Centenarian Church Member Survives COVID-19


Justiniano Anibal Ulloa, a 101-year-old member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Scarborough, Ontario, was born during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and has recently survived the deadly novel coronavirus. (See an additional report of this story by CTV News Toronto.)

With failing lungs and a serious cough, Justiniano was taken to hospital on April 4, 2020 and tested positive for COVID-19. The doctors expected he would not survive and said no one would be able to visit him in hospital. His family received permission to take him home and care for him there, which allowed him to receive calls from his immediate and extended family in Canada, Ecuador, and the United States.

His son Marcelo Ulloa gave Justiniano a priesthood blessing, and family and friends fasted and prayed for his recovery.

priesthood blessing

Justiniano made major improvements during the week that included Good Friday, April 10, the same day as the global fast that Church President Russell M. Nelson invited people of all faiths and beliefs to join.

Marcelo said, “Dad’s family doctor was surprised [Dad] was still alive and not requiring oxygen. It’s nothing short of the power of God keeping him going in a miraculous way … [This experience] is definitely one way that Heavenly Father is showing His great power and mercy by answering our collective prayers.”

An Answer to Fasting and Prayer

Latter-day Saints believe that fasting combined with sincere prayer can provide spiritual strength, closeness to God and preparation to receive His blessings. Millions participated in the worldwide fast on April 10, praying that the present pandemic might be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.

President Russell M. Nelson

In his global fast invitation, President Nelson said, “God ‘has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name’ (Alma 26:35). So, during times of deep distress, as when illness reaches pandemic proportions, the most natural thing for us to do is to call upon our Heavenly Father and His Son — the Master Healer — to show forth Their marvelous power to bless the people of the earth.”

Blessings of the Word of Wisdom

Justiniano and his family believe his adherence to the Church health code, often referred to as “the Word of Wisdom” (Doctrine and Covenants 89), also contributed to his recovery. The health code’s provisions include abstaining from alcoholic drinks, smoking, chewing tobacco, and “hot drinks” — believed to refer specifically to tea and coffee. “Wholesome herbs,” along with fruits and grains, are specifically recommended. Meat is to be used “sparingly.” The Church also interprets the misuse of drugs — illegal, legal, prescription or controlled — as a violation of the health code.

Justiniano’s sons have been taking turns caring for him, one week at time. When son Pablo contracted the virus and was sick for a few weeks, Justiniano was often asking about Pablo’s well-being rather than worrying about his own.

Of Justiniano’s recovery, Marcelo added, “Our family is very grateful for all the prayers and fasting of so many on behalf of my dad and our family. I felt protected that I didn’t get sick myself while caring for my dad.”

A Legacy of Family Love and Service

Justiniano Anibal Ulloa and his wife, Celinda Calderon, joined the Church in 1971 in Ecuador, where he was an officer of the national police. He was soon called to be the branch president of the local branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served for nearly two years. Then he and Celinda immigrated to Canada with their seven children. He has devoted his life to serving his family and others, ultimately serving as the Spanish-language patriarch of the Toronto Ontario Stake for nearly 22 years, until he was 91.

Justiniano still lives on his own, receiving some assistance from family and health-care givers. He has 24 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren and is the oldest of nine siblings, most of whom are still living.