BRISTOL — Father Marinaldo Batista, CSP, had “big plans” for St. Elizabeth Church’s future, heartbroken parishioners said during a Memorial Mass held on April 10 to honor their late pastor.
“He was motivated to do good. While he was proud of how far the parish had come, he still wanted to accomplish so much more,” Marie Mauricio, a member of St. Elizabeth’s finance council, said at the end of Mass.
Speaking to a church filled to reduced capacity under COVID-19 restrictions, Mauricio also read a note from Father Batista’s niece in Brazil that expressed gratitude for the parish community’s kind words of condolences.
“Father Marinaldo was so personable and made so many great friends throughout our community,” Mauricio said. “He will be greatly missed, especially here as one of our favorite pastors.”
Father Batista died from COVID-19 complications on April 1, Holy Thursday, in Brazil. He had traveled to his native country earlier this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination and to visit his elderly parents, who had been wanting to see him for some time, parishioners said.
While in Brazil, Father Batista’s parents and his brother became ill with COVID-19. In late February, Father Batista posted a video on Facebook Live, asking for prayers for his hospitalized father. At the time, his mother and brother were quarantined at a walk-in clinic. He was quarantined separately.
His father, Valdir Marques Batista, would die from COVID-19 on March 5, followed by his mother, Izabel Tricossi Batista, on March 25, according to a posting by the Diocese de Campo Mourão in Brazil.
Father Batista, a priest-member of the Company of Saint Paul who became pastor of St. Elizabeth Church in August 2019, had been hospitalized since early March at the Santa Casa de Campo Mourão hospital. He was 53.
His impact in 2 ½ years as pastor of St. Elizabeth Church, a large vibrant parish with a sizeable Portuguese community, was evident by the large number of parishioners that turned out for the memorial Mass. An overflow crowd watched a live feed of the Mass in the St. Elizabeth Auditorium next door to the church. Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans was in attendance.
“Father Marinaldo Batista’s life was marked by service to Jesus Christ and to God’s people,” Father Ezio Antunes, CSP, said during his homily in which he emphasized Father Batista’s faithfulness to his priestly vocation.
“The power of his ministry flowed from his personal relationship with Jesus,” said Father Antunes, who spoke in English and Portuguese. “The eloquence of his preaching was an extension of his deep prayer life. He sought every day to love him from his heart those he ministered to, out of reverence to Jesus.”
Father Batista was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Campo Mourão in December 1995. In Brazil, he served as a parish priest and a seminary rector. He later served as a parish priest for Portuguese-language communities in Canada. There, he joined the Company of Saint Paul, a secular institute. As a member of the institute, he was invited to minister to the Portuguese-speaking community of St. Elizabeth’s in Bristol.
“I don’t want you to forget how much this priest loved you,” Father Adauto Alves, a priest-member of the Company of St. Paul, told the assembled congregation. Father Alves noted that in 2019, he introduced Father Batista to the St. Elizabeth Parish community. He said Father Batista constantly asked him for advice on how he could better serve the people as their pastor.
“He did that, for you,” Father Alves said.
Fernando Brum, a member of the St. Elizabeth Holy Ghost Committee, said Father Batista worked well with all the parish committees and that “he loved the Holy Ghost and he loved the festivities we had in the church.”
Karen Costa, a co-director of St. Elizabeth’s faith formation program, said Father Batista “truly loved” the children in the parish. She recalled how he often held up newly-baptized babies “like they were in the Lion King” and that he would call children to the sanctuary to say the Lord’s Prayer during Mass.
“It was a wonderful feeling. He always made them feel so special,” Costa said.