This was not going to be an ordinary anointing for Father Kyle Eads.

First, Father Eads had to put on a hospital gown, gloves, mask and face shield. The N95 mask would make breathing difficult and his glasses would fog up with it on. The gloves would be changed after he visited with each person. His hospital gown would have to be changed as he went to different floors at the Teresian House in Albany. He also brought along cotton balls. He would dip one cotton ball in oil to anoint each person.

What began as a request from the family of someone dying from COVID-19 that was looking for a Catholic priest, ended with Father Eads anointing nearly 50 people as well as blessing the nursing staff there on May 5, and leaving with a much greater appreciation for the health-care workers on the front lines.

Earlier that day, Father Eads received a phone call from Father David LeFort, vicar general of the Diocese of Albany, who asked if he could head over to the Teresian House. Father Eads talked with James Cameron, CEO of Teresian House, and he said, “we have three floors of people if you want to spend the afternoon anointing.” Like most nursing homes and care centers in this state, Teresian House has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 with over 50 residents testing positive after the entire facility was checked.

“In this environment of pandemic, now more than ever, the sick and the dying need our care, especially with regards to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick,” Father LeFort said. “While many of our priests are part of a vulnerable population, I am grateful that priests who are not so vulnerable, priests like Father Kyle Eads, have offered to share this sacrament with those who are ill. This sharing gives individuals and their loved ones such comfort and peace, the soothing effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Father Eads, who was ordained last year at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany at the age of 26 and is now parochial vicar at the Parish of Mater Christi, said prior to the coronavirus he had gone into hospitals a couple times to anoint the sick. This experience would be something altogether different.

Father Eads said he usually has a ring that he can put holy water into, his purple stole and a prayer book for anointing the sick. This time he grabbed the big bag of cotton balls so he could dip a cotton ball in the oil for each person and, instead of bringing his prayer book, he put his cellphone in a plastic bag so he could look up the prayers online.

“I went in and met with the pastoral care person over there, then she took me over to the head nurse and she walked me through all the steps for the PPE stuff, what order to put it on,” Father Eads said.

He went room-to-room to visit the two-and-a-half floors of COVID-19 patients during his three-hour visit.

“(Wearing all the gear), I felt like an astronaut and you get in there and everybody else is wearing a spacesuit except for the patients,” Father Eads said. “These poor people, a lot of them haven’t seen someone not covered in head-to-toe in several weeks.”

Father Eads said a lot of the people there have “dementia or were half-asleep but some people were awake and were happy to see me. Some people just wanted to grab your hand and cry for a few minutes.”

Father LeFort added, “hearing back from the family (who made the original call), they said that his ministry touched their entire family as they shared a video of the anointing via FaceTime.”

The experience really shined the light on the true heroes of this pandemic, Father Eads said.

“A lot of the people are alone or their family can’t come see them, but it gave me a lot of respect for the nurses who have to go through that every day.”