KEY POINTS

  • Father Donnell Kirchner, 79, of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston died in his home from coronavirus on May 13
  • Five other worshipers, including two priests, also tested positive but were asymptomatic
  • The archdiocese had reduced attendance at the Houston church from 900 to 180 when it reopened on May 2

A church in Texas has been forced to close its doors after a priest died from coronavirus while several churchgoers tested positive for the virus.

Father Donnell Kirchner, 79, a priest from the Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston, died on May 13 at his home by the church. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston followed up on May 14, saying five people living with Kirchner at also tested positive for coronavirus and two of them were priests.

As a result of Kirchner’s death and the positive deaths, the archdiocese said it would be closing the church until further notice.

“Following Fr. Kirchner’s death, the other members of the religious order sought medical advice, and all were tested for the coronavirus,” the archdiocese said in a public statement Monday. “Although the parish had followed cleaning, sanitation and social distancing guidelines prescribed by State health officials since reopening on May 2nd, they determined at that time it was best to close the Church immediately to public Masses until the results of their tests were known.”

They also warned anyone who had attended mass since the church reopened on May 2 to take the necessary precautions.

“If you have attended Masses in person at Holy Ghost Church since the reopening on May 2nd, you are strongly encouraged to monitor your health for any symptoms and be tested for COVID-19, as a precautionary measure,” the archdiocese said.

The archdiocese does point out that it had been taking precautions and vastly reduced occupancy at the Holy Ghost Catholic Church, which normally houses around 900 people. Instead, no more than 180 attendees had been allowed inside the church for mass.

Kirchner’s funeral is scheduled for Thursday and will be streamed on Facebook.

IMAGESChurches reopen in Rome as images from inside Santa Maria in Transpontina's church near the Vatican show worshippers returning to pray. IMAGESChurches reopen in Rome as images from inside Santa Maria in Transpontina's church near the Vatican show worshippers returning to pray. Photo: AFPTV / Sonia LOGRE