BY LAURA PFIZENMEYER
ROCK HILL — The Catholic faith communities of York County came together to celebrate the ordination of Oratorian Father Elbano Muñoz on May 14.
More than a dozen priests and brothers from The Oratory community and over 300 people filled St. Anne Church to watch as Bishop Robert J. Baker ordained Father Muñoz.
The congregation included representatives of six par-ishes in York County and an 18-member Fourth Degree honor guard from the Father Henry Tevlin Assembly of the Knights of Columbus.
Father Muñoz is a native of Valera, Venezuela. His mother Rosario Muñoz, his aunt Adela Santos, his 87-year-old cousin Mercedes Arismendi, and his childhood friend and neighbor Nubia D’Lessandro joined him on his special day and even participated in the liturgy as gift bearers.
Father Muñoz joined the Oratorian community five years ago at the recommendation of his friend, and now fellow priest, Father Adilso Coelho. Father Coelho is parish administrator of St. Anne, where Father Muñoz served as deacon for several months last year. Father Muñoz’s vestments were handmade in Brazil by Father Coelho’s mother, Nelsi.
The new priest graduated cum laude in absentia from Notre Dame Seminary School of Theology in New Orleans on May 12. Father Jose Lavastida, dean of students at Notre Dame Seminary, was able to attend Father Muñoz’s ordination.
Among the many emotionally moving moments during the service was the sign of peace at the conclusion of the rite of ordination when Bishop Baker embraced the new priest. Then his fellow priests in turn embraced Father Muñoz while the congregation stood in ovation.
Another high point came during Communion when a beaming Father Muñoz gave the Eucharist to his mother and family members for the first time.
After the ordination, a celebratory dinner was held at the parish life center where Father John Giuliani, provost of The Oratory, announced Father Muñoz’s assignment. He will be pastoral vicar of Divine Saviour in York and All Saints Mission in Lake Wylie. He will also assist Father Coelho at St. Anne School. Plans are also in the works for Father Muñoz to offer a 4 p.m. Saturday Mass at St. Mary in Rock Hill, with a special outreach to the ethnic communities of each of these parishes.
Some of the priest’s soon-to-be parishioners were present in the inter-parish choir conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Robinson of Divine Saviour.
When asked to comment on the newest member of his community, Father Giuliani remarked on the gifts his new priest will bring into his ministry and to the faithful.
“We’re delighted to have a new priest who has so many gifts: bilingual, well-educated and ready to give to the people of God,” he said. “Father Muñoz is ready, willing and able.”
The next day Father Muñoz celebrated his first Mass at St. Anne Church, and another joyful reception followed.
When asked to reflect on his ordination Father Muñoz said he was grateful.
“This is a very special time for me, the end of a long journey,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this for many, many years. It hasn’t been easy to get to this point but thanks to God’s grace, I’m achieving this goal. A door is opening for me to do more things for the glory of God.”