Aloysius Gonzaga was born in 1568 and suffered from serious kidney disease at an early age. He came from nobility and his father thought he was destined for military greatness, but instead he heeded the call to become a Jesuit priest. In 1591 a terrible plague broke out in Rome. Aloysius, in spite of his bad health, volunteered to help the Jesuits as they tended to the sick. He would care for the patients, encourage them, pray with them, and prepare them for death. He himself caught the disease (now believed to have been either smallpox or measles) and eventually died from it at the tender age of 23. Aloysius was sainted by the Catholic Church in 1726.
The Catholic congregation of St. Aloysius in Ridgewood was founded in 1892 by Gotscheer immigrants and the current church building was completed in 1917, with its renowned twin steeples added later. The first New York City pandemic death happened at Wyckoff Heights Hospital, just 4 blocks from St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s namesake parish.
Because he tended to the sick during a disease breakout and eventually succumbed himself, St. Aloysius is considered to be a patron saint of epidemic victims, and his intercession has been sought by many since the dawn of the COVID-19 era and likely will continue to be well into the future.