Msgr. John Barry in 2018

Msgr. John Barry stands outside the American Martyr's parish center in 2018 to promote the church's yearly Lucky 21 car drawing for the parish fair. (Photo submitted)

Monsignor John Barry, the beloved head of American Martyrs Catholic Church in Manhattan Beach for more than three decades, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he announced last week.

After spending a couple days in the hospital, it was announced Tuesday that Barry was discharged from the hospital, according to a statement from American Martyrs business manager Bob Hodges and staff, and “continue his recovery from home.”

“Thank you for all the prayers for him, and please continue to pray for everyone hurting during this crisis,” said the statement.

Two associate pastors, the Revs. Joe Kammerer and Rich Prindle, have not shown symptoms of the coronavirus, officially known as  COVID-19, but have been in voluntary quarantine “out of an abundance of caution,” a statement from the church said.

Barry, the kind-hearted 82-year-old spiritual leader of American Martyrs who has been pastor since 1983, had been recovering in the church’s rectory. But in a note on the church's Facebook page to parishioners on Sunday, March 29, Barry wrote that under doctor's advice, he has checked in to Little Company of Mary hospital "so they can keep a closer eye on me."

Barry first developed symptoms on March 16 and was tested the next day, according a statement from the monsignor and the church’s business manager, Bob Hodges. Barry went into self-quarantine at a doctor’s recommendation. The COVID-19 test results came 10 days later.

“While we know there are many places where Monsignor Barry could have been exposed, we wanted to make sure that our parish community had this information,” the statement said. “The health and safety of everyone who is a part of our community is of great importance to us. In accordance with current protocols, this matter was reported to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.”

American Martyrs School closed and transitioned to remote learning on March 13 — three days before Barry’s symptoms began showing — said Adrian Alarcon, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

But the symptoms for COVID-19 — which stands for coronavirus disease 2019 and is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2 — can appear two-to-14 days after exposure.

The symptoms for the respiratory disease include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. While most people — including healthy young adults — will experience mild symptoms, the disease can be severe and possibly fatal for at-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with other health problems.

Indeed, 65 people have died in Los Angeles County as of Wednesday, April 1, according to public health officials. There have also been 3,352 total confirmed coronavirus cases countywide, including 41 in Manhattan Beach, 50 in Redondo Beach and 12 in Hermosa Beach.

“Monsignor Barry did not have interaction with the student body at the school on the last day of school,” Alarcon said. “The last school Mass that he celebrated for the students at the school was three weeks ago, on March 6.”

Barry, the archdiocese said, attended the annual Mulligan fundraiser at the church hall, 1431 Deegan Place, on March 7. A guest who attended the standing-room-only event tested positive for COVID-19, according to a March 16 statement by the nonprofit Saint Sebastian Sports Project, which hosted the fundraiser.

Alarcon, though, said the school and parish instituted preventive measures and began practicing social distancing in early March.

“We have not received any reports of cases of COVID-19 involving any student or staff at American Martyrs School,” Alarcon said.

On March 17, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced the temporary suspension of the public celebration of Mass.

American Martyrs went to live-streaming Mass from 8 to 10 a.m. daily, and at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Debbie Walmer, who founded the Sophisticated Snoops fundraiser for American Martyrs nearly five decades ago, said Friday she has known Barry since he arrived at American Martyrs.

Walmer said the church “got a wonderful gift when he arrived.”

“He has accomplished so many things and done so much for so many people, not only American Martyrs, but people in the community as well,” Walmer said. “He’s always been there for us, always doing things for people and without any fanfare. Now it’s time to pay back and pray for him.”

Barry, for his part, asked for prayers — for all who have the virus.

“Please continue to pray for me and everyone in our community,” Barry wrote in his letter to the community, “especially those who are ill.”

*Updated on April 1 with new total COVID-19 numbers for the county and beach cities.

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