PHILADELPHIA — Father John Fields, an archpriest of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, who was communication director for the archeparchy, died at his home Nov. 28. He was 70.
The cause of death has yet to be determined, according to an announcement from the archeparchy.
His body will be brought to St. Michael Church in Frackville, Pa., the morning of Dec. 3. A prayer service known as “Panakhyda” will be celebrated. Father Fields body will lie in repose at the church until 7 p.m. when the “Priestly Parastas” takes place. These are prayers offered for the repose of the departed and the forgiveness of sin.
A Divine Liturgy for Father Fields will be celebrated Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. at St. Michael Church. The archeparchy said priests and deacons will be asked to wear red/dark vestments and masks. Social distancing also will be required.
“Father John was an ardent American patriot and a proud carrier of the legacy of his Pennsylvania coal mining homeland,” Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia said in a statement Nov. 30. “There is nothing that he loved more than sharing stories of the people, parishes and past of our Anthracite Region.
“He remained hopeful about the future, that of the church, the country and his own ability to make a contribution,” the archbishop said. “In our last conversation before Thanksgiving, Father John was in good spirits and seemingly improving in his health.”
Archbishop Gudziak said Father Fields had many assignments in different parishes and various capacities throughout the archeparchy, including as a longtime pastor and, in recent years, as religious education director and communication director.
“A lawyer by first profession, Father John had a bright and inquisitive mind. He was a builder of churches, an avid conversationalist, a communicator. Animated, quick-witted and with an incisive sense of humor, Father John kept us alert. He loved to share news and was adept at doing so,” Archbishop Gudziak said.
“I express my heartfelt condolences to Father John’s family and friends. As Father John professed and preached, our hope is in the Lord and his resurrection. Let us remember him in our grateful prayers. May his memory be eternal,” the prelate added.
Most recently Father Fields had volunteered to participate in the third and final phase of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial.
In a Nov. 17 interview with Catholic News Service, he said he felt no ill effects from injections he received during the trials in late August and early October. When he received an invitation to volunteer for this from the University of Pennsylvania Aug. 28, he told CNS, he said “yes” immediately.
“I did not hesitate. For me, it was a go. I just hoped I would be accepted,” he said, adding that he had no concern about the risks. “I thought it was a win-win situation.”
By being in the study, he felt he might be able to “contribute in some small way to the development of an effective vaccine that would help stop this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and the fear, suffering and death that it has already caused to millions and end the shutdowns and help restore society once again to a normal lifestyle.”
It was a blind study — about 50% of the participants received the experimental vaccine and the remaining 50% a placebo of saline solution, he said. The participants and the Penn Care team were not informed who received the vaccine and who received the placebo. However, the injections were coded for purposes of the study.
He received two injections, one Aug. 31 and the second one Oct. 1. Before the shots, he had to be tested for COVID-19 — and he tested negative each time, and he had blood drawn before the injections. He had to monitor his temperature and record any symptoms — such as fatigue, nausea, injection site pain, arm swelling, chills or fever, headaches — but had none of these after either shot, he told CNS.
On Oct. 26, he returned for a follow-up evaluation and he was going to continue to be evaluated for period of 25 months. His next evaluation was already scheduled for March 2021.
“Several years ago, I anointed one of my former parishioners from Frackville, Pa., who was dying of cancer at the hospital of the University Pennsylvania,” he told CNS in explaining why he volunteered for the trials. “He knew his cancer was terminal but signed up for an experimental cancer research study at Penn. Even to this day, I think of his courage and bravery while he was at death’s doorstep.”