As Luz Gallegos hosted a workshop March 18 informing agricultural workers about the COVID-19 vaccine, she held up two photos — one of her late uncle, a missionary Catholic priest, and the other of the Rev. Francisco Valdovinos, a beloved local pastor many knew personally. Both men died of COVID-19.
These workshops aim to not only combat vaccine inequities, but also potential misinformation and mistrust among the immigrant community about the shot. In talking about her uncle, Jose Luis Gonzalez, Gallegos wanted to highlight how the virus has impacted her own family, and by naming Valdovinos, she knew she’d be reaching the masses.
Holding Valdovinos’ photo, Gallegos asked: “Do you all know father Valdovinos?”
“Yes,” many said, and nodded.
“Maybe we don’t have a family member or friend (who passed from COVID-19), but we all know our priest,” said Gallegos, executive director of TODEC Legal Center, an immigrant rights organization. “As soon as COVID struck, he started organizing out of his church.”
Valdovinos’ passing has helped ignite a consciousness around public health and COVID-19 prevention among farmworkers and other residents across Southern California’s Inland Empire region and the eastern Coachella Valley.
The life and death of Valdovinos — who belonged to the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity — also highlights the important role faith leaders and churches fill as trusted messengers in their communities. Their roles are especially important during a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color.
After Valdovinos’ death, the sentiment has been, “we should honor him by continuing COVID prevention because he was very committed to these campaigns,” Gallegos said.
“He gave his life for his people,” Gallegos said.
More about Father Valdovinos, from the Trinity Missions:
We are most grateful to the medical professionals who patiently and compassionately cared for him.
We entrust him now to God, the giver of all life and implore Our Lady of Guadalupe to welcome him into the kingdom.
Fr. Francisco made a BIG impact wherever he served, as evidenced by the outpouring of messages we have received after his death, plus extensive media coverage. He was admired by those within our religious community as well as outside it.
Please click below to watch a beautiful short video we prepared, showcasing Fr. Francisco’s ministry serving migrant families in California: