GR priest continues COVID-19 recovery

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Father Mark Przybysz, a well-known Grand Rapids priest who leads the parish at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Community, began feeling the symptoms right around St. Patrick’s Day.

Experiencing chills and sweats, and concerned with the emerging coronavirus, Przybysz called his doctor.

“They said they couldn’t do anything because I didn’t meet the right criteria, so just to stay home,” Przybysz said.

Days later, he passed out and ended up in the emergency room, but he still didn’t meet the criteria.

“And then, the following Wednesday, two days after my birthday, I got up in the morning and I couldn’t walk,” Przybysz said. “I had no breath.”

By then, the 59-year-old priest met the criteria.

The test for COVID-19 was positive and he was admitted.

The priest who’s held countless hands, guiding them through life crises — medical and otherwise —suddenly found himself like others in hospitals and nursing homes at this time — separated from loved ones, including his 95-year-old mother.

But there was comfort from the work of his nurses and his doctors.

“Sometimes, we think it’s going to be a big lightening bolt. We think God’s just going to come and heal me. And I think I came to know that it was the doctors — and I had several great doctors — and the nurses and the technicians, that God was working through them,” Przybysz said.

Przybysz spent a week in the hospital not knowing how just how sick he was until a follow-up appointment with his doctor.

“He said that I had been very, very, very sick. And when they had seen my CT, chest x-ray, they were very concerned. They didn’t know if I would make it,” Przybysz recounted.

“It really shook me up for a couple of days. I’m not that old. I’m 59 and in fairly decent shape. And when somebody tells you we didn’t know if you were going to make it or not, that makes you think. That makes you pray a lot. It makes you reflect on what was my life about and what is my life about.”

A longtime advocate for social justice and an emeritus member of the Mercy Health board of trustees, Przybysz has a new cause: Trying to keep what happened to him when it came to testing from happening to others.

“My life’s been changed since I was told I almost died from this. This will be something that’s a part of my life,” Przybysz said. “I appreciate everything they did, but the system’s broken somehow.”

On Good Friday, the doors of St. Anthony of Padua were locked. The parking lot was empty.

But the bells still ring and the spirit remains in its leader.

Przybysz has a message this holy week and Easter Sunday for the sick and isolated — a message of hope and new life.

“I want to help them come to know what Easter’s about. To experience this new life. And experience this new life of Easter … in a new way this year,” Przybysz said.

“And even when we don’t understand it, there’s still that hope and that new life. And it’s waiting for us. We’re just going to need to realize it in a little different way.”