covered by the diocese, as of noon March 20, until further notice.
“As a result of the closures, funerals, weddings and baptisms will not be permitted in church,” the diocese said. “This is because limiting them to 10 people is proving not to be feasible.” The sacrament of reconciliation will be limited to emergencies only, and spiritual counseling will be provided over the phone.
According to news reports, Queens has the largest number of cases of coronavirus in New York City — which has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. As of March 26, there were close to 3,900 cases of COVID-19 in Queens.
In a video message March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio spoke of Mary’s acceptance of God’s will for her. The feast commemorates the day the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to be the mother of God.
This COVID-19 disease is not God’s will for us, he said. “God only wills what is good for us,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “We seek Mary’s intercession on this feast day, when she began the work of the redemption. We ask her to continue it for the lives of all who are stricken by the coronavirus.”
In a March 19 video message taped in the chapel in his residence, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn urged the faithful in the diocese to seriously heed the advice of government officials and health professionals are giving about how to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
As these officials advise, he said, “we really do need to stay at home so that we can curtail the spread of the virus, we really do. It has been a difficult time for most of us, especially since we’ve had to cancel all public Masses in an effort to curtail this virus.”
“We all must understand that this is a critical time in the history of our country and in the world. This pandemic can cause many, many deaths and certainly many people have been sick,” Bishop DiMarzio said March 19. “We will be keeping in touch with you on Facebook and on Twitter. We can’t be far from God’s word and God’s company even though we might not have the sacramental life that we would like.”