Story at a glance

  • The Holy Ghost Catholic Church closed after Kirchner’s death, less than two weeks after reopening.
  • Five members of the religious order tested positive for COVID-19 following Kirchner’s death.
  • The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston urged anyone who attended Mass in person at Holy Ghost Church since the reopening on May 2nd to monitor their health for any symptoms.

A church in Texas has canceled Mass services indefinitely after a priest died and five other members of the religious order subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement on Monday.

The Houston-based Holy Ghost Catholic Church reopened its doors and began hosting mass May 2 as Texas started to ease coronavirus restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus. 


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The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, however, decided to close the church again last week, after Father Donnell Kirchner, 79, passed away on May 13. 


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While the cause of the priest’s death is currently unknown, the archdiocese said Kirchner had recently been treated at an urgent care clinic that referred him to a hospital emergency room where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He was sent home with medication, but it’s not clear if he was tested for COVID-19. 

Following the priest’s death, the archdiocese said five of the seven members of Kirchner’s religious order, with whom Kirchner shared a home with, were all tested for the coronavirus. 

“This past weekend, five of the seven members of the Redemptorists religious community learned that they had tested positive for COVID-19, including two priests who had been active in celebrating public Masses at Holy Ghost since May 2nd,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “As a result of these findings, all Masses at Holy Ghost Church remain cancelled until further notice.” 

“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 said that while Holy Ghost Church has a seating capacity of approximately 900, in-person attendance at Mass has been closely controlled, with Sunday Masses never exceeding 179 attendees since resuming May 2. Weekday Mass attendance was a fraction of that amount, the archdioceses said. 

Texas has had more than 49,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,300 deaths as the state continues to reopen.


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Published on May 20, 2020