New priest finds happiness answering call to be ‘God’s project’


Father Sebastián Muñoz Chavarría had many “a-ha” moments that inspired him to become a priest. He experienced a few of them serving at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, as a diocesan seminarian. He spent time with lonely patients who had no other visitors.

“I brought God’s love and mercy to patients. I talked to them, comforted them, and prayed with them. They were happy and content. I wanted to bring God’s love and mercy to people as a priest,” said Father Muñoz, 28, a native of Colombia.

He became “Father Muñoz” on June 1, when Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney ordained him to the priesthood of the Paterson Diocese, during a Mass in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson. The bishop also celebrated the Mass and delivered the homily. Priests from the diocese and beyond concelebrated the Mass.

A few days before his ordination, Father Muñoz reflected on the “serious reality of becoming a priest forever.”

“It’s a radical decision I’m making with the will of God. This reality is more important than anything that could be my personal project. This is God’s project,” Father Muñoz said. ” I look forward to celebrating the Mass and hearing confessions as a priest. People need God’s mercy. I will be happy to offer that to them in Jesus’ name.”

Bishop Sweeney presided over the Rite of Ordination for Father Muñoz, steeped in Church tradition. St. John’s welcomed a broad spectrum of well-wishers. They included family, friends, priests, and religious of the diocese, members of the parishes where Father Muñoz had served, and the faithful from the diocese and beyond.

During the Mass, Bishop Sweeney reminded the faithful, “We are called to be witnesses of hope in a world, which desperately needs it.”

“Ordination to the priesthood is a sign of that hope,” Bishop Sweeney said. He thanked Father Muñoz’s family, friends, seminary community, priests, and parishes he served for inspiring, guiding, and forming him on his priesthood journey. He told the new priest, “I know you’re prepared. After all that preparation, it’s time to go to work.”

At the end of Mass, Bishop Sweeney announced that Father Muñoz’s first priestly assignment would be to St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Morristown.

On the next day, June 2, the Feast of Corpus Christi, Father Muñoz celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in the Stirling neighborhood of Long Hill Township.

Growing up in Colombia, Father Muñoz learned the faith from his parents, who are faithful churchgoers. Also, priests at his home parish inspired him to pursue a vocation.

“The priests were models of joy. They served as ‘another Christ’ to their people — participating in community events, celebrating Mass in different places, and caring for the poor,” said Father Muñoz, also inspired by religious sisters, who served his parish at Christmas.

By high school, Father Muñoz was a parish catechist, youth minister, and altar server. But he still questioned, “What kind of happiness am I seeking?” Then, Father Muñoz heard God’s call. He responded, saying, “I want to find happiness in God. I love serving the Church.”

Father Muñoz came to the United States in 2017, after hearing about a need for priests in the Paterson Diocese. He finished his priestly studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange. Father Muñoz served his diaconate assignment at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Clifton. The future priest watched Father David Monteleone, pastor, and Father Nico Quintos, parochial vicar, practice “pastoral presence.”

“Both priests are present to people, sometimes without saying anything. They’re signs that the Church is with the people and available to them in their times of most need,” Father Muñoz said.

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