By Emily Drooby
Fr. Jorge Ortiz-Garay was the beloved pastor of St. Brigid Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Diocesan Coordinator of the Ministry to Mexican immigrants.
He passed away on March 27, 2020, from the coronavirus.
At 49-years-old, he’s believed to be the first Catholic priest in the U.S. to lose his life to the virus.
“Father Jorge passed away and here we are, starting the process of getting him home to his final resting place,” Vincent LeVien, director of External Affairs for DeSales Media Group, the parent company of Currents News, said May 3.
LeVien formed the DeSales Emergency Task Force to help organizations in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
He says that his team worked for weeks to send the body of Brooklyn priest, Fr. Jorge Ortiz-Garay, back to his homeland of Mexico.
“Thanks to Monsignor Kieran Harrington and Bishop DiMarzio, we literally worked every night and day to run through all of the bureaucracy to make sure Fr. Jorge could be home time,” LeVien explained.
LeVien said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Customs and Delta Airlines all played a role in making this happen.
“If we got one thing wrong today, cargo, the flight, the manifest, the coffin, the logistics, Father Jorge doesn’t get home,” said LeVien.
Fr. Jorge put his own health at risk to minister to his parishioners when the virus started to spread.
“A lot of people stayed in because they had to stay in, he chose to go out and help people because he knew those people needed the help, because without him they had nothing, they had no food, they had no supplies,” said LeVien.
On Sunday, Currents News was there as Father Jorge began his journey to his final resting place.
It started with a blessing by Kieran E. Harrington, vicar for communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn, in front of the Scotto and Heyer Funeral Home.
“And that’s why this is important today, yes to give him respect for all of the work he did…but ultimately also for the consolation of his mom and his dad, his siblings, his nieces and nephews who need to be able to have him present to have closure,” explained the funeral home’s director, John Heyer.
The hearse was then escorted to JFK Airport and out onto the tarmac where even the capital came out to pay his respects.
There was a solemn moment for many as the casket was loaded onto the plane, and a final goodbye was said to Fr. Jorge Ortiz-Garay.
His body is bound for Mexico City, but his legacy will forever live on in the Brooklyn Diocese.