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About Our Chaplain











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About Our Chaplain

This year’s new School Chaplain is Father Elario Zambakari, who comes to Bourgade Catholic from St. Mary’s parish in Chandler.

Fr. Elario holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sacred Theology from St. Paul's National Major Seminary in Khartoum, Sudan but the certificate is awarded by the Urbaniana University in Rome. He also was awarded a Masters of Arts in Communication from Arizona State University

The Early Years

Fr. Elario was born in South Sudan. Unfortunately, war and strife were a way of life, and as a child Fr. Elario ended up living in a refugee camp with over 300,000 other refugees in the nearby Central African Republic.

There was a Catholic seminary near the camp where Fr. Elario and his friend would go to play soccer with the seminarians. One day the rector told Fr. Elario could come to live at the seminary when he turned fourteen years old.

It was a life changing experience.

Life in the refugee camp was very difficult. The only school was located at the seminary. After four years at the seminary, he traveled to Uganda by walking for days, and completed high school. He then returned to Sudan to learn philosophy for two years and theology for four years. 

When the referendum for South Sudan to become an independent country was enacted, Fr. Elario returned to his homeland and became an ordained deacon and later a priest in 2012.

By then his mother, brothers, and sisters had already been living for years in Phoenix. And, his sister, Flora Zambakari, graduated from Xavier College Preparatory in 2010.

After his ordination, the Bishop appointed him to pastor one of the new parishes. It was a difficult task, but he grew the parish of 1,500 to 15,000 people through saying Mass daily, evangelization, and visiting families. It was in a rural area, and priests were thought to know everything -- from being a source of comfort and prayer during trying times to figuring out how to fix an engine.

After three years, Fr. Elario was moved to become the director of the diocesan FM radio station.

Life in Arizona

Once he completed his assignment at the radio station, he received a letter from Bishop Olmstead to come to the Diocese of Phoenix  where he served at St. Mary’s Parish in Chandler for 4 and one-half years.

He wondered how he would be received. “Would people feel good to have me with them?” His questions were answered, and St. Mary’s “they took me as their son, invited me to their homes, I blessed their houses, and families. They were very good to me.”

A Bit of History

For twenty-one years politicians were fighting in Sudan, and then the South, where Fr. Elario is from, got its independence. 

Today, however, there is still fighting. Sudan is primarily a Muslim country. South Sudan, which is primarily Christian, is very poor, most people cannot afford the fees to attend school or get health care.

Now at Bourgade Catholic High School

Bishop Dolan asked Fr. Elario to serve as the Chaplain at Bourgade Catholic and also at Xavier.

He’s excited to work with young people and let them know and feel why God created them. Fr. Elario is open to engaging students in conversation and helping connect them with God and their real life.

And, Fr. Elario says, “I’m also happy to learn more from both the students and teachers.”

He holds Mass at the Chapel Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:30am.