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Coronavirus Update: Hospital Chaplain Shares The Challenges Of Ministering Amid Pandemic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - At hospitals across the country, chaplains are doing their best to serve the sick and the dying while staying socially distant.

It is difficult and demanding. CBS2's Tony Aiello checked in with a Catholic priest working on the front lines of the pandemic.

The tools of the trade for Dominican Father John Devaney now include a face mask and a forehead thermometer. The pandemic dominates his work at local hospitals.

Devaney told Aiello he'll never forget the first coronavirus patient he prayed for from the other side of the ICU glass.


"It was mysterious. The other side of this glass was this tiny virus that has now traveled the world, and the face is the face of this woman," Fr. Devaney said.

Catholics believe in anointing of the sick heals them from sin. In a pandemic, direct touching is discouraged, so Dominican nuns in New Jersey are providing kits which include cotton balls that can be saturated with holy oil so patients can be anointed safely.

"To still have that intimate encounter of the Catholic and their sacraments despite all the precautions and the danger of COVID-19," Fr. Devaney said.

Devaney also prays for and ministers to healthcare workers. He is in awe of their dedication and grace under pressure.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Some might need that long conversation, reassurance. Some might just want to share with me their confidence, their trust in God in the work that they've been called to do at this time," he said.

The other day, Devaney was with a grieving family member in need of consolation, and social distancing got in the way.

PHOTO GALLERY: A Look Inside NYC's Viral 'Warzone'

"The family member just really wanted a hug, we both knew we couldn't do it. We couldn't give that support emotionally or physically and that was really hard," he said.

The times are hard.

Father Devaney prays for the day the suffering stops, and the hands-on work of a Catholic priest can resume.

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