An Enduring Call

North Texas Catholic
(May 28, 2024) Take-Five-With-Father

NTC/Juan Guajardo

HE IS: Father Ariel Muñoz Sanchez, CORC, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Arlington.

A MOTHER’S DEVOTION: Raised in the countryside of Querétaro, Mexico, Fr. Muñoz and his mother walked upwards of an hour to Mass at the nearest church. “My mother was very close with those at church and with the priests of the parish. Although we lived in the country, my mother always went to church.” 

He remembers seeing visiting priests and seminarians arrive at his house and be welcomed and invited to dinner. “Well, from there, the idea of wanting to become a priest like them began to take root.” 

A RENEWED CALL: When he was 12, Fr. Muñoz and his mother emigrated to Texas. They were very far from town, but as often as they could, they would go to church. Fr. Muñoz would also teach catechesis to the area children. 

His uncle, meanwhile, entered the Confraternidad Sacerdotal de Operarios de Cristo (CORC) seminary and was sent to Spain to study theology. “When he sent us a picture of himself wearing his vestments, that feeling I’d had as a kid began to grow tremendously. I wanted to, at that moment, take flight and enter the seminary straight away, but to get there, I had to go through a process still. I needed to finish my education.” 

DETERMINED FOR SEMINARY: Taking his uncle’s advice, he put off joining CORC since seminarians paid monthly fees. “Since we were poor, logically, we had to think about these things.” 

He instead joined the Missionaries of Christ the Redeemer seminary, where he remained for about six years, finishing his schooling before returning to the secular world. 

He worked a year as a farmer in the U.S. then returned to Mexico. His uncle, now a CORC priest, invited him to meet the community. “There, I met a vocational promoter who immediately began to tell me, ‘Órale, you have to become a priest — you have to.’” 

He entered the CORC’s major seminary in September 1989.

ORDAINED: September 26, 1997, at St. Phillip Neri Cathedral of Querétaro.

LANGUAGE TROUBLES: Fr. Muñoz remained at his first assignment at Immaculate Conception Parish in Los Angeles for six years. “The experience — it was a bit difficult.”

Upon his arrival, the parish priests left for a week-long assembly, leaving Fr. Muñoz solely in charge. He didn’t know how to speak English but was responsible for all their daily Masses.

“There was a very kind man, Mr. David, and he would help me prepare everything. He would record himself reading the Gospel readings, and I would review and practice it. He would record all the liturgy, so I would know how to pronounce it all. I felt like a small worm, battered after many stompings. … After that week, I dived into studying English. I studied, studied, and studied. Fortunately, with four priests on rotation, I was only left in charge of the English Mass once a month.”

SPEAK FROM THE HEART: Recalling, too, his time serving at St. Jude Parish in Ceres, California, Fr. Muñoz always prepared for his English Masses. He wrote everything on a sheet of paper and tightly gripped it throughout the liturgy, reading off from it directly. A parishioner eventually approached him and told him, “Father, we do understand what you’re telling us, but the homily that leaves your mouth is more impacting to our hearts than when you read off that paper.” It was a truly humbling moment for Fr. Munoz. Afterward, he committed to memorize as much as he could and leave his notes behind.

“Some words are still difficult for me even now because it is not my native tongue, but I have worked hard to improve, all thanks to God.”

ADVICE FOR THOSE LEARNING ENGLISH: “Don’t become discouraged. Keep studying because Americans are, above all, very merciful even as they are demanding. They are determined to find a way to understand. Many are so pious, they will remain patient. Even if you don’t read English well, they will continue returning so that God may bless them.”

COMMITTED TO HIS VOCATION: “Of course, there are many ups and downs, I would be lying if I told you it was always wonderful, but it’s incredible to see how God works through you, how people place their trust in priests to receive the sacraments, and how many come to request advice … I would become a priest again, yes, because there are so many people who need us.”

JOY IN A DOMESTIC CHURCH: “I find great satisfaction in seeing how many people come to church. Entire families, complete with all their children — four, five kids. It’s endearing to see them come in every Sunday, enter through the door, and all sit down in the same pew. A family all together — it’s beautiful to see.”

ADVICE FOR PARENTS: “Keep educating your children in the faith. Don’t be reckless with your children’s faith, for it is the greatest gift that you could give them.”

BEAUTY OF RECONCILIATION: Fr. Muñoz loves the Eucharist more than all but also enjoys days when hearing confessions.

“Although it is a bit tiring, it’s also incredible seeing how many people believe in the sacrament of reconciliation and come to confess themselves to receive God’s mercy via a priest who will help absolve them of their sins.”

HOBBIES: Puzzles and old westerns on YouTube because they remind him of growing up in the country.

“When I go visit my sister, I sometimes miss my machete and my sombrero, and when I visit my fellow farmhands from back in the day, I often find them still in the area. After celebrating Mass, I greet them and ask them how they’ve been. When I'm with them, I feel like I’m just another campesino [farmer]. Then I remember that I’ve just about 27 years as a priest, and most of my friends are already grandfathers.”

BENEFITS OF THE FAITH: “If one has a good relationship with God, you’ll make good choices, and you will have the fortitude to battle against whatever obstacle you might encounter in your life. 

“But if you don’t walk with God, you won’t have internalized virtues that will help you — virtues like patience, charity, and prudence; virtues that you need to put into practice every day.”

Father Ariel Muñoz Sanchez, CORC, pastor, St. Matthew Parish, Arlington, CORC, trending-english