In a reverent demonstration of the Corporal Works of Mercy, Cardinal Dolan led a morning prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral July 11 to bless the ashes of 250 Mexican-born faithful who lived in the New York area and died from the effects of Covid-19. Many were essential workers, including health care providers, construction workers, food service employees and custodians, and some were children.
The cremated remains were transported to Mexico the same day, via a Mexican government plane, for a Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, after which they were presented to family members for individual internment services. The consul general of Mexico in New York, Jorge Islas Lopez, led the arrangements. The prayer service remembered those who died from the coronavirus and could not have a Funeral Mass and burial, organizers said.
The Church shows care and reverence for earthly remains by ensuring a proper, dignified repose, organizers said, noting it is one of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy. The prayer service at St. Patrick’s, conducted in Spanish and some English, featured music from a mariachi group; the songs included “La Guadalupana.”
“We pray for our brothers and for our sisters (who have died of the coronavirus),” said the cardinal early in the service. He said there are prayers for their journey to their homeland, Mexico, “and for their journey to their eternal home.”
“May the choirs of angels receive you,” said Cardinal Dolan as he sprinkled holy water in blessing the remains, which were in the altar area covered with white cloths.
Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen delivered the homily, addressing the estimated 200 people in the pews mourning their loved ones.
“I thank you all for your faith, especially in this time with all these difficulties that have come during these days of the coronavirus,” Bishop Whalen told the victims’ family members. “You are all with us; you are all in our hearts.”
The bishop spoke of the significance of eternal life, of having faith in the Lord and in the prayers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as the importance of coping with tribulations “with the light of faith, with the gift of faith.”
In Spanish and English closing remarks, Lopez, the consul general, cited the importance of the prayer service for “my brothers and sisters in the Mexican community.” He thanked Cardinal Dolan for supporting the community and the special service for “these frontline heroes.”
Viri Rosas, 32, was among the grateful members of the congregations who witnessed the cardinal blessing the remains of their loved ones. Ms. Rosas lost her aunt, Janette Santa Maria, 46, who was a housecleaner.
“I am very thankful for this prayer service,” Ms. Rosas told Catholic New York after the gathering. “I am thankful to everyone who made this possible.”
Another congregant, Luis Reyes Tapia, lost a close friend and co-worker, Claudio Ortega Maldonado, 29, a fish market packer. “I am grateful for all of this, all this for my friend and the others,” Tapia told CNY.
Assisting Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Whalen were several priests, including Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of the cathedral, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, and Father Santiago Rubio, Mexican-born pastor of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard in Manhattan.
“It was a great help, and it was very comforting for them (the loved ones),” Father Rubio told CNY of the prayer service, citing the collaboration of the archdiocese and the consul general. “It was a service that showed support and unity.” Father Rubio will leave later this month for Mexico to resume serving in the Diocese of Autlan Jalisco, where he was ordained 40 years ago.
Wanda Vasquez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry, said the prayer service brought together “a mixture of people, mostly frontline people from different areas—locals, some from Brooklyn, others from upstate; they were of all age ranges, from elderly people to young adults, and children.”