BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay of Brooklyn, the first U.S. 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 March 27 at St. Brigid Church that Fr. Ortiz-Garay is with God.
Father Carlos Velasquez, St. Brigid pastor, called the anniversary “a sad day in the life of our parish,” reported The 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.
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 recognize 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.