Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The woman said when she was admitted to Mercy Hospital that she didn’t need to see a priest right away.

The Rev. Paul Marquis ministers at Mercy Hospital three days a week, and is also on call at Maine Medical Center. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Portland

“When she first arrived, she said. ‘Oh, don’t come in right now, Father,’ very nicely,” the Rev. Paul Marquis said. “She had been anointed during a previous visit to the hospital recently.

“She had watched Masses at home prior to coming into the hospital, so it wasn’t like she wasn’t prepared.

“I eventually got called in and she was no longer conscious, but I was able to come in and give her the Apostolic Pardon (administered to the dying).”

Marquis, 61, is going about his ministry differently during the coronavirus outbreak, though he is just as busy as before. A priest for nearly 34 years, he is a Parochial Vicar (assistant pastor) at Catholic churches in Falmouth, Yarmouth and Gray. He is one of three Catholic chaplains in Portland. He ministers at Mercy Hospital three days a week, and is also on call at Maine Medical Center.

“In so many ways, I don’t know the last time I felt this much like a priest,” Marquis told Dave Guthro, communications director for the Diocese of Portland. Marquis’ conversation with Guthro, as well as his comments to the Press Herald, comprise his diary entry.

“I take whatever precautions are necessary. Visiting any patient, I wear a mask from the time we walk in, to the time we leave. I wash down a lot more things than I used to – my desk, the keyboard … just being more careful.

“I also use a face shield … I have my own hood, gown, and gloves. The hood plugs in from the back to a generator that pushes filtered air into it.”

One of Marquis’ duties is administering the Sacrament of the Sick, which involves anointing the patient with sacred oil. But Marquis cannot bring in any objects.

“The old way with (bringing) a metal container (of oil) can’t be done. You’d be bringing COVID-19 from patient to patient.”

Now, Marquis brings in a disposable cotton ball, already dipped in oil. Other times, Marquis is not allowed to be with a patient.

“At Maine Medical Center, in certain units, the priest can’t go into the room. They put the phone next to the ear of an unconscious COVID-19 patient who was on a ventilator and I prayed as many prayers as I could. They opened the door a foot and I could stand there and give him the Apostolic Pardon, over the phone and sort of yelling it in. It’s tough.

“Whether the ears can hear it or not, the soul is probably still listening. We just have to trust the mercy of God and that God can provide.

“I’ve also called families who have members with COVID-19 that they can’t visit, due to safety restrictions. There are arrangements made for families to video conference into isolation areas to speak to people. We coordinate those things, too.”

Other patients are not in the hospital.

“There have been a couple of these the last couple days; people who are dying at home who want to receive the sacraments.”

Marquis has tried to stick to his routine at Mercy Hospital.

“I’m still celebrating Mass in the chapel, on behalf of the patients and the staff, but nobody can come. When I’m in there, the chapel is locked. The Mass is telecast (via Facebook Live).

“As I’m driving, I’ll offer the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (prayer). I find that I’m offering it for those dying patients, especially for those dying without the benefit of the sacraments or without the comfort of family.

“When I pray the rosary, I pray for nurses, doctors, therapists, phlebotomists, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, maintenance workers, dietary workers, EMTs, police, anybody who might – because of their work – be brought into contact with people with COVID. We also pray for people who work in grocery stores, prepare food, or deliver food from restaurants. It’s a different world.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at [email protected]

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