By GRETCHEN KEISER,Staff Writer | Published January 12, 2006
A Colombian widower who was about a month away from ordination to the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Victor A. Marulanda, died Jan. 2. He was 52 years old and had been involved in ministry to the Hispanic community in several parishes, most recently at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville.
Deacon Loris Sinanian, director of deacon formation, said Mr. Marulanda suffered a heart attack while visiting relatives in Texas. His funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 7 at St. Lawrence by Father Al Jowdy, the pastor, and other concelebrants.
All the members of his diaconate class, who will be ordained Feb. 4, processed in together vested in white albs at the funeral, Deacon Sinanian said, “to show their love and solidarity with Victor.”
He was inspired by the full church and by the steady stream of people who came to the wake service the previous night, including a group of about 20 to 30 Hispanic men who later gathered to pray the Divine Office in Spanish in the vestibule of the funeral home.
“I asked them what they were praying. They said, ‘We are praying vespers the way Victor taught us,’” Deacon Sinanian said. “That really touched me.”
Mr. Marulanda was born in Colombia on Nov. 7, 1953. He worked in Pereira, Colombia, and in the Department of Risaralda, Colombia, in accounting, auditing and payroll positions from 1973 to 1985. He came to the United States in 1986 and lived in New Jersey before moving to Georgia. He had been a forklift driver, courier, and quality control worker. From 1998-2000 he was a custodian at Good Shepherd Church in Cumming.
In August 2001 his wife, Ana Delia, was killed in Colombia in the crossfire of a gun battle between drug dealers and the military, which left him in great sorrow, his colleagues in ministry said.
“His wife’s death was a severe blow,” said Father Joseph Fahy, CP, who worked in archdiocesan Hispanic ministry for many years and resides at St. Lawrence. “His sadness was caused, in part at least, by that terrible tragedy.”
Since then he labored successfully to bring his two daughters, Paula and Angela, and his grandson, Jesus David, to Georgia from Colombia, despite great difficulties, said Sister Esther Ordonez, MAG.
His involvement in Hispanic ministry began in Newark, N.J., where he was certified by the Christian Foundations for Ministry Program accredited by the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
In the Archdiocese of Atlanta he worked in Hispanic catechesis, including Bible study, small Christian communities and sacramental preparation for marriage and baptism.
“Victor helped me very much when I was going to Cumming for about 10 years (to celebrate Mass in Spanish),” Father Fahy said. “He was extremely helpful. At times we had 800 coming to the Sunday Mass. Also, Victor helped us kind of get started in Canton … He trained the altar boys and eucharistic ministers. ”
He considered him a good friend who was “very devout” and regularly prayed the Divine Office. Mr. Marulanda had asked Father Fahy to participate in his ordination by helping him vest for the first time.
“We were waiting for him to come back and getting ready for the ceremony,” Father Fahy said. But in completing his life on earth, the priest said, “something far better was his destiny.”
Sister Esther said, “He was a very faithful man. When I met him, he came to me and told me he wanted to preach the good news, especially to the needy. He started to work in Cumming.”
He was active with men’s spirituality, she said, but he especially loved working with families and emphasizing family unity. At St. Lawrence he was teaching Bible school at the parish and visiting people in their homes. He was “so excited” about the small faith communities formed by the RENEW program and the possibility of gathering to pray in homes, she said.
“The people loved him very much,” she said. “He was very in touch with people in their homes. He was worried about the people, especially those who were not coming to church. He told me a few times that he would like to become a priest.”
Over Thanksgiving he was a leader in a large group retreat held at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, as was she, Sister Esther said.
“Victor expressed himself with enthusiasm and his message was very clear regarding his love of God,” Deacon Sinanian said. “This was evident by the fact that his sad-looking eyes often filled with tears when he talked about God … Victor was loved by his classmates in formation and worked closely with them through his difficulties, especially the death of his wife. His smile will be missed.”
He found the presence of the many people at the funeral an insight into a deacon candidate he had just begun to know.
“It speaks a lot to somebody you don’t know that well. You see how far he reached out and (how he) ministered to them as church.”
In addition to his daughters and his grandson, Mr. Marulanda is survived by his mother, Emma Aguirre, and several brothers.