Faith leaders' year of pandemic: grief, solace, resilience

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Sunday, May 10, 2020 file photo, the Rev. Fabian Fabian Arias offers a blessing over the head of a family member after leading an in-home funeral service for Graciela Ruiz Martinez who died of COVID-19, in the Queens borough of New York. For the first time during the pandemic, Arias performed funeral services in private homes donning a surgical mask and gloves to join the mourning families, starting that weekend. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

In a pandemic-wracked year, religious leaders and spiritual counselors across the U.S. ministered to the ill, fed the hungry, consoled the bereaved. Some did so while recovering from COVID-19 themselves or mourning the loss of their own family members and friends.

At times, they despaired. So many people got sick, so many died, and these faith leaders couldn’t hug the ailing and the grieving, or hold their hands.

For safety’s sake, their congregations were kept away from in-person services for months, but the need to minister to them only intensified.

Amid the grief and anxiety, these faith leaders showed resilience and found reasons for hope as they re-imagined their mission. Here are some of their reflections on a trying year.



In the early weeks of the pandemic, the Rev. Joseph Dutan lost his father to the coronavirus. Days earlier Dutan's mentor and friend, 49-year-old Jorge Ortiz-Garay, had become the first Roman Catholic priest in the U.S. to die from COVID-19.

Dutan felt grief, fear, even doubt. He mourned his father while consoling the community of St. Brigid, a Catholic church in an area straddling Brooklyn and Queens that had among the highest infection rates in New York City. His grief, he said, made him better able to help others enduring similar pain.