After being brought into this world against the odds, losing his father at 8 years old, and surviving a battle with cancer, Father Adrian San Juan knew one thing for certain: that he would “rather be with the Lord.”
That attitude — and memories of the young priest’s zeal for Christ — are what is left to console grieving parishioners, relatives, and fellow priests stunned by the news of the 43-year-old’s sudden passing Saturday, Sept. 19, after collapsing at the start of a wedding at St. Linus Church in Norwalk, where he served as administrator.
“He passed away doing what he loved: celebrating the Eucharist,” said Rafael Alvarez, a St. Linus parishioner and seminarian at the Queen of Angels Center for Priestly Formation. “That was one of his most joyful moments.”
Alvarez was there assisting Father San Juan as he entered the parish’s canopied “outdoor church,” kissed the altar, and waited for the wedding party to process toward the altar. But a few moments later, something “didn’t feel right”: to Alvarez’s surprise, Father San Juan went to sit in the presider’s chair before falling to the ground.
Paramedics were called and attempted CPR on Father San Juan, who had suffered an apparent heart attack, before taking him to PIH Whittier Hospital while another priest at St. Linus, Father Marco Reyes, stepped in to continue the wedding.
Father San Juan was pronounced dead a short while later. A small group of family members were briefly allowed into the hospital, and a priest was able to give him the last rites.
As of Thursday, Sept. 24, funeral plans were still pending while the priest’s family awaited word from the county medical examiner on his official cause of death.
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