By Tim Harfmann
A memorial is growing outside the locked doors of Saint Brigid’s Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to honor their beloved pastor, Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay.
“We’re all sad,” said one parishioner. “Our community is sad.”
Father Jorge is believed to be the first U.S. priest to die from the coronavirus. He was 49 years old.
The Mexican-born priest was ordained to the Archdiocese of Newark in 2004, and had served the Brooklyn Diocese since 2009.
Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros was close to Fr. Jorge.
“What a great priest. What a great servant of the Lord. What a great friend,” Bishop Cisneros recalled.
Fr. Jorge helped Bishop Cisneros create the Mexican ministry in the Brooklyn Diocese, evangelizing to Hispanic Catholics.
Fr. Jorge was also the driving force behind the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration.
The feast day included Mass — attended by thousands — and a torch-lit pilgrimage through the streets.
He was dedicated to his parish’s Catholic academy, too, and the education students receive there.
“It’s an investment of life,” he told Currents News in September 2019. “If we keep these kids here, they are happy. They understand that the school is such a home. you know what? At the end, they will stay in the Church.”
“We mourn the passing of our own Father Jorge,” said Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in a video released to the diocese. “We pray through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for him and his family at this time.”
“He is, for all of us, an example of priesthood,” added Bishop Cisneros.
Bishop Cisneros says he received a text message from Fr. Jorge the day before he died. It was not about his health, but his loyalty to Christ.
“He said, ‘Pray that I may always be faithful to the Lord,’” said Bishop Cisneros. “Wow, what words.”
A Memorial Mass in the Brooklyn Diocese will be announced at a later date.