Fr. Virgilio Elizondo Takes His Own Life
The Rivard Report: Urban. Independent. All About San Antonio.
San Antonio, Texas
Robert Rivard, Director
Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, one of San Antonio’s most accomplished and beloved Catholic priests whose work brought him recognition in Latin America and Europe and an esteemed faculty position at the University of Notre Dame, died of a self-inflicted gunshot at his home Monday afternoon, according to sources in the Catholic community.
The Bexar County Medical Examiner ruled Elizondo’s death a suicide on Tuesday.
Friends spoke of being devastated and in disbelief as the news made its way through Elizondo’s large circle in the city. Elizondo, 80, a Westside native and the son of Mexican immigrants, became a beacon for Catholics and non-Catholics inspired by his deep appreciation of mestizo history, culture and spirituality. His own roots gave him a grounded understanding as a theologian of what the poor and oppressed throughout Latin America were experiencing under the rule and repression of military dictatorships in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. For Elizondo, liberation theology that swept the continent in those decades was one and the same with his mestizo-rooted theology…
…He served as rector of San Fernando Cathedral in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was credited with resurrecting the parish community there. His understanding of the power of media led him to do extensive work with the archdiocese’s television station, and his Spanish-language Mass at San Fernando was broadcast each Sunday to more than one million people throughout Latin America. He was a co-founder with then-Archbishop Patrick Flores of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio and a strong advocate for the city and region’s working poor. He was fond of telling stories about his own happy childhood and close-knit family, poor in material goods, rich in spirit and faith.
Elizondo was named secondarily in a May 2015 lawsuit filed by a John Doe in Bexar County that accused Jesus Armando Dominguez, then a student at Assumption Seminary here, of sexually molesting him from 1980-83 while the boy lived at a local orphanage and was mentored by Dominguez. In the lawsuit, the John Doe claims he approached Elizondo to report the molestation, only to be kissed and fondled by him while the two were in a vehicle together. Elizondo vigorously denied the charges in a public statement and in conversations with friends, and said he was prepared to fight the allegation legally…
…Woodward, a Notre dame graduate, was a friend of Elizondo and Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, who served as president of Notre Dame from 1952-1987. He said it was a world that welcomed Elizondo. Despite his own humble beginnings, Elizondo learned to speak multiple languages and lectured widely on three continents. He authored numerous books, including “The Future is Mestizo” in 1992; “Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation” in 1997; and “Galilean Journey: The Mexican American Promise” in 2000. His books remain in print, often assigned by theology professors at other major universities…
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