Deacons Daniel Caughey, Brendan Foley, John Leo Oduor, and Dennis Walker will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Syracuse at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception June 5. Ahead of their ordinations, the Catholic Sun and Syracuse Catholic Television sat down with the ordinands to learn more about their journeys to the priesthood. The profiles below were compiled using those Catholic Sun Spotlight interviews along with archival and Office of Vocations materials. Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Join Holy Hour and Ordination Mass from home
Attendance at the Holy Hour and Ordination Mass is by invitation only. Both liturgies will be livestreamed at youtube.com/syrdio.
• Holy Hour: June 4, 5 p.m., Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Syracuse
• Ordination to the priesthood: June 5, 10 a.m., Cathedral
Deacon Daniel Caughey
Born in: Cortland, New York
Parents: Bob and Audrey Caughey
Siblings: Rob Caughey and Mike Caughey
Received Sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, First Penance:
St. Mary’s Church, Cortland
Education: B.S. in Geology, Binghamton University; M.S. in Education, SUNY Oswego
Professional experience: Science teacher for 31 years
Diaconal service: Ordained a permanent deacon in 2004
Seminary: Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, Massachusetts
Discernment journey: I grew up involved in the Church then developed a love of Scripture in college. While beginning a teaching career, I met my wife, Mickey, who was an active member of her parish. In the course of our 25 years of marriage we were foster parents, and I later became a permanent deacon serving the parishioners of St. Anne’s in Mexico and Christ Our Light in Pulaski.
After Mickey died in 2013, I continued my teaching career and vocation as a deacon. God had another course of vocation for me that I hadn’t considered. My pastor suggested that I consider the priesthood — a surprising suggestion to someone who’s 50. I left the idea on the back burner for about a year until he again emphasized my potential calling and others started suggesting it as well.
With prayer, inquiry, and a lot more prayer, I chose to follow God’s call to serve Him and His people in a most special way as a priest. I hope my life experiences will be a great benefit to that service.
Area of priestly ministry he’s most looking forward to: Using my abilities as a sacramental minister, I think, will help anyone who’s in the parish see that their worship of the Lord, the graces that are coming from the Lord, will bring them closer to Him. … Just seeing the faith that I have in God and how I project that will help them to do the same — to have their faith grow, help them project their faith in the Lord to the world around them, and hopefully bring us all to salvation.
Advice to discerners: Talk to people…. a parent, your pastor, a sister, a priest, a deacon — someone you know in that vocation. They’ll guide you. They might even say, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ But most likely they will encourage you, or they’ll encourage you in the ways that will help you develop your finding out if that’s the way the Lord is calling you. And it will take prayer. It is a prayerful endeavor. It’s not just listening with your ears; it’s listening with your heart to see where the Lord is taking you.
Assignment following ordination: Parochial vicar of St. Mary and St. Anthony parish in Cortland, St. Margaret Church in Homer, St. Lawrence in DeRuyter, and St. Patrick’s Oratory in Truxton, effective July 1.
Deacon Brendan Foley
Born in: Binghamton, New York
Parents: Daniel and Patricia Foley
Sibling: Conor Foley
Received Sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, First Penance: St. James Church, Johnson City
Education: Seton Catholic Central High School; B.S. in Exercise Science, The University of Scranton, Pennsylvania
Year of service: Following college graduation, served one year in FrancisCorps, a Catholic postgraduate volunteer service program run by the Franciscans in Syracuse, at Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement in Syracuse
Seminary: St. Mary’s Seminary & University, Baltimore, Maryland
Discernment journey: I think, from a young age, I felt like I had that tug in my heart, but it really wasn’t until the end of college that I was actually okay with hearing it a little bit more. FrancisCorps allowed me to have a safe space to really get to know myself, learn myself better, see what kind of gifts I had, and ask the Lord where he was working in my life. Just being around young adults my age who were willing to grow in their faith offered me a safe space to really ask the Lord where I was supposed to go.
Area of priestly ministry he’s most looking forward to: Toward the end of my time at St. Mary’s we had to do practicum classes where we actually are practicing celebrating Mass, practicing hearing confessions, practicing anointing people. You feel overwhelmed — ‘Am I really about to be doing this and is the Lord really about to be working through me in this new way?’ and it’s so exciting. So, it’s really the whole sacramental life of the Church. I’m ready to be overwhelmed by the abundance of grace flowing through me, around me, and I’m excited for what that will have an impact [on] in all those people around me and in myself.
Advice to discerners: Showing up to prayer, even when you feel like you’re not getting anything out of it, even when it’s dry. Showing up is one thing that we can always do and that is our own participation in the Lord’s work. Even though we think that maybe the Lord is not showing up, he always, always, always is showing up and does not abandon us in our periods of dryness, in our periods of confusion, stress, whatever it is — we’re never alone. Just that perseverance to continue to show up in prayer every day, at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, that’s really where we start to see where the graces are at work.
Assignment following ordination: Parochial vicar of Holy Cross Parish in DeWitt, effective July 1.
Deacon John Leo Oduor
Born in: Siaya, Kenya
Parents: Moses Oduor and Colleta Apiyo
Siblings: Lucy Adhiambo, Wycliffe Ochieng, Ruth Lilian Atieno, and Bernard Jimmy Adede
Received the Sacrament of Baptism in Ukwala Parish, Siaya; received the Sacraments of First Communion and First Penance in Aluor Parish, Siaya
Education: Ramba High School; Consolata Institute of Philosophy, Nairobi, Kenya
Professional experience: Barclays Bank International-Kenya; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Seminary: Entered seminary in Nairobi with the religious Order of St. Augustine in 2005; later joined the Dominican Missionaries in Missouri; completed formation at Christ the King Seminary, Buffalo, New York
Discernment journey: My vocation journey began as young as the age of 7. After high school, I joined the religious order of the Augustinians and attended the Consolata Institute of Philosophy, graduating in 2009 with bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Religious Studies.
I later discontinued with the order and went to work with Barclays Bank International-Kenya, rising from tea/coffee server to direct sales representative. I then worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees based in Tanzania for four years, serving refugees from different parts of East Africa.
Serving in international organizations was a chance for more experience and humbling. Meeting different people of different cultures faced with different challenges of life — by all these I came to accept and understand the true meaning of life and the presence of Jesus Christ in serving our neighbors. These missions drew me to a feeling that Christ was calling me to explore my earlier life more united to His Salvic work.
After a lot of thought and prayer and a few gentle, and not so gentle, nudges from God, I wanted to be as open as I possibly could to the will of God and to the Holy Spirit working in my life to make the right decision with my vocation. I decided to become a religious again with the Order of Preachers Missionaries. While being open in following through with this vocation to the priesthood, I felt more drawn to priesthood serving at the parish level.
I found myself working in Old Forge; [the order] had a camp there. I was working in the kitchen. We would always come down to Syracuse, Utica, Rome to buy groceries. I started liking Syracuse. I thought, “I think I need to be here; I think this is where I love to be.”
I feel I am headed in the right direction by the overwhelming peace I have when I am at Mass or in the church serving the people of God as a seminarian for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. I feel that I have been well mentored and to achieve such a tremendous journey is a blessing from God the Almighty.
Area of priestly ministry he’s most looking forward to: Saying Mass — just to bring the holy Body and Blood of Christ to the people. … to bring each and every person closer to God. Asking Jesus to open our hearts to experience him as a group, not as an individual. And to open up the word, to know what the word is saying to us, to know what God is speaking to us.
Advice to discerners: Follow your heart. Take time. Don’t hurry. … Don’t lose hope. If it’s something in your heart, pray about it, present it to Jesus, avail yourself for adoration, read all of the spiritual books, and … identify a particular saint that you can read about, so that you can physically see what he or she did. Talk to your family about it; share it with your family. … And then you will just see it coming. Don’t push it. It’s the will of God.
Assignment following ordination: Parochial vicar of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Oswego, effective July 1.
Deacon Dennis Walker
Born in: Syracuse, New York
Parents: R. Mark and M. Denise Walker
Sibling: Diane Walker
Received the Sacrament of Baptism at St. Matthew’s Church, East Syracuse; received the Sacraments of First Communion and First Penance at St. James Church, Syracuse
Education: Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School, Syracuse; B.S. in Accounting and M.B.A. from
Le Moyne College, Syracuse
Professional experience: Auditor for Onondaga County and New York State; also worked for M. Walker Sprinkler Co., his family’s fire protection business
Seminary: St. Mary’s Seminary & University, Baltimore, Maryland
Discernment journey: My faith was always important to me when I was growing up, but I never seriously considered being a priest. I went to college, graduated, and entered the workforce. Although the jobs I had were fine, I started to feel called to a life of ministry in the priesthood. At first I was afraid to give up my job, apartment, and other things, but I eventually trusted God enough to give the seminary a shot…. It has been an adventure full of wonderful surprises and I’m glad I made the jump.
Area of priestly ministry he’s most looking forward to: The preaching aspect has been great as a deacon. I’ve loved to go out and preach the word at different parishes in different parts of the diocese. But also I’ve really come to appreciate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. … just to be able to sit in the confessional and be a conduit of God’s mercy would also be something that I really look forward to. I know that it’s a great responsibility, and I think it also is a little bit intimidating, but I’ve just seen how great it’s been in my life, and I hope to help people get to that point in their own lives too.
Advice for discerners: The first thing is to just continue to pray. If you’re thinking about priesthood or a vocation or just your status in life, just keep praying. … Other than praying, find a priest that you trust or you know really well and talk with him. I think if you’re thinking about priesthood, it’s good to talk to a priest because they’ve been there and they’ve gotten to this point in their life and they can really help you see where God is leading you.
Assignment following ordination: Parochial vicar of St. Rose of Lima Parish in North Syracuse and St. Margaret Church in Mattydale, effective July 1.