Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
HIALEAH | Two priests had to talk Yolanda Pérez into getting the COVID-19 vaccine: Her pastor, Father Jose Espino, and her son, Father Luis Perez, pastor of San Pablo Church in Marathon.
Father Perez made sure to check with her doctor, too.
“I didn’t want to take it (the vaccine) but for Luis and for him (Father Espino) I did it,” said Yolanda, 85. “God leads the way.”
Father Espino made it easy for her, too. She was one of 150 parishioners who got the vaccine at San Lazaro in Hialeah, Jan. 20, 2021. The parish was the first in the archdiocese to partner with government officials as a vaccine site, something Archbishop Thomas Wenski is encouraging.
San Lazaro offered its ample grounds as a drive-thru — with a few walk-ups —one-day distribution site at the request of Miami-Dade County Commissioner René García, who represents the area and was offered the doses by FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Father Espino.
A total of 700 elderly residents of Hialeah and nearby Hialeah Gardens received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the church. They will return there in four weeks for their second dose.
“We had worked together for food distribution and we had the space,” Father Espino explained, referring to Commissioner García. “We’re offering this for the community. It’s not a parish event. This is to help the community.”
But he did send out an email blast to all his 65-and-older parishioners, urging them to sign up for an appointment.
“I’m urging people as soon as they can to get vaccinated,” said Father Espino, who won’t be able to do so himself until he turns 65 in April. But the archdiocese’s retired priests and those over 65 have already done so, as has Archbishop Wenski.
“There’s absolutely no moral objection,” Father Espino said, quoting Father Alfred Cioffi, the archdiocese’s resident moral theologian.
Longtime San Lazaro parishioners Elizabeth and Dagoberto Rodriguez had no qualms about getting the vaccine.
“We wanted to take it,” said Elizabeth, 75.
“At this age, if there’s any problem, I don’t care,” said Dagoberto, 79.
The couple, San Lazaro parishioners since its founding, have remained pretty much in quarantine for the past nine months, going out only for essentials and attending Mass in person only on Fridays, when there are fewer people around. It’s a suggestion Father Espino gives to parishioners who are wary of being in crowded spaces.
After getting her shot without even wincing, Elizabeth said, “I didn’t even feel it.”