Churches bells from Staten Island to Saugerties—and beyond—pealed at noon Dec. 30 to remember and honor the 341,000 people who have died in the United States from Covid-19 this year.
These bells rang in churches in the New York and Boston Archdioceses and in the Brooklyn Diocese. A day earlier, it was unknown if other dioceses would take up the invitation Msgr. Joseph P. LaMorte, vicar general of the Archdiocese of New York, had initially made to pastors of the archdiocese.
At St. Paul the Apostle Church on West 59th Street in Manhattan, Father Rick Walsh, C.S.P., the pastor, called the noon bell ringing “a wonderful piece of solidarity to remind everybody that we’re in this together.”
Father Walsh, in a phone interview with Catholic New York, said, “It’s been awhile since New York went through the really, really difficult times early on in the spring. So I think to bring it back at the end of the year to say we’re not forgetting, we’re remembering those who we’ve lost, I think it is a wonderful gesture—and calling people to just stop what they’re doing and hear the tolling of a bell.”
Father Walsh added, “Every single weekend we pray for those who’ve died and for those who continue to suffer, who live with lingering effects of it (Covid-19).” He said he is aware of parishioners who became very sick and had to be hospitalized, and of others who lost immediate family members.
Julie Connelly, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Church on East 55th Street in Manhattan, located at the New York Catholic Center, was sitting in the pews there awaiting the 12:10 p.m. daily Mass Dec. 30. The church does not have a bell, but Ms. Connelly offered these remarks:
“It’s very important. People understand that just because they may not be suffering, other people are, and that these people (who have died) will not be forgotten. And the bells remind us all to pray for them. I know two people who died of it, acquaintances.”
She said she believes the Church “has responded very well” to the pandemic crisis, citing efforts by Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, LAMP Catholic Ministries and the Bread of Life Ministries.
St. Columba and St. Denis parishes in Hopewell Junction are located in the Town of East Fishkill. Church bells were rung at both Dutchess County churches Dec. 30 to mourn the souls lost to Covid-19.
As of Dec. 28, there were 223 active Covid-19 cases in the town, the second highest Dutchess County total to the Town of Poughkeepsie’s 236 cases.
“We pray constantly at Mass for those with coronavirus,” said Father Michael McLoughlin, pastor of St. Columba. “We have some parishioners in the hospital with coronavirus and some are serious.
“All of our parishes have been tremendously affected by this. We pray for a cure and for the inoculations to work so we can return to a sense of normalcy.”
Father Robert Porpora, pastor of St. Denis, canceled in-person Christmas Masses after he tested positive for Covid-19 Dec. 22. Masses were celebrated virtually.
Before Christmas, Father Porpora said turnout was good for Masses and parishioners also watched via livestream. Parishioners will return to in-person Masses at St. Denis on New Year’s Day.
“The vaccine is out there,” Father Porpora said. “We’ll get through it eventually. It’s a matter of when.”