Diocesan News

St. Peter Claver Parishioner Rings Bell to Remember COVID-19 Victims

  • When his pastor asked him to ring the bell each day, Stanley Davis immediately said yes. (Photos: Paula Katinas)
  • Stanley Davis, an active parishioner of St. Peter Claver Church, spots a picture of himself and his wife Anna on a poster celebrating the church's 100th anniversary.
  • After ringing the bell, Stanley Davis always prays. “I’m in the presence of God,” he says.
  • St. Peter Claver Church did not escape COVID-19 sorrow, according to Father Alonzo Cox, the pastor. One parishioner died in the pandemic, he said.
  • Stanley Davis says the one positive about the pandemic is that it has brought families together.


‘It Lets People Know We’re Praying for Them’

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Stanley Davis has faced many challenging times in his long life, but he’s always relied on his deep Catholic faith to get him through the tough times.

It seems the obstacles started when he was just a boy. He comes from a large family — one of 11 children — and his father died young, leaving his mother a widow.

“It was a rough life. We were very poor and we struggled,” he explained.

Even into adulthood, the rough times seemed to continue. For instance, he worked as a maintenance man at Bear Stearns for many years but lost his job when the company collapsed in 2008.

Now 83 years old, it seems Davis has finally found some solace in his once turbulent life. It comes from a daily routine, one he started during the pandemic, when many others lost any sense of order to their lives. 

He has a special job at St Peter Claver Church, Bedford-Stuyvesant, that he does with relish. Every day at 3 p.m., rain or shine, Davis takes out his walker, puts on his suit jacket, walks over to the church, and rings the bells. 

But it’s not just a sound heard around the neighborhood, it’s a memorial for all those who have died since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It lets people know we’re praying for them,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Davis lost his brother Franklin to COVID-19, and New York City has lost more than 31,500 people since last year. 

When Davis rings the bell he has his brother, and so many others, in mind. He pulls the rope precisely 24 times at 3 p.m. — the hour that Jesus Christ died. The number 24 is also significant and purposeful. That’s the age at which St. Therese Lisieux, the Little Flower, one of Davis’ favorite saints, passed away. By ringing the bell 24 times, Davis is also asking for St. Therese’s intercession.

“I’m in the presence of God. I think about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I do a lot of praying. And time flies,” said Davis.

His bell-tolling routine began last year when his pastor, Father Alonzo Cox, asked him to take on the responsibility following Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s announcement of the “Bells of Hope” campaign in which he asked churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn to ring their bells daily to remember COVID-19 victims.

When Father Cox heard the call, he knew immediately which parishioner he would ask to take on the task.

“The first person I thought of was Stanley Davis. St. Peter Claver Church is his second home,” Father Cox recalled. 

While he is sitting in his second home each day following his duties, Davis takes the time to think not only about how he has overcome his own struggles but about the pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the world.

There has been much death and suffering, as in his own life, but there is something positive coming out of the pandemic, explains Davis. Just as it’s bringing him to St Peter Claver each day, it is also “bringing families together.” 

He added that these days, it is even bringing him closer to his own family, the one that was thought to be torn apart so many years ago.