The Tablet Staff
EAST ELMHURST — A man of service and a father to all is how Father Gioacchino Basile is described by those who knew him best. His life was tragically cut short April 4.
Father Basile, pastor of Saint Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst, Queens, is the latest priest to pass away due to complications associated with COVID-19.
Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn said in a statement: “Father Gioacchino Basile, a native of Calabria, Italy who died today, was small in stature, but mighty in energy for the Lord. Unfortunately, Father’s underlying health conditions made it difficult for him to fight the virus. In addition to English and Italian, Father spoke Spanish fluently and ministered well to all of the people of his parish and the faithful of the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens.”
Father Basile, 60, was ordained a priest on May 27, 1995. He first ministered as parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s in New Jersey, was then released to work in the Diocese of Ponce (Puerto Rico) and then released to the Diocese of Brooklyn, where he was assigned Administrator of Saint Gabriel’s in 2008.
A video of Father Basile singing at a priest’s retreat is how his closest friend, Father Sean Manson, wants to remember him.
“He was full of joy. He wasn’t pompous, he wasn’t preachy, he was a down-to-earth guy. You saw that God exists looking at him,” explained Father Manson, pastor of Our Lady Mother of the Church in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
Father Basile’s death comes one week after the passing of Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay,, the first U.S. priest believed to have died from complications associated with the coronavirus.
Father Gioacchino’s parishioners considered him a spiritual guide, looking to him during times of sadness and grief. Jessie Lema is one of them.
“Maybe because I loved him so much, he was a saint,” Lema said. “I give thanks to God that he gave me the chance to know him.” Father Basile would have celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination next month.
“He always had a smile and made you feel welcome, he heard my confessions and was always available. He was a spiritual father to me,” recalled Father Miguel Angel Cervantes, now acting pastor at St. Gabriel’s. He believes Father Basile contracted the virus at church.
Father Basile was already on medical leave from his duties as pastor at St. Gabriel’s when it was discovered he had contracted coronavirus.
“We had positive cases of coronavirus in the parish and that’s how he got the virus,” Cervantes said. “He was in contact with the people when no one knew it was present. “
Father Basile was trained in the Neocatecumenal Movement and served as the Spiritual Director of Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Douglaston. He also assisted as a chaplain at LaGuardia Airport.
St. Gabriel’s vicar, Father Bob Sandlack, had been serving alongside Father Basile for years. He said his parish has lost a father, and he has lost a friend. “In any situation, he was able to laugh. He had an uplifting spirit, nothing saddened him,” Sandlack recalled. “I’ll miss his love.”
A memorial Mass at St. Gabriel’s will be livestreamed on Wednesday, April 8, at 3:30 p.m., and when social distancing is no longer required, a public Mass will be held in Father Basile’s honor.