By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service     4/8/2020

WASHINGTON (CNS) Before Juan Vasquez says goodbye to wife Tanya Granillo de Vasquez and 1-year-old son Robert as he goes off to work each morning, the three gather and then the husband and wife pray. 

“Faith is what’s important at this moment,” said wife Tanya. “We give thanks and then we ask for protection … I ask that he (Juan) be returned to us as he left, to come home to a family that waits for him.” 

In the age of the coronavirus, grocery store workers, like Juan Vasquez of Uniondale, New York, have become unlikely heroes around the globe, the only lifeline to the outside world for many, and the ones who keep quick access to food and products essential to daily survival — a role that, like agricultural workers, was never celebrated, until a virus brought the world to a halt. 

It was a role that never seemed dangerous — until the coronavirus arrived. 

“They’re not just exposing their lives to help other people, but they’re also doing their best to not expose (their families),” said Tanya Vasquez in a March 28 WhatsApp audio interview with Catholic News Service. 

Because both Vasquezes are Catholic and have a special devotion to Mary, they ask for her intercession, not just to keep the head of the household free of COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, but for the protection of the whole family. Prayer and faith are the only weapons to survive the painful and anxiety-driven day that has become part of their daily routine, Tanya Vasquez said. 

 “Believe me, I feel as if I’m discriminating (against) him,” Tanya Vasquez said. “But it has to be done.” 

Every night that he returns home from work, she makes him put his shoes inside a bag at the bottom of a stairwell before he walks up to their apartment wearing socks and sends him straight to the shower, putting whatever he’s been wearing that day inside another bag that is quickly closed, then he showers for about 30 minutes, Tanya Vasquez said. 

“It makes me very sad because our son sometimes waits for him by the window and can see him come home from there,” she said. “He jumps up and down when he sees him but now he can’t go directly to him, or me. No hug, no kiss. He goes straight to the shower.”