They were teachers, scholars, mentors, ministers to the troubled.
They devoted their lives to God and helping others. After they grew old, they came to a secluded campus in the hills of the Santa Clara Valley to spend the rest of their days in quiet contemplation.
One by one, the retired priests succumbed to COVID-19.
In the span of a month, beginning in early December, eight residents of Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos died.
As each man grew sicker, fellow residents entered the infirmary one at a time, anointed him with oils and said a prayer.
The center’s archivist, Brother Dan Peterson, wrote the obituaries.
“When that phone rang, it was haunting,” Peterson said. “You didn’t know who was next. Sometimes the deaths were so quick you didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, and others lingered in pain.”
Sacred Heart was home to more than 80 retired priests and brothers, some able-bodied, and others who required frequent medical care. As in other facilities, elderly people living in close quarters provided fertile ground for the coronavirus.
Father Scott Santarosa, head of Jesuits West Province, said officials did everything they could to prevent a coronavirus outbreak….
Last November, as the pandemic worsened in California, the coronavirus found its way there. Peterson, the archivist, tested positive, along with four retirees.
A full lockdown ensued. The chapel, dining room, gym and library were closed. The retired clergy ate alone in their rooms. Instead of exchanging greetings in hallways, they caught up by email and phone.
The first to die was Bob Mathewson, 89, on Dec. 6….
Bernard “Bernie” Bush, 86, followed the next day….
Joseph Fice followed Bush to the grave, succumbing to COVID-19 on Dec. 13 at age 82….
A few days later, on Dec. 16, the virus took Silvano Votto, 78, a teacher and scholar of classical languages who was born in Italy….
The day after Votto, Michael Cook, a longtime professor at Gonzaga University who wrote three books on theology, died at 84….
Joseph Oneal McGowan, 80, and died Dec. 23….
Father Chuck Peterson, 82, died on Christmas Eve….
Ten days passed before COVID-19 took its last and oldest victim, 95-year-old Gerald Gordon. He died of COVID-19 on Jan. 4….
Over the course of the outbreak, 15 Sacred Heart residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 and survived….
The above comes from a July 13 story in the L.A. Times.