By CBSNewYork Team

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A man with autism was devastated when he could no longer attend church due to the pandemic. That meant not seeing his hero and favorite musician, Father Jim.

CBS2’s Meg Baker has more on their special bond.

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“Does Father Jim play some of your favorite songs?” Baker asked.

“Yeah,” replied Ben Hack.

“He’s a rock star when he comes here to the church,” said Fr. Jim Worth.

Ben and Father Jim, at St. Joseph’s in Maplewood, have bonded over their love of music, the color orange and wearing glasses. When Father Jim puts his on to read music, Ben, 22, puts his sunglasses on to listen.

Before the pandemic, Ben would sit in a pew every Sunday at 9 a.m. with his family. Lockdown cut everything off for Ben, but Father Jim continued to play, virtually.

“These concerts for him was like a crucial point of continuity,” said Ben’s mother Mary Beth Walsh. “It helped him realize, you know, that he was still included and he belongs there, and people miss him when he’s not there. He’s not like an afterthought.”

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“It thrills me to know that I believe God gave me a gift with music and the priesthood and I’m able to share it so personally,” Father Jim said.

“This is a great example of a compassionate community,” Baker said.

“Absolutely, and I’d like say that this is everywhere, but I have to be realistic, it’s not always,” Father Jim said.

Father Jim tries to wear orange for the concerts, which is Ben’s favorite color.

“I don’t know when he will be returning, but when he does, it’s going to be the red carpet treatment,” Father Jim said.

Father Jim encourages others to be welcoming and compassionate to all members of the community, especially after more than a year of feeling isolated.

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Meg Baker contributed to this report. 

CBSNewYork Team