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Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston reopened its doors on May 2, as the Lone Star State began loosening its stay-at-home orders.
But on May 14, the parish canceled all services after Father Donnell Kirchner died. Five members of the congregation tested positive for COVID-19, church officials said Monday.
“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 of Galveston-Houston said in a statement to Fox News.
The church said it was possible Kirchner, 79, contracted COVID-19 and that “one or more of the community might have been exposed.” The priest’s cause of death is unknown, though he was diagnosed with pneumonia before he died at home May 13.
Kirchner, who worked at Holy Ghost parish in Bellaire, shared a home with seven other members of the Redemptorists religious community. Five of them tested positive for COVID over the weekend, including two priests who had been active in public Masses at Holy Ghost since reopening.
The diocese reports at least five members of the church tested positive as of Monday and are asymptomatic. In-person attendance at the 900-seat parish has been “closely controlled” and has not exceeded 179 people since May 2.
Kirchner’s funeral is scheduled for Thursday and will be livestreamed on Facebook.
Texas has had over 49,900 cases and at least 1,369 deaths due to the coronavirus as the state continues to reopen.