Catalina Ayala de Menjívar, 87, left the town of Carasque in Chalatenango, El Salvador, to witness the episcopal ordination of her son, new Washington Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjivar-Ayala on Feb. 21 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. She and her daughters Paula, Silvia and Elva, traveled more than 3,000 miles to see her youngest son and their brother be ordained as a bishop.
“I have joy in my soul, and until the last day of my life I will thank God for choosing and blessing my son, my family and the Salvadoran community that lives in this country,” said Catalina Ayala, on Feb. 19 after attending a Mass celebrated by her son at St. Mary’s Parish in Landover Hills, Maryland, where he is the pastor.
The proud mother noted, “Evelio was always a good son, respectful and very obedient to the word of God. Since my son chose to be a priest, every day I raised my prayers to ask the Lord to enlighten him, but I never dreamed that He would choose him as his bishop… God heard the prayers of a humble mother.”
Catalina Ayala said her son’s ordination to the priesthood brought joy and hope to the neighborhoods of the municipality of Nueva Trinidad and throughout Chalatenango, and now people there are celebrating, knowing that a son of the Carasque town is believed to be the first Salvadoran bishop in the United States.
Catalina Ayala de Menjívar, 87, the mother of new Washington Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjívar-Ayala, prays during a Feb. 19 Mass celebrated by her son at St. Mary’s Church in Landover Hills, Maryland, where he serves as pastor. Two days later, Bishop Menjivar was ordained as an auxiliary bishop of Washington during a Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Catalina Ayala traveled from El Salvador with three of her daughters to witness his ordination as a bishop. (Photo by Tyler Orsburn)
For Paula Menjívar, her brother is not only a priest dedicated to his pastoral mission, but he is an example of life for the Salvadoran diaspora and the Catholic community in El Salvador.
“Everyone in the family remembers that since he was a child, he played at being a priest, that he used to wear a long shirt and used to say that it was his cassock, that God was his Father. Today he is a bishop, which is an immense joy for everyone,” she said.
Silvia Menjívar admits that Pope Francis’s decision to name her brother Evelio as bishop was a surprise for everyone in El Salvador, and since the appointment was known, dozens of neighbors, relatives, young people, and children have come to her humble home to congratulate their mother Catalina.
“Despite the distance, everyone in Chalatenango wants to know the details of how a Salvadoran immigrant could become the new auxiliary bishop of Washington,” she said.
Elva Menjívar’s joy does not prevent her from remembering the head of the family, her father, who died several years ago.
“We all know that my dad is happy in heaven,” she said, adding “When Evelio was ordained a priest in the United States, a well-known newspaper in El Salvador published a small article, and my father always asked us to read the news aloud again. His face of happiness was unique, his prayers of thanks to God were permanent, as well as his commitment to the Catholic Church. Today we are all sure that he is very happy to know that his son is a bishop.”
Two days before his ordination as an auxiliary bishop of Washington, Bishop-elect Evelio Menjívar-Ayala (center), celebrated a Feb. 19 Mass at his parish church, St. Mary’s in Landover Hills, Maryland. Before the Mass, he greeted his mother Catalina (at center), who traveled from the family’s home in El Salvador, along with his sisters Paula, Elva and Silvia, who are also sitting in the front pew. (Photo by Tyler Orsburn)
Catalina Ayala and her daughters said it is very likely that Bishop Evelio Menjívar will travels to El Salvador in July or August to fulfill various religious commitments, and they announced that he will visit the town of Carasque, in Chalatenango, to celebrate a Mass in the place where he was born.
“We are all getting ready to receive him as he deserves. Everyone in the town is waiting for him, especially the ladies of the town who know that since he was a child he loved to eat fish pupusas, sweet squash in honey and tamarind juice with plenty of ice. He is the distant brother who will return to his land as auxiliary bishop of Washington,” the Menjívar sisters noted at the conclusion of the Sunday Mass celebrated at St. Mary’s Church.