Auxiliary Bishop John Manz joined Father Ismael Sandoval and other archdiocesan priests and deacons in celebrating a May 30 Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines to honor people who have died from COVID-19. The outdoor Mass, celebrated under a sunny sky with a temperature approaching 70 degrees, drew hundreds of people, including some who had not been back to church in person since losing loved ones. That included Patricia Ortiz, who came with her mother, Olga Castro; her boyfriend, Jovany Mariano, and a young cousin. The family has been watching Sunday Masses from the shrine online, Ortiz said, viewing them on a television near a large photo of her father, Mateo Ortiz, who died from COVID-19 in August 2020. On May 30, they brought a portrait of her father to place near a memorial for those who died that was in the sanctuary. “It’s been hard,” Ortiz said. “But coming to church today, it felt different. Like a weight had been lifted. Seeing it in person is so different.” In his homily, Bishop Manz offered his condolences to families who lost loved ones, especially those who could not be with their loved ones when they were dying. It is a small comfort, he said in Spanish, to hold the hands of loved ones when they are sick, and many people were unable to do that. Javier Castillo, moderator of the archdiocesan Consejo Hispano, the Hispanic advisory council, planned the Mass after holding online prayer sessions for people who had lost loved ones or otherwise been affected by COVID-19. “We wanted to this for people who were not able to have a proper funeral,” Castillo said. “It’s a way for them to honor their loved ones.” The online sessions drew about 150 people, Castillo said, and were led by Father Andre Beltran, pastor of St. James Parish, Highwood, and Sandoval, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, 3745 S. Paulina St. Sandoval lost his brother-in-law, brother and father to the virus within one week in January. Sandoval was visiting in his family in Mexico when they died, he said, and he was also sick with COVID-19. “Eucharist” means “a giving of thanks,” Sandoval said after the Mass, and the liturgy offered those who participated a chance to give thanks for those they loved, for however long they had them. “We celebrate the Mass together, the church on earth with the church in heaven,” Sandoval said. “They may be gone physically from the earth, but they are still with us.” Illness and death were no strangers to the indigenous people of Mexico when the Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to San Juan Diego in 1531, Bishop Manz said in his homily. The Spanish conquistadors had recently taken control of the country, bringing with them diseases that the indigenous people had no immunity against. The Virgen de Guadalupe, appearing like an indigenous woman and speaking to Juan Diego in his language, came to comfort them. Now, the numbers of people who are sick and dying in Illinois are declining, but the pandemic is not over. Bishop Manz reminded the congregation that Pope Francis has said that all who are able to should get vaccinated against COVID-19, and that wearing face coverings protects not just those who wear them, but also the people around them. Bishop Manz also reflected on the lessons the pandemic can teach us, saying he hoped we have learned to live together and how much we need one another, to understand that all our lives are gifts from God, that there are no guarantees about how long our lives are, and so we should love one another even more. Sandoval said Catholics also must remember their faith in dark times. Speaking in Spanish at the end of Mass, he said, death is not the end.