Father Francisco Valdovinos of Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Meccca died on Friday following a near month-long battle with coronavirus.
Valdovinos was 58 years old.
"A very humble man who was very committed to our farmworkers, to our eastern Coachella Valley community," said Luz Gallegos, who worked with Valdovinos. "He always wanted to give without asking for anything in return."
According to the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, Valdovinos passed away shortly after a brief visit from his sister and in the presence of the Missionary Servants.
Valdovinos became a priest in 1994. Over the years, he would serve communities in Mexico City, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Tallahassee, FL, and Compton, CA. He made his way to the small unincorporated community of Mecca in 2018.
When he arrived he noted that he didn't know much about the community.
"I just knew that it was in the Coachella Valley and that it was a migrant population," Valdovinos told Telemundo 15's Marco Revuelta back in Sept. 2020.
But he quickly worked to learn more about the area and how to help its residents, much like he had in his previous stops.
Over time, he continued to put together different initiatives to help the community. He helped organize health clinics, education projects for those lacking reading or writing skills, and developed programs to offer legal advice on issues such as immigration.
The pandemic didn't put a stop to Valdovinos' dedication to the community.
As numerous County leaders have mentioned in the wake of this tragedy, Valdovinos was on the frontlines, helping organize food distribution. Using his church as a COVID testing site to help the east valley which has been particularly affected by coronavirus. And through it all, he continued to advocate for the people he so loved.
Fr. Valdovinos was a tremendous advocate for public health and the community throughout this pandemic.— Brooke Federico (@RivCoBrooke) January 19, 2021
Rest in peace, Father, and peace be with you. https://t.co/Mtq4SLvMqX
Please keep Father Francisco Valdovinos, Pastor of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mecca, in your thoughts as he struggles with COVID19-related symptoms. He is well known in Mecca for getting community members tested for coronavirus, among his many good deeds. #RivCoNOW pic.twitter.com/vjBiCzdufc— rivcohealthdirector (@rivcohealthdir1) December 28, 2020
Gallegos says they will continue Valdovinos' work to help those in need in the east valley.
"We are in deep sorrow of our Father has left us but we're gonna continue working and organizing in his honor because it's something that we're not gonna overcome so easily but in his honor, we're gonna continue advocating and organizing to bring resources to those that don't have the same privilege that many others do," Gallegos said.
According to the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, all services to remember, honor, pray for Valdovinos will be done virtually due to COVID-19 protocols and the Father's desire to protect the community he loved.
Valdovinos' remains will be taken to Mexico for a service in his hometown of Michoacán. He will then be buried in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
There have been no announcements made for these virtual services at this time. That is expected to be released in the next couple of days.