Old St. Pat’s pastor says goodbye to father in virtual funeral

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CHICAGO — As health concerns continue to swell for people across the world, there are new rules for mourners during the state’s stay-at-home order.

Irish funerals are legendary for their celebrations of life. Sure there are tears and difficult farewells for loved ones, but there is almost always laughter and storytelling that ultimately forces a smile for those stricken with grief.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting everyone, including those who pass away, funerals are limited to 10 people or less in a room.

At Old St. Pat’s Church Tuesday, close to a thousand gathered virtually to honor the life of 92-year-old Jack Hurley. 

Signs at the doors said to “experience church in a new way during this extraordinary time.”

It applied to Fr. Tom Hurley, who streamed his father’s service so well-wishers could tune in from home.

Somehow, with virtually no one in the room, Fr. Hurley managed to keep his sense of humor.

“I know what my father would be saying: look on the bright side,” Hurley said. “’I am saving you a lot of money on a funeral luncheon today.’”

Sister Carol Pacini, from OSF Little Company of Mary, streamed the service on the South Side.

“It was different,” Pancini said. “You’re not in a large room with people who have known and loved Dr. Hurley and his family for years. I was in a small room with five other sisters, older than I am, all of whom had different memories of Dr. Hurley.”

After the service inside the church, the funeral procession took a detour through the South Side on its way to the cemetery. It was Dr. Hurley’s route to his beloved hospital.

The streets were lined with friends who would have attended his service if it wasn’t for COVID-19. Practicing six feet of separation, neighbors, kids, dogs and old friends stretched down the 10-block route.

At the hospital, doctors, nurses and nuns paid respects in a safe, new way.

“You can’t pause grief,” said funeral director Ron Kurza Jr. “The grieving process takes place with the start of a funeral service and whatever services family requires. Without that, we need to find new ways of being able to help the family the best we can.”

Funerals limited to very small numbers are being requested through the end of the month. With some places of worship closed, funerals are being canceled or delayed.

As of options, private viewings for family only are available.

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