By Katherine Long | Editor

Brendan Foley kneels before Bishop Lucia and promises his respect and obedience during his ordination to the transitional diaconate, celebrated June 19 at St. James Church in Johnson City. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)

Three diocesan seminarians were ordained to the Order of Deacon last week, each taking another step toward his anticipated ordination to the priesthood next spring.

Brendan Foley, Dennis Walker, and John Leo Oduor were originally scheduled to be ordained transitional deacons during a single ceremony in April. Those plans were postponed and reconfigured, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Family, friends, clergy, seminarians, and parishioners donned masks and observed social distancing during three separate celebrations at the ordinands’ home parishes. Foley was ordained June 19 at St. James Church in Johnson City; Walker was ordained June 19 at Our Lady of Hope Church in Syracuse; and Oduor was ordained June 20 at Our Lady of Hope.

Bishop Douglas J. Lucia ordained all three deacons, his first ordinations since becoming Bishop of Syracuse last August.

“My brother, today you have come to this house of God to offer yourself as a sacrament for the Church through the gift of Holy Orders. In imitation of Christ himself you lay down your life in diaconal service to the People of God to be a much-needed living sign of God’s presence in the world today,” the bishop told each ordinand in his homily.

“In this particular moment of human history, it is most important for you, as well as all of us, to recall that the message of Jesus appealed to those who were on the outskirts of society and religious life of his day,” Bishop Lucia said. “This was a message of good news to those who had been locked out from the benefits of society: laborers who were cheated wages; slaves who by definition did not enjoy freedom; women who were thought of as mere property and had no rights; along with all those burdened because systemic oppression kept them away from power, wealth, privilege, and status.”

John Leo Oduor listens as Bishop Lucia preaches the homily during his ordination to the transitional diaconate at Our Lady of Hope Church in Syracuse June 20. (Sun photo | David Garrett)

“My brother, you must be a bearer of the Good News of Jesus Christ today not merely by preaching the message, but even more important by making a sermon of it by the life you lead,” the bishop instructed.

Each ordinand declared his intention to serve in the office of deacon and promised his obedience and respect to the bishop and his successors. Following the Litany of Supplication, Bishop Lucia placed his hands on each man’s head and offered the Prayer of Ordination. The deacon was then vested in a stole and dalmatic and presented with the Book of the Gospels. A fraternal embrace by the bishop and deacons present welcomed the newest member of the Order of Deacon.

Following Mass, Deacon Foley reflected on the joy of the celebration and the challenge of preparing for diaconate ordination amid the pandemic. “Having to constantly surrender, not knowing what was going to happen, just having to put it all in God’s hands and take it out of my hands… was definitely a hard lesson but an important lesson to learn, especially for ministry,” he said.

Deacon Walker said being at the altar as a deacon at “the Offertory and at the Consecration — it was just really a special moment in my life,” he said.

Deacon Oduor said he spoke to his family in Kenya in the early morning hours before his ordination and that they were praying for him and looking forward to watching the celebration via livestream. He said he felt blessed after his ordination: “I feel I’ve been looking for Christ and here he is with me. He has never forgotten me.”

The new deacons will spend their summers ministering in the parishes where they spent their pastoral years: Deacon Foley at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Baldwinsville; Deacon Walker at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica and Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford; and Deacon Oduor at Our Lady of Hope.

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