L.A. priests unabashed about getting vaccine
“We are in close contact with far more people"

2021-03-02T08:41:35-08:00March 2nd, 2021|California Diocese News|

The clergy of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are far from immune to the challenges of securing coronavirus vaccines these days.

Msgr. John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights can tell his story now with some sense of humor.

The 79-year-old laughs when he tells people that he was “hoping that when I went in, someone would ask for my ID to see if I could prove I was over 65 … but no one did.”

But getting there wasn’t all that amusing to him. He tried registering online, only to see his information wiped from the form time and again as he tried to get an appointment for his first shot.

He finally set up his first shot in January. Then, on the day after Ash Wednesday, when Msgr. Moretta arrived at Dodger Stadium for his second shot, he spent three hours sitting in his car as organizers scrambled to assess if they had enough doses to give out. He eventually got it.

Still, the experience hasn’t deterred him from stressing to his parishioners in one of the LA neighborhoods hardest hit by Covid-19 to follow his lead: be persistent, ask for help, and don’t be afraid.

“I put it all out there on social media, in the bulletin, on our website — we’re asking people to go and I give them my own example,” said Msgr. Moretta, who last month celebrated his 29 years as pastor at Resurrection. “Some of them lack the confidence in taking the shot. I know maneuvering the sign-ups isn’t really user-friendly.

“But now I feel I’m on all cylinders. I’m good to go and have been very happy from my first shot. It brought me a lot of relief.”

In his own neighborhood, Msgr. Moretta has directed people to vaccinations at places that range from the local CVS pharmacy to the iconic old Sears Tower building, as well as the campus at Cal State Los Angeles and the Keck Medical Center of USC.

Father Chris Ponnet is the chaplain at Keck and at LA County USC Medical Center. He believes he was the first L.A. priest to be vaccinated in late December with the Pfizer dose.

In addition to protecting his own health and those of his fellow chaplains as they minister sacraments to the sick and infirm, Father Ponnet has preached the importance of getting the shots.

“I felt it was very important to post my photos, invite others who sadly may be fearful and be saying negative things,” he said, who lost his 52-year-old niece to the virus. “This isn’t only professional, but very personal. It’s important to be a witness and say this is an act of a pro-life ministry.”

Almost a year ago, Msgr. John Barry, pastor of American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach, survived his own unnerving bout with Covid-19. Nonetheless, the 83-year-old was one of several South Bay clergy members from different denominations to take up an offer by Torrance Memorial Hospital to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

The hospital said it received a waiver for local clergy who volunteer at the hospital to help its employed chaplain, thus meeting the definition of health care workers.

Even though Msgr. Barry’s doctors told him he had built up enough antibodies to fight the virus going forward, getting the vaccine was a matter of trusting their advice.

“Pope Francis encourages everyone to be vaccinated,” said Msgr. Barry, at American Martyrs since 1983. “However, I respect the decision of those who think differently. I have no problem with people who question the vaccine. I want people to know that I support the vaccine. I trust science.”

Msgr. Jim Bevacqua, pastor at Holy Name Church in Glendale since 2008, said he felt no “Catholic guilt” for getting vaccinated at the age of 62, although he did feel chills for a day after the second shot.

The priest ended up getting his vaccine from a local convalescent home with excess supply that would have otherwise been discarded.

“The reality is that from what I read, there are a lot of unused vaccines and there are disparities unfortunately in poor and underprivileged communities, which is totally wrong,” he said. “I certainly didn’t feel entitled to get one.”

Much of the work of priests, Father Lawrence Santos pointed out, is done on the “front lines” of sick calls, hearing confessions, and celebrating Masses.

“We are in close contact with far more people than anyone who can work remotely and stay with their family. I am unabashed about having been vaccinated. I feel we’re doing this as an act of charity as well to protect other people.”

Father Santos, who became pastor at St. Genevieve Church in Panorama City during the pandemic lockdown last September, said he is fortunate to live walking distance from a Kaiser Permanente medical center. The 57-year-old and his associates have been vaccinated because of their sacramental work there.

“When we got it, I posted on Facebook and highlighted it at Mass and in our bulletin,” said Father Santos. “People are asking me about it. We are still following protocols with masks and everything, but we have less fear of the virus now.”

Archbishop José Gomez and Auxiliary Bishop Alex Aclan both received their two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, which has taken a proactive role in getting archdiocesan priests vaccinated.

Sister Margarita Rico from the Servants of Mary said she was able to book appointments for 82 priests, many of whom are retired at the Nazareth House assisted-living facility in LA, where she works….

The above comes from a March 2 story in Angelus News.



  1. Rev John Higgins March 2, 2021 at 9:13 am - Reply

    I am Pastor of St. Raymond Church in Downey, CA. I got my first vaccine shot on January 26th an the second on on February 26th. Both times my arm was just a tiny bit sore and I got sleepy on the first evening and on the day after the second shot. Then I was back to normal with no other side effects. I am relieved as well. I’m around a lot of people and would love to go back to being an active Chaplain for our firefighters.

    What amazes me is that Orange County has had an 81% drop in new cases of COVID. Maybe they stopped counting every person who was brought to a hospital or doctor’s office as a covid case.

    Fr. John Higgins

    • Silent Observer March 2, 2021 at 10:28 am - Reply

      @ Rev. John Higgins – it’s good to know you had few side effects, Fr. John. Yes, and we’ve heard very little about the “flu” for a year now. Apparently no one has had it or died from it. Interesting, as they say.

    • Your Fellow Catholic March 2, 2021 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Thank you for getting vaccinated Father Higgins and being a great role model. God willing, we can put this plague behind us together!

      Ditto ditto to Archbishop Gomez.

    • Deacon Craig Anderson March 2, 2021 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Father, thank you for serving as a chaplain to firefighters. I retired not long ago from the Fire service. As you know, there is a great need for Catholic chaplains for Fire and Police Departments as well as the military services.

      • Rev John Higgins March 4, 2021 at 7:51 am - Reply

        I just applied to be Chaplain for our Police Department too. I’m retiring as Pastor at the end of June but will remain at the parish as “Pastor Emeritus”. I plan on being active in ministry but not administration. I am at St. Raymond in Downey, CA. I know a Navy Chaplain who serves at Camp Pendleton. He and I are very different, but we have the same passion for service of people who risk their lives for others.

  2. Juan March 2, 2021 at 10:32 am - Reply

    Watching people pressure people to take biological agents that

    – aren’t even FDA approved (sorry, but EUA is not the same),
    – are currently only experiemental (and so enjoy very limited empirical support),
    – have serious potential for bodily harm and death (just look up the connection between these therapies and ADE in previous corona virus studies; and the CDC’s VAERS already reports over one thousand deaths related to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s therapies, which according to one study likely represents less than 1% of the actual truth),
    – have safe alternatives available here in the U.S. (and so the therapies aren’t even necessary!),
    – are unethically connected to the grave sin of abortion,
    – hold serious potential for placenta rejection and therefore miscarriages,
    – don’t even prevent transmission or contraction of COVID-19,
    – and are supposed to treat a sickness for which there’s almost a 100% chance of survival in the first place

    is an awful thing to see. Even worse is watching our shepherds try to pressure us. What wolves.

    • Your Fellow Catholic March 2, 2021 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      nunnno. There aren’t thousand of deaths due to the vaccine. When you look at the age-adjusted death rates of those vaccinated, they are actually less than the age-adjusted death rates of those not vaccinated. So while there are people who die after the vaccine, these kinds of population-sized studies show the vaccine is safe. And not a single death can be directly traced to the vaccines. Not a single one. There was a patient vaccinated who died – but they were already in hospice before they got the vaccine.

      There is no evidence of ADE in these vaccines. None.

      There are NO safe alternatives. Deaths are down dramatically, but are still averaging over 2,000 per day! That is two 9||11 per week!

      The mRNA vaccines do not use cells from aborted fetuses for their production. Therefore there is no connection to abortion that would enable a person to use it as an excuse to not be vaccinated.

      As I have posed elsewhere, the vaccines have not yet been tested in pregnant women. These women should probably wait until further testing, or postpone pregnancy until well after vaccination.

      We don’t know whether the vaccines prevent transmission of COVID-19. We are pretty sure they do, as studies have shown lower virus titers in those who are exposed to the virus. The studies are ongoing.

      Anyone, vaccinated or not, can contract any virus or bacteria. It is what the body does in response to them that makes the difference between an effective vaccine and an ineffective one. In this case, vaccinated people show between zero and 5 deaths for every 100 deaths in unvaccinated people. That’s a pretty good vaccine. Can a vaccinated person transmit the virus? Again we are not sure yet. Studies are ongoing. But a lower viral load is promising. That is why we still need – at least through the summer – to distance mask and stay outside as much as possible.

      Finally, for a disease that supposedly has a 100% chance of survival, our country has had to endure more than a half million deaths in under a year. Two million worldwide. This is a holocost of epic historic proportions. We should do everything we can to stop its spread and the carnage it leaves behind.

      • Anonymous March 2, 2021 at 5:59 pm - Reply

        YFC willing to explain away deaths from vaccines but opposed to explaining away deaths of people “with” covid but not “from” covid. Where is influenza this season? Wow… no flu? Why not? Has it been cured? Covid is a scam.

        • Bob One March 3, 2021 at 9:21 am - Reply

          Anon, your response borders on silly. The serious flu cases and deaths from the flu are down this year because people are wearing masks, staying home more, and not spreading the germ. If someone goes to the hospital with covid-19 symptoms and has, let’s say, a serious heart problem that is under control, and then dies. That person likely would not have died if not for covid. Therefore, it is listed as a covid death. Over 500,000 people have died because of covid, who would not likely have died if not for the virus. Please stop making up your own facts, but base your opinions on real facts.

        • Anonymous March 4, 2021 at 12:28 am - Reply

          It is true that flu deaths are down 95% because the measures that we are taking to prevent the spread of Covid also prevent the spread of flu.

        • Anonymous March 4, 2021 at 2:16 am - Reply

          Anonymous, will you do us a favor? Not being funny here.
          Phone your local mortuary and ask them if they think Covid is a scam.
          Please post back here with their answer.

  3. Your Fellow Catholic March 2, 2021 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Thank you for getting vaccinated Father Higgins and being a great role model. God willing, we can put this plague behind us together!

    Ditto ditto to Archbishop Gomez.

    • John Higgins March 4, 2021 at 7:47 am - Reply

      Thanks! I’m glad I did. I just learned, however, that the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine is morally compromised. I got the Moderna. The only reaction to it was the next day I needed a 3 hour nap. Then I went back to as normal as possible.

  4. J March 3, 2021 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    What seemingly all the COVID conversations within the Church seem to lack is a proper catechesis on and conversation about death. Whilst our shepherds are advocating for vaccinations or various precautionary measures, I would really like to hear them preach about the 4 Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. Because these are real issues all the time, not just during pandemics, and yet, precious little is mentioned about the reality of our ultimate demise in this world and our eternal reward or punishment. The absolute BEST protection one can have at ALL times is to remain or get back into (Confession!) a “state of grace.” Sure, we can follow reasonable health guidelines, but I ask our Catholic priests and bishops…PLEASE also prepare your flocks for the end of their existence here on earth – whenever and however it will come. (One wonders if this doesn’t happen due to a seeming disbelief in or disregard of the reality of hell…)

    • Anonymous March 3, 2021 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      I agree with you. I think people complain about talk like that so if they ever do it, be sure to thank them and give positive encouragement. I heard a priest begin with “I know some of you don’t want to hear this but you are going to die. We all are.”
      There are giant holes in almost every Catholic’s catechesis.
      Usually if they encounter a common error in the parish, priests will address it. but people don’t talk to the priests that much and when they do, they are afraid of looking dumb or sinful. You may encounter it because parishioners talk more to each other.
      At first, priests think that you may just be a complainer, but if you present it as a concern and not like it is making you mad or judgy, they usually get it. Don’t come off like you think you own the Church. Sometimes they make excuses because that is just what people who feel criticized do, but then they think about it or talk to another priest about it and they get it.
      Don’t tell them what the Bible or Catechism says. That is offensive to them. Be as cool as possible and genuinely allow them to decide what to do about it. Don’t go back and say “You didn’t do ….” or complain about them to other parishioners. It does get back to them.

    • Rev John Higgins March 4, 2021 at 7:59 am - Reply

      I do that too. Some folks don’t like it when I talk about heaven, hell, purgatory and the effects of sin. But most of those folks have left the parish for some kind of ice-cream dispensary or where they can give up applesauce for Lent and feel good about being the best version if themselves.

      But I also try and keep a good sense of humor and a real sense of the Sacredness of the Sacraments and the work of the Holy Spirit in people who have come to the Church with broken hearts and wanting healing and strength. Having been a real rascal and knucklehead myself, and as a recovering alcoholic I talk a lot about the abundance of God’s Grace for those who turn to Him in humility.

      • J March 4, 2021 at 6:16 pm - Reply

        Thank you! May our good God bless and reward you. Maybe they don’t preach on the reality of the 4 Last Things because they fear it comes off as judgmental or too harsh and depressing. But it is the MOST charitable thing one can do. It doesn’t have to be fire and brimstone…we know, including from the Old Testament(!), how patient, loving, and merciful is our good God…toward those who acknowledge their sin, repent, and humbly seek his mercy and forgiveness as you did and lead others to do. I’ve been a rascal too -Divine Mercy first presumes our wretchedness! Thank you, again. I recall a quote from the infamous atheist Penn of “Penn and Teller.” To paraphrase, “If you believe there’s a hell and you believe that people can go there, how much do you have to hate someone to not tell them?!” It’s not like I go around telling everyone about hell, but Penn is right and I ask our shepherds (in addition to Fr. Higgins) to bring this to the COVID conversation. Charity begins at home (i.e. your sheep).

  5. Anonymous March 3, 2021 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    People say “Why would a loving God put anybody in Hell?” Follow up- “Why would anyone who loved God choose to go to Hell?”

    • Anonymous March 3, 2021 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      Why would God hide himself so much that it’s hard for people to be aware of him and then love his infinite goodness more than the finite goods on earth? Why would God allow so much suffering that people don’t believe in him? Why would a loving God not make it easier? You can ask all kinds of questions and get nowhere fast.

      • Anonymous March 4, 2021 at 2:21 am - Reply

        Did you watch the 8 minute homily linked on this page?

      • Anonymous March 4, 2021 at 3:14 am - Reply

        I remember when we toured the sequoias. The park ranger said that the forest managers kept the forest from having fires. Then they realized that no new redwoods were sprouting. The redwoods were making seeds but none sprouted. They then realized that fire was needed to open the seed so that the seeds could sprout. Now they do controlled burns so that new redwoods will grow.
        You will come the understand the purpose of things.
        God knows what He is doing. He knows His purpose and He knows yours.
        God bless you.

      • Anonymous March 4, 2021 at 7:19 pm - Reply

        I answered your questions but it did not get published. Maybe it was too long.
        The answers to your questions are in the Bible. You can google them, too.

    • Rev John Higgins March 4, 2021 at 7:44 am - Reply

      You comment: “People say “Why would a loving God put anybody in Hell?” Follow up- “Why would anyone who loved God choose to go to Hell?”

      I’ve said that many times myself. I’ve been a Priest 40 years and have come to the conclusion that I certainly don’t know everything, but I do know that God gives us free will and that we can reject Him and go to hell if we so choose.

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