‘His heart is just to be with the people’:
Father Edwin Montanez celebrates silver anniversary of ordination

Father Edwin Adolfo Montanez, chaplain for Latinos in Hampton Roads, shows off the chasuble that the Spanish Cursillo group gave him as a present during a celebration of his 25th anniversary since ordination. The party which drew about 100 people was held Dec. 9, 2023, at St. Joseph, Hampton. (Photo/Jennifer Neville)

Parishioners say Father Edwin Adolfo Montanez, who celebrated his 25th year since ordination in December, is a friendly, wise and sincere pastor who always has time for the communities in the three parishes he serves as chaplain for Latinos in Hampton Roads: Holy Trinity, Norfolk; St. Joseph, Hampton; and St. Luke, Virginia Beach.

“Father Edwin is very committed, kind, humble, a great listener and makes himself available to all those in need,” said Linda Estepa, a parishioner at St. Benedict, Chesapeake, and the Diocese of Richmond lay coordinator for the Spanish Cursillo, which is for Spanish-speakers across the diocese. “We are blessed to have Padre Edwin in the community serving us (the Spanish Cursillo) and others.”

Similarly, Father Dillon Bruce, parochial vicar at St. Joseph, described Father Edwin as “a very gentle and very devoted priest” whose “heart is just to be with the people.”

Father Edwin, born July 8, 1973, grew up in the small mountain town of Guican, about 200 miles from Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. He is the fourth of six children, all boys.

Breathing Catholicism

“All my life I have had God’s blessing to breathe Catholicism,” he said.

He was born in a Catholic hospital where his father worked in maintenance. His family attended Mass regularly, practiced the faith at home and participated in traditions such as novenas. He was active in the parish, so much so that he was a catechist for adults at a mere 14 years of age. He attended Catholic elementary and secondary schools, where in addition to academics, he “learned to know and love God even more,” he said.

Father Edwin first felt called to the priesthood in childhood. As an altar server when he was about seven years old, he was “attracted to preaching the word of God and serving the people, especially the poor,” something he did extensively as a child with his school, parish and boy scouts. Through the years, there were various moments when he felt most called, and he began seriously discerning the priesthood at 16.

During his discernment, he said he had the encouragement and the good example of his parents, parish priests and Dominican sisters who taught him in school.

Just after high school, he entered the Pontifical Bolivarian University of the Bucaramanga branch in Colombia where he graduated with a title of theologian in 1997 and was ordained Dec. 5, 1998. He earned a degree in theology of marriage and family at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in 2004 and obtained a master’s degree in bioethics from the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome at the same time. During his studies in Rome, he was a missionary priest and parochial vicar in Italy.

‘He gives his heart’

He first visited the United States in 2005 when he took a short vacation in Charlottesville at the invitation of his brother and the Hispanic ministry managers of Church of the Incarnation, Charlottesville.

While in Charlottesville, he “was very moved by the pastoral needs of the large number of Latinos in that community,” and so he returned in 2007 to become the parochial vicar at Church of the Incarnation. During that time, he also spent a year sharing his Hispanic ministry at Blessed Sacrament, Harrisonburg.

From 2016 to 2017, he was parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newport News, and began his present assignment in 2017. He celebrates Masses, sacraments and Latino traditions such as devotions, presentations (a blessing in thanksgiving for the birth of a child when the infant is about 40 days old), quinceañeras (the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her transition to womanhood) and Las Posadas (a nine-day novena which commemorates the journey Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem).

He is also the spiritual director for the Spanish Cursillo in the diocese and for the Spanish charismatic prayer group Kerygma which assembles weekly in Harrisonburg, Charlottesville and Hampton Roads.

Despite being busy, Father Edwin is “always friendly, welcoming and always willing to help” and “definitely has a lot of energy,” said David Horta, pianist for the Saturday Spanish Mass at St. Joseph.

Cecilia Gonzalez, Spanish ministry music coordinator for St. Joseph, said that although each of the three parishes has its own particular needs, Father Edwin serves “with a smile on his face” and is “always there to listen and to love.”

Parishioners love him right back. About 100 people gathered Dec. 9, 2023, at St. Joseph, for a party celebrating his 25th anniversary. They ate dinner while listening to a mariachi group play and then had an opportunity to visit and take pictures with Father Edwin. The Spanish Cursillo group gave him a chasuble stamped with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the parishioners of St. Joseph gave him a framed papal blessing.

“We just love Father Edwin. He is just a wonderful priest, a very simple man but wise. He always has a friendly approach, and he knows a lot about the Catholic religion. He has a very profound formation, and it shows,” said José Ortiz, a parishioner of St. Kateri, Tabb, who sometimes attends Spanish Masses at St. Joseph. “He speaks from the heart, and he gives his heart to the community. They love him.”

Cecilia Gonzalez added, “Father Edwin is a very loving, humble and sincere priest. He is a true servant of the Lord and of the people he serves.”

Asked about his favorite responsibilities as a priest, Father Edwin said, “I really like, in the celebration of sacramental confession, to have a good space to celebrate it, not … to psychoanalyze people, but first and foremost as an expression of God’s mercy. I also like to help people with spiritual direction and to offer good doctrinal content in preaching and catechesis.”

His efforts do not go unnoticed.

“One of the things I admire about him is his enthusiasm at Mass regardless of the number of people. It could be one or 500 people. You always get Father Edwin the same way,” said Lucas Horta, music coordinator for the St. Joseph Hispanic community.

Deacon Guillermo Gonzalez, from St. Joseph, said that prayer is a strength he admires in Father Edwin.

“When we do Eucharistic adoration, and he starts praying over the family and the whole world, wow, he takes us to another level. He does that for everything (all prayers). That’s very powerful the way he does it,” he said.

“He is a very gentle soul, very caring, soft,” Deacon Guillermo continued. “When he preaches to us, you can feel how much he cares for us.”

Looking back on his 25 years as a priest, Father Edwin said, “It has been a very fruitful ministry, full of great pastoral experiences, very enriching every day and full of happy moments lived in the faith of the people of God. And as is normal, there have also been difficult moments, but thanks be to God they have been overcome with prayer, meditation and sacramental practice.”


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