‘He was beloved’: Longtime Providence priest dies after month-long battle with COVID


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A priest who led a church in Providence for close to two decades has died after contracting COVID-19.

Rev. Joseph Santos, 62, was hospitalized with COVID-19 a month ago and passed away on Saturday morning. He was the pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church on Camp Street in Providence for nearly 20 years.

“Very deep sadness, very deep sadness because he was beloved,” said Father Joseph Escobar, pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Providence. “It reminds us of how serious this illness is and how we all need to be careful.”

Escobar said he attended high school with Santos, and they both had aspirations of becoming priests at a young age.

“We go back to 1974. We rode the bus together to go to high school and we’ve been friends ever since,” Escobar said. “Joe always had the desire to be a priest as I did, and we both realized that dream. We’re both priests for more than 30 years, so we pray now that he’s at peace with the Lord and we serve very faithfully here on earth.”

Escobar said Santos was a unique pastor, as he led a church that’s home to three communities: Holy Name Parish, the Latin Mass community and the African Catholic community.

“All three coexist under one church roof and Father Santos was pastor to all of them and they loved him and he loved them and it was just a great experience,” Escobar explained. “He had the heart of a priest as they say. He was a very good pastor.”

Santos was also a proud Bristolian, and walked in the Fourth of July parade each year, Escobar said.

He leaves not only a mark on his parishioners but also on his fellow priests who he was a wealth of knowledge for.

“He was kind of like Google for us, like, you could ask Joe any question, even an obscure religious thing and Joe would know the answer,” Escobar said. “And he was very good about cleaning out churches that were closed and if you needed something for your church, you’d call Joe first, because he’d have it in his basement. He was just a unique guy.”

“Joe had a great love for church history, a great knowledge about the liturgy of the church, an enjoyment of good food and good wine and was always concerned to do the best he could for his parish and to bring people closer to Christ and to his church,” he continued. “In losing him, we’ve lost a great treasure.”

Calling hours will be held on Friday from 4-7 p.m. at Holy Name Church. A Solemn Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Latin) will be celebrated at Holy Name on Saturday at 10 a.m.

“We mourn the loss of Father Santos, a good and faithful priest who served the Diocese of Providence for many years,” the Diocese of Providence said in a statement Monday. “In these difficult times, we are comforted by the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection in Jesus Christ. Let us all pray for the repose of Father Santos’ soul and pray, too, for the comfort of his family and the community of Holy Name Parish.”

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