They wanted to hold the ceremony outside that November night, but it was too cold and windy. So the parishioners gathered in their beloved Highlandtown church, where red candles with the names of loved ones were lit along the altar. They watched as their pastor walked solemnly up the aisle, stepping over the tape marked for social distancing. Then he turned to face the congregation and began to call out, one by one, the names of the parish’s dead.
Relatives huddled against one another. Some cried. The list of the deceased for the All Souls Day service at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church was much longer than normal. Under the painting of St. Joseph, patron saint of a happy death, was an ofrenda, or altar, with 36 white crosses — one for each parishioner who has died from COVID-19.