He Was in a Coma for 50 Days Due to COVID — and He Was Just Ordained a Priest

The news of his priestly ordination was received with great joy in the local Church and among those who prayed for his health.

Nathanael Alberione is shown at his ordination on Nov. 21.
Nathanael Alberione is shown at his ordination on Nov. 21. (photo: Christ the Worker parish / via CNA)

Nathanael Alberione of Cordoba, Argentina, won the battle against COVID-19 in 2021, and he was ordained a priest on Nov. 21. 

On that day, he received a special surprise: Pope Francis sent him words of encouragement and urged him to be a “priest of the peripheries.”

The newly ordained 33-year-old priest has been assigned to a diocese in Patagonia, where he has served as a deacon.

His ordination ceremony was presided over by Bishop Joaquín Gimeno Lahoz of Comodoro Rivadavia and was concelebrated by several prelates from the Patagonia-Comahue with a great many faithful in attendance.

The news of his priestly ordination was received with great joy in the local Church and in the Catholic community from all over who prayed for the health of the Cordovan when in April 2021 his case of COVID-19 got so bad that he was in a coma for 50 days.

“The word ‘thank-you’ falls short in a life situation like this, but, unfortunately, we don’t have another word that we can use to express thanks,” Alberione acknowledged in a radio interview on the Conversations program of Radio Divina Providencia.

Regarding his experience with the disease, he explained that you can think about what happened on two levels.

“Initially, I took it like an adolescent, as a challenging rematch: from being prostrate to learning to walk again, to speak; perhaps it was a question of a bit of arrogance: Who is going to keep me still now, after having been through this?”

“Then one gradually changes, and what remains is: This difficulty is nothing compared to others, and it seems to me a wiser way to look at it. I really find it very enlightening not to take it so much as a rematch.”

At one point during his ordeal, Alberione recalled, “I prayed that if I wasn't going to be a priest that I would die.”

The day they explained to him the complex situation he was going through due to his health, he recounted, “Before I fell asleep, I said: So I’m not going to be a priest.”

“The fact that I woke up and assimilated the days that I had spent in a coma was an answer. It has certainly been a turning point in my life, a starting point,” he admitted.

Now a priest, he said that, “to this day, I continue to meet people who prayed for me, and I always ask myself how to respond, always freely, because it’s an invitation that Jesus gives me.”

Referring to the fruits of so many prayers, he encouraged people “not to focus so much on the petition, on the form, on the structure, or on the quantity, but always think of whom we are asking; think of the answer, and the answer is Jesus himself.”

“Just as some of us have made it out of survival situations like this, there are others who didn’t make it, and the question is why others didn’t make it, but I did — and how many people prayed for those others, as well. So, not having the answer in lowercase, I go to the answer in capital letters, which is Jesus himself.”

Greetings From Pope Francis

At the ordination ceremony, which had to be held at Municipal Stadium No. 1 in Puerto Madryn because the expected attendance exceeded the capacity of all the churches, the new priest received a special surprise.

Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the young man in a letter in which he invited him to be a “priest of the peripheries” and said that “it’s always better than being in the center, because reality is seen better from there.”

“Don’t forget your roots nor the look of Jesus, who called you,” the Holy Father advised. “I ask the Virgin to protect you, take care of you with much attention and affection, and please don’t forget to pray for me.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.