BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Parishioners of a Bristol church are mourning the loss of a their priest, who passed away Thursday after contracting COVID-19.
Father Marinaldo Batista of St. Elizabeth Catholic Parish, which primarily serves the town’s Portuguese community, was visiting his parents in Brazil when he tested positive for the virus.
The Diocese of Campo Mourão, where Batista was also incardinated, said he was admitted to the COVID ICU of Santa Casa de Campo Mourão on March 9 after “having his health aggravated” by the virus.
Batista’s parents, according to the Diocese, were “both victims of COVID-19,” and died two weeks apart. In between their deaths, Batista himself was hospitalized.
“This is a man that was in very good health, and COVID just destroyed his body,” former parishioner and good friend Barbara Longo Ferreira said.
Longo Ferreira said to parishioners, Batista was more than just a priest.
“Portuguese people loved him,” she said, adding that Batista left his home in Brazil at the age of 13 to become a priest. “He spoke fluent Portuguese and they could communicate with him well and they embraced him.”
Father Joe Escobar of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Providence tells 12 News he only has fond memories of Batista.
“It reminds us of how fragile life is, and the need we have for a priest in our Diocese, and really around the world … to serve the needs of the Portuguese community.”
Longo Ferreira hopes that Batista’s death will make those who are skeptical think twice about their actions amid the pandemic.
“There are so many people that just don’t understand the gravity of this,” she said. “We need to take precautions, we need to wear our masks and wash our hands.”