NEWBERRY — St. Mark’s Catholic Church added a new priest to its congregation this month, Father Arnulfo Jara Gálvez, who hails from Colombia, South America.
“I went to the seminary when I was very young. I went for the experience, not to become a priest, but little by little I decided to join,” said Gálvez, who has been in the priesthood for 11 years. “There is no real reason I joined. I fully love Jesus Christ, and I want to serve him in the priesthood.”
During his journey to become a priest, Gálvez attended seminary in Paris, France, and after graduating from seminary, he became a deacon. Six months later, he was ordained into the priesthood.
“I was only a deacon for six months, usually it is a year, but they said a priest was needed and I volunteered,” said Gálvez. “I was then ordained by my bishop, and a bishop is the only one who can ordain a priest.”
Before being asked to come to South Carolina, Gálvez was already in the United States. For the past six years, he was with a church in Long Island, N.Y. Gálvez said that coming to South Carolina from New York was like coming to another country, but he said the hardest part has been the accents.
“Certain pronunciations are difficult to understand sometimes,” said Gálvez. “I was in a restaurant and I could not understand the word side, like a side dish, because it sounded so different than what I was used to.”
Gálvez added that he does enjoy the small town feel and climate in Newberry. He said it reminds him a lot of the small town of La Plata he hails from in Colombia.
Gálvez was given the opportunity to come to the United States because his provenance in Colombia has a connection with the provenance in the United States. Thanks to that connection, he was able to ask permission to come here to work.
In Newberry, Gálvez is tasked with performing sacraments, which includes baptisms, weddings and anointing the sick. While a deacon can help with weddings and baptisms, only a priest can hear confession, hold mass and anoint the sick.
Gálvez said his main task so far has been performing mass.
“The congregation here is very large, about 125 families, and there is a very large Hispanic community,” said Gálvez. “Because of that, I have the opportunity to give a mass in Spanish and English.”
Gálvez is also the priest in Catholic churches in Joanna (St. Boiface) and Laurens (Holy Spirit), both of which also have large Hispanic communities, which allows him to perform mass in Spanish.
When he is not performing his duties for the church, Gálvez likes to spend his time taking photographs and watching movies and television.
“Although I do not have a favorite film, I do like Avatar a lot, and I enjoy Game of Thrones very much,” said Gálvez. “But every night I can be found watching something from Redbox or Netfilx.”
Since arriving in Newberry, Gálvez said the community has been nice and has treated him well.
For now, his main goal for the community is get to know everyone, and be able to match everyone’s face to their name.