GUADALUPE — A full hour before the bilingual liturgy that would feature the first priestly ordination ever held in this small town nestled between Tempe and Phoenix, the mission-style church was filling up quickly.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish boasts more than 2,000 registered families, and a great many of them, it seemed, were on hand Oct. 22 to witness the ordination of Br. Louis Khoury, OFM, the transitional deacon who has been serving at the church for the last several months.
The picturesque church, with its adobe walls that rise above a dirt parking lot near the center of town, is a focal point for a community steeped in a rich blend of Yaqui and Mexican culture. The Franciscans have been a presence here and throughout Arizona for more than 100 years. Along with St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix, Our Lady of the Angels Conventual Church in Scottsdale and San Javier del Bac Mission in Tucson, the Franciscans have brought their simplicity, poverty, joy and deep devotion to the Gospel in their service to God’s people.
As the faithful filled up the pews prior to the Mass, Franciscan Friars from the St. Barbara Province bustled about. When Fr. Joe Bauer, OFM, walked in, the excited murmuring began, with many rising to embrace their former, beloved pastor. He’d recently retired after some 30 years of service.
Fr. Tom West, OFM, secretary of the province and the formation director for Br. Louis, reflected on what the ordination meant to the town where many live in poverty.
“I hope they are rejoicing as much as we are. The ordination is an indication that the Friars want to be with the poor and that we have a commitment to continue the outreach that Fr. Joe Bauer did for so many years here,” Fr. Tom said. “I think people were a little afraid that if Fr. Joe left, we would leave.” The Franciscans, he said, want to stay here in this community.
Fr. David Gaa, OFM, provincial minister, presented Br. Louis to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted for the ordination. “I testify that he has been found worthy,” Fr. Gaa said. “We too, choose Louis, our brother, to the order of the priesthood,” Bishop Olmsted responded. The congregation erupted in applause.
In his homily, Fr. David reflected on the priesthood through a Franciscan lens. “This is a wonderful day for the Church, the Diocese of Phoenix, for us Friars and for the people of God present. I would also like to thank personally the family of our brother Louis for the gift of Louis to us,” Fr. David said.
“We Franciscans believe each of us has a vocation to serve, to witness and to proclaim — all of us have vocations,” Fr. David said. “We believe Louis’ call to be a priest comes from God, mediated by the people of God. And Louis has generously responded to this call.”
The journey to priesthood had been a long one for the 57-year old friar. Born in Jordan, he came to the U.S. in 1979. A veteran of the Navy, he spent 11 years working as a hospital administrator. After the Mass, his relatives told The Catholic Sun Fr. Louis always had a heart to serve.
Maurice Khoury, the elder brother who’d helped him vest, attested to the new priest’s love for the poor.
“He would get paid and go downtown in Los Angeles and give all his money away to the homeless,” Maurice said. Mary Khoury, a cousin who traveled from Jordan to be on hand for the big day, agreed.
“When he was young, he would approach the people who would need help. Even he would go to prisons and visit — this was always in his heart,” she said.
Diana Khoury Halteh, a niece, said the ordination was the most touching day of her life. Fr. Louis and his mother lived with her family for 15 years.
“He was like an older brother,” Halteh said. Fr. Louis helped her with homework and when she was older and struggled with her health, “he would come and help take care of me and my kids.”
Fr. Louis himself told the packed church just how much it meant to have them all there to witness his ordination. “None of us makes anything on our own. Everything is the work of God,” Fr. Louis said. “I stand here before you today as a result of all the people in my life,” he noted, his voice thick with emotion as he recalled his deceased parents.
The people he’s served along the way, he said, have helped him to become the priest he is. “That’s why it is all of us, one body of Christ, and we learn and we grow together. So thanks to all of you and thanks be to God.”
Fr. Louis will continue to serve at Our Lady of Guadalupe alongside Fr. Alberto Villafan, OFM.