• Last modified 783 days ago (June 17, 2020)


Quarantined couple finds grace

Staff writer

Mary and Francis Jirak are masters at finding grace and peace amid a climate of bad news.

The couple spent 14 days sheltering in place after finding out their son, Father John Jirak, had been exposed to a fellow priest who tested positive with COVID-19.

Father Jirak paid his parents an approved visit on June 2, more than a week before his roommate, Father Matt Davied, woke up with a horrible headache, a key symptom of the virus.

The Church of the Magdalen, where Jirak is pastor, closed its doors and suspended all Masses and live streams after Davied’s diagnosis was confirmed.

Father Jirak is now sheltering in the vacant house of a relative. He tested negative for the virus.

But Father Brian Bebak, pastor of Holy Family Parish, was still concerned. He asked the couple to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution. They agreed.

“It’s not like being in jail or anything,” Mary said in a phone interview this week. “To a certain extent it has been an opportunity to get away from the rat race of life.”

The Jiraks live on a farm near Tampa and buy monthly food supplies, so they were well stocked with groceries.

They kept in touch with their son by video chat and are glad he is well, if somewhat exhausted.

“The first day, he had six hours of Zoom meetings,” she said. “I contacted him that evening and he said, ‘I really need to go; I have not celebrated Mass yet.’

Their daughter, Maria, who lives nearby, offered to leave supplies on his doorstep.

Father John took his InstantPot and an AirFryer with him.

“We felt he was in pretty good shape there, too,” said Mary, who was glad to hear that Davies is now feeling better.

The Jiraks used the time at home to complete projects and tried to stick to a daily routine.

“You lose track of the days if all you do is stay at home on time,” she said.

Mary threw herself into cleaning out her basement, packing away things she would not need, painting and putting up curtains in an area where her grandchildren play and sleep.

Francis worked to get his shop cleaned up and get their combine ready to harvest a wheat crop that has ripened fast.

Mary said the experience reminded her that her life has often been too busy or hectic for her to think of her relationship with God.

“I am really happy I have had time to reflect on that,” she said. “Now I don’t think life will be quite the same. Our prayer habits and our quiet times are more pronounced and regular.”

But she can’t wait to see, hold, and hug her 22 grandchildren and looks forward welcoming more — No. 23 is due this week and 24 is expected in December.

“We have five children, our oldest is a priest and they have almost 24 grandchildren for us,” she said. “We are very blessed.”

Last modified June 17, 2020