MUMBAI, India – A bishop who battled COVID-19 said his time in the hospital was an opportunity for prayer and contemplation.
Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Savio Fernandes of Bombay was admitted to Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai on Oct. 10. and discharged on Oct. 26.
Fernandes told Crux that he did not have a serious case of the disease that has so far killed over 120,000 people in India.
“The one difficulty is that one has a problem of breathlessness. Though I was breathless, I was never on the ventilator. I was given 2-3 liters oxygen per day and also took plasma treatment,” he said.
“The other difficulty is that people are afraid that we may communicate the virus to them. Hence, one would have to be prepared for social ostracizing. For some people once you have the coronavirus you could transmit it to others no matter how long ago you contracted it. It reminds me of the lepers in the Bible. Fortunately, we have the advantage of the digital world and the internet and can communicate without any physical contact. I thank God for this experience,” the bishop added.
Although Fernandes downplayed the seriousness of his disease, the bishop spent 11 ½ days in an intensive care unit. He said he spent the time praying the rosary and doing the Divine Mercy devotion.
“It was a deep realization for me that Jesus loves me so much and that through his death and resurrection he saves us. I was filled with gratitude to Jesus my Lord and God and to God the Father with whom I share a very personal relationship,” he explained.
“I realized nothing matters in life except that we love God and all others and forgive one another. I am totally at peace with myself because I know God is in me,” he said.
Fernandes said there was one other spiritual exercise he did in the ICU.
“Every time I breathe in, I would say in my mind ‘Jesus in me’ and when I exhaled ‘and I in Him.’ That made me aware of God’s presence in my life and all around me. It was as if I was floating in bed with God in me and all around me. This also gave me the confidence to surrender myself to Jesus and to accept whatever is His will for me, even death, if he so wills it. Our God is the creator of the entire universe and yet he cares for a tiny speck like me,” the bishop said.
He said one of the hardest parts of being in the ICU was the inability to celebrate Mass, and as soon as he was moved to a normal ward the first thing he did was celebrate the Eucharist.
“At the Eucharist, that’s where I feel I am the Vicar of Christ. It is also a constant reminder to me to reach out to the poor and those in any need or anxiety,” Fernandes told Crux.
“I have been praying for people every day, even when I was in the ICU, that God may keep them safe from the coronavirus. I also prayed the Divine Chaplet every moment. I have been praying for the eradication of the coronavirus from the face of the earth. I am sure God will pay heed to our prayers,” he said.
Now that he is out of the hospital, the bishop is ready to return to ministry. In fact, he is thankful that as a recovered COVID-19 patient, it means he will be unable to transmit the virus for a time.
“How long? I don’t know. But if people need me, I will be there for them,” he said.