Coronavirus claims retired NY priest weeks after killing his successor

Monsignor Joseph Murphy, Monsignor Richard J. Guastella
Monsignor Joseph Murphy (L) and Monsignor Richard J. Guastella (R) both died after battling the coronavirus after serving as pastors at St. Clare’s R.C. Church in Great Kills, Staten Island, NY. |

NEW YORK — St. Clare’s R.C. Church in Great Kills on Staten Island announced the loss of Pastor Emeritus Msgr. Joseph P. Murphy to the coronavirus on Saturday, just over a month after the virus killed his successor. He was 91.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we share with you that our beloved Pastor Emeritus, Msgr. Joseph P. Murphy, affectionately known as Monsignor, has returned to the Lord,” the church said in a statement on their website.

Murphy’s death came two days after he celebrated his 66th anniversary of priestly ordination.

“Monsignor bravely battled and defeated COVID-19 but had a long recovery,” the church said.

The beloved priest, who led the church from 1985 to 2008, was described as a “strong spiritual leader and visionary.”

“It was Msgr. Murphy who foresaw the importance of engaging lay ministers in the Church, especially women ministers. Monsignor was the first to enable women to become active ministers in the Church. He had a particular gift at identifying the talents of others and encouraging them to use their talents to serve the Church. The engaged and active lay ministries that make our parish thrive today is a direct result of his leadership,” the church said.

“Looking at the fruits of his labor, we can all agree that this world was made a better place because God had blessed it with the gift that was Monsignor Murphy for the last 91 years. Now he belongs to his Maker. In the loving arms of his friend and successor, Fr. Richard, may Monsignor journey to be at peace with God forever.”

Monsignor Richard J. Guastella, who succeeded Murphy in 2008, died last month at the age of 73 after battling the coronavirus.

“It is with the utmost sadness that we share with you that our beloved pastor, Msgr. Richard J. Guastella, affectionately known as Fr. Richard, has returned to the Lord. Fr. Richard passed away in the early hours of Holy Thursday, April 9, 2020, after bravely battling the COVID-19 which led to his hospitalization last week,” the church announced then.

Guastella’s death came exactly a week after the passing of his brother, Joseph.

“It is fitting that the Lord chose to call Father home, after nearly 48 years of priesthood, on the day that we celebrate the Supper of the Lord, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood. He is indeed a priest forever. We can all agree that this world was made a better place because God had blessed it with the gift that was Fr. Richard for the last 73 years. Now he belongs to his Maker,” the church noted of Richard Guastella’s death.

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