"God never let go" - On the 25th anniversary of his priesthood, Fr. Ariel Sanchez, CORC, reflects on a call that endured

North Texas Catholic
(Sep 19, 2022) Feature

Fr. Ariel Muñoz, CORC, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Arlington, will celebrate his 25th anniversary of priestly ordination on September 26. (NTC/Ben Torres)

At only 10 years old, Ariel Muñoz felt God calling him to the priesthood. From then on, along with his mother, he began to save up by selling cow’s milk to be able to enter the seminary. Although many years passed before he was able to achieve it, Father Ariel Muñoz, CORC, is now only days away from celebrating 25 years of priesthood.

The pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Arlington assures that “God never left me,” and he is simply overwhelmed by “gratitude for God” for 25 years of a priestly life full of blessings.

Fr. Muñoz was born in Jalpan de Serra, Queretaro, “one of the missions of Saint Junipero Serra.” The deep faith and service of his mother, Doña María Dolores, inspired his vocation, he said, remembering when he accompanied her to teach catechism even though she did not know how to read or write. “She had a brilliant memory” and a great dedication to service, Fr. Muñoz, 65, said.

Few economic resources, an ill father, and concern about providing for four siblings prevented him from going to school, much less to seminary, a desire that continued to grow after seeing a photograph of his maternal uncle, a recently ordained priest. 

He completed high school at the age of 16, and later entered the seminary of the Missionaries of Christ the Redeemer (the Idente Missionaries), but he decided to leave, thinking that priesthood was not his vocation.

“But God never let go of my hand,” he asserted. The call of God continued.

After leaving seminary, he moved to North Carolina and worked as a farm laborer. The pastor of his parish asked for help teaching Bible study classes and for support in growing Hispanic ministry “which was just beginning.”

During a vacation in Mexico, he visited his priest uncle, who at that time was the spiritual director of the seminary of the Fellowship of Laborers of the Kingdom of Christ (or the Confraternidad Sacerdotal de Operarios de Cristo, as they are known in Spanish), resulting in his residence as a seminarian. The young seminarian achieved his dream on September 26, 1997, when he entered holy orders in the Cathedral of Queretaro.

“It was a great feeling. I asked God to allow my parents to see me get ordained, and He granted it,” Fr. Muñoz shared. His father died two years later and his mother five years later. 

For Fr. Muñoz, being in the Diocese of Fort Worth as part of the CORC order “is fulfilling one of the dearest desires of our founder: to go to the diocese most in need and where we are called. We are called to serve. Here, with pleasure, we are giving 100 percent, serving the Church as a fellowship,” he said, adding that “to be an instrument of God for our brothers” through constant surrendering is his biggest satisfaction. 

The Fellowship of Laborers of the Kingdom of Christ, founded by Father Enrique Amezcua Medina in Mexico in 1963, has served in the Diocese of Fort Worth for 10 years. Currently, there are six CORC priests in the diocese, serving at Holy Name Parish and Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Fort Worth, and at St. Matthew in Arlington. 

For Fr. Muñoz, 25 years of service to God signifies “the crowning of a mutual effort, my parents, my family, with the fellowship and myself because it was not easy to reach priesthood,” said Fr. Muñoz, a devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Holy Souls of Purgatory. 

Celebrating 25 years together with the parishioners of St. Matthew, which “is an active community, will be a great joy.”

“It gives me joy and pride to see whole families who seek God,” noted Fr. Muñoz, who since his ordination has served in California and Puerto Rico and as an instructor at the CORC seminary in Queretaro for two years. For the last five years, he has served in the Diocese of Fort Worth, first as parochial vicar at St. Matthew and then as pastor of the same parish.

Diana Castruita, business manager at St. Matthew, highlights the closeness of Fr. Muñoz with the entire parish community. He always invites everyone to work together.

“In the pastoral meetings, Fr. Ariel tells us, ‘We have to motivate our members; this is our parish and we have to take care of it,’” Castruita recalled. Fr. Muñoz “has motivated all the groups to raise funds to fix our kitchen,” she added, explaining that catechism classrooms that required immediate attention were also repaired thanks to his call to action.

“Fr. Ariel does a lot for the parish; we work together and in harmony,” said Maru Franco, a parishioner of St. Matthew for 32 years. “He conveys a great peace. The presence of God is felt in him. When a parish priest opens his heart, we are all willing to help.

“We feel very loved by him, and he makes us feel that we are special,” he said, adding that through his availability, silent work, and great patience, “[Fr. Muñoz] lets us know that he is with us.”

“These 25 years are a celebration of the love that Fr. Ariel conveys to us, and we are fortunate to be members of St. Matthew as he celebrates his priestly anniversary,” said Franco.

Father Ariel Sanchez, CORC, vocation, priesthood, trending-english