COVID Lessons for a Pasig City Priest

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Father Bernardo “Bernie” Carpio is one of the priests at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Pasig City, Philippines. He is an active man of faith, beloved in Pasig City. As was the case for millions of others in 2020, Fr. Bernie’s life was irrevocably changed by the global coronavirus pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit, the cathedral shut down and began offering mass online. Soon five of the new IT staffers developed COVID symptoms, and Fr. Bernie had them too.

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In August a positive COVID test confirmed his worst fears. He was quarantined and transferred to Medical City Ortigas, one of the best hospitals in the city. Despite this, his condition worsened daily. 

“I Will Have My End”

Father Bernie’s condition was critical. He expected the worst possible outcome. He called his family and instructed them on what to do with his possessions. Two priests from other dioceses who were quarantined with him died, leaving him alone.

The priest started to fear the night, afraid of dying alone. He dreamed of his bishop, Fr. Vergara, saying his funerary mass while his fellow priests and family grieved. He felt tortured, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Did Father Bernie falter in his faith? NO. He clung more to the Lord as death waited beside his bed.

He was rushed to the ICU on the tenth day of quarantine when his breathing became desperate gasps for air. Doctors tried frantically to resuscitate him as he hovered near death. Then, miraculously, he fell asleep. Once he woke up, he started to recover.

Fr. Bernie was released from quarantine on September 18. “Miracle ang recovery ko (My recovery is a miracle), he gleefully stated to this interviewer.

Spiritual Realizations 

Fr. Bernie stated that his experience was not a punishment but a lesson from the Lord. During his ordeal, he came to five realizations he intends to share with the world:

  1. Life Is Short. Learn new things, try new hobbies, but always make sure that you live your life in God every day. Focus on what matters.
  1. Death Is Certain. We can never know when our time will come. Life is like a flower which blooms in the morning and withers in the evening. We should be prepared to meet God at any time.
  1. Tomorrow Is Not Promised. Something unexpected can happen to us any day. Live each day with meaning.
  1. Only God Can Save. Not even modern medical technology and prudence can save you if it is the Lord’s will for you to leave this earth. Our lives are in His hands.
  1. Learn to Appreciate the Ordinary. We tend to forget to appreciate the mundane. We are so preoccupied with what is accidental rather than with the essential. Value your family, save your money, treasure each phase of life, no matter how large or small.

Road to Recovery

Fr. Bernie was four months into recovery when he gave this interview. Doctors initially limited him to saying one mass per day, but he has increased it to two. He takes his health more seriously now, sleeping more, eating more fruits and vegetables, and taking vitamin C.               

His morning routine consists of 10 laps of brisk walking on the church patio—a task he found easy before, but which is now an arduous task. He also avoids crowds.

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He maintains that the virus is very real and still a threat.

Andyan parin ang virus (the virus is still there).”

Fr. Bernie Carpio

Let us use Fr. Bernie’s story as a guidepost, allowing this ordeal to drive us into the arms of God, trusting Him in good times and bad.

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