Fourteen residents and a volunteer worker at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., have died from COVID-19. Google Street View

Pastor stands ready as COVID-19 hits Bobcaygeon hard

  • April 2, 2020

Fr. Luis Lapinid can’t help but feel a little helpless in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

He is after all the pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in Fenelon Falls from where he also oversees the spiritual needs at Our Lady Queen of Peace in neighbouring Bobcaygeon. And it’s Bobcaygeon, nestled on the picturesque shores of Sturgeon Lake in Ontario’s Kawartha region about two hours northeast of Toronto, where the coronavirus has taken its heaviest toll in the province. People woke up to the shocking news on a late March day that nine people had succumbed to the virus and, even more shocking, that all the victims were from the same seniors’ residence, Pinecrest Nursing Home.

By April 2, that number had risen to 17 — 16 residents and one volunteer worker —and 24 staff at the home are infected with the virus. At that point, there were 53 deaths in Ontario due to COVID-19 and 138 in all of Canada.

Still, Lapinid had not received any call to administer the Anointing of the Sick. He’s not sure if any of the victims were Catholic, whether they attended Our Lady Queen of Peace or even if they were originally from the area. All he knows is what he’s heard in the news.

The helplessness he feels is in large part due to the measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. The message in the weeks before the Pinecrest outbreak was to stay at home and avoid others to help stem its spread. 

“A week before the outbreak at Pinecrest happened I answered a sick call at Case Manor (in Bobcaygeon as well), also one of my nursing homes,” said Lapinid. “So I went there and I anointed the sick and dying person. And I was told afterwards, ‘OK Father, unless you hear word from us we ask you not to come.’ A week after, the outbreak happened.”

It saddens Lapinid that this is the case, but he’s been complying so far. Still, sitting on the sidelines in a time of need goes against everything as a priest he knows he has to do.

To date, he’s not had any calls to anoint the sick, but it’s only a matter of time, especially in an area where so many have chosen to spend their retirement years. Lapinid knows when the inevitable call comes, he won’t shun his priestly call to see in the sick and suffering the image of Christ.

“If I get a sick call I would jump right away,” he said. “It’s my duty as a priest to be at the side of the sick person.”

It’s not only restrictions demanded by local health authorities that Lapinid is up against. His parishioners are imploring him to also be careful.

It may not be a message he wants to hear, but Lapinid is comforted by the fact he continues to hear from his parishioners. While many stopped attending Mass even before churches were shut down, they’ve stayed in touch. He’s heartened to hear they miss the physical Mass and he tells them to take in Peterborough Bishop Daniel Miehm’s live-streamed service or that of the Daily TV Mass. But they’re not the only ones missing Mass with the parish community.

“Even myself, celebrating a private Mass and nobody’s responding except myself. It’s totally different, but there’s really nothing we can do.”

Meantime, he remains prepared for when the phone rings and someone is in need of a priest.

“I’m on stand-by, and I’m sure the ministers from other churches are doing the same,” he said.


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