A number of people have asked me about Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas of India, whom I mentioned in my homily for the Feast of the Ascension. He had just been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was in a hospital, fighting for his life.

Last week, we received an update on his condition. We were told he is “conscious and continues with ventilator support.” He is being weaned off the ventilator periodically and his condition is improving. Please remember him in your prayers!

Meanwhile, it was reported today that another priest in India has lost his battle with COVID. CNA reports: 

An Indian Jesuit priest died on Monday at the age of 84 after having spent the last eight months of his life jailed on terror charges for his activism on behalf of Indian society’s lowest castes.

Fr. Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly known as Fr. Stan Swamy, died days before his scheduled bail hearing in the High Court of Bombay, which had been postponed due to his deteriorating health.

The elderly priest, who also suffered from Parkinson’s disease, had been placed on a ventilator at Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai (formerly called Bombay) over the weekend, more than a month after he was admitted to the hospital under court order with COVID-19, according to UCA News.

In a statement announcing Swamy’s death, Fr. Jerry Cutinha. the provincial of the Jamshedpur Jesuit Province, honored the priest for his “work among the Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalized communities so that the poor may have life and life to the full with dignity and honor.”

And the toll continues to climb. Mike Lewis at Where Peter Is had this sad news over the weekend:

You might remember that back in November 2020, Stephen Walford wrote an appeal for the World Day for the Poor on behalf of his friend, Father Nirmal Daram. Fr. Daram was the parish priest of Kotapdu, in the diocese of Vijayawada, India. The parish had no Church building. Stephen wrote:

Mass is celebrated outside. Father also looks after many orphans and educates them. Recently, terrible storms left the entire area submerged and the coronavirus has also ravaged the area.

It is Father’s dream to build a Church, and to be able to support those entrusted to his care, especially with good quality education for those beloved children who have suffered much in their young lives.

Unfortunately, we didn’t raise very much for the community. Maybe the timing was off, or we were just not organized. I suppose we could have done more to get the word out.

But then, today, Stephen shared with me the shocking news that Fr. Daram, who was only 37 years old, lost his life to Covid on June 6. According to his bishop, he was the fourth priest of his diocese to pass away in two months. Stephen said the last he heard from him was from the hospital in late May, and then he heard nothing.

I can’t forget that the first Catholic priest in the United States to die from COVID was a priest in my diocese, Brooklyn. I can’t forget, either, the endless heartbreak and grief from last summer when a local hospital  just two miles from my living room brought refrigerated trucks into its parking lot to contain the bodies, because there was no room left in the morgue. Not long ago, I spoke with a local funeral director who was remembering the volume of burials and cremations they had to face last year. Normally, they might handle 10 or 12 bodies a week. They found themselves doing close to 100. It was relentless, agonizing and exhausting.

And it’s not just New York. It was that way in many places around the country:

[One funeral director] said the onslaught means that some members of his eight-person team have often had to work 10-hour shifts on weekends. Efforts to hire more part-time and temporary workers were foiled because people didn’t want to leave their homes due to the health risks.

“During the pandemic, there were firms that were doing their yearly call volume in three months,” Nie said. “It’s been all hands on deck and it’s been overwhelming.”

Please: remember in your prayers all who continue to suffer from COVID, and all who minister to them.

Pope Francis last year composed this prayer to our Blessed Mother:

O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain,
with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that,
as you did at Cana of Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the Father’s will
and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us, through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.

We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them..

Photo: from CNEWA