Seminarians Brendan Foley, John Leo Oduor, and Dennis Walker stand with Bishop Robert J. Cunningham following the celebration of their Rite of Candidacy May 6, 2019. (Sun photo | Katherine Long)


By Katherine Long | Editor

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church rang with joyful applause May 6 as three diocesan seminarians were accepted as worthy candidates for the priesthood.

Brendan Foley, John Leo Oduor, and Dennis Walker each publicly declared their intention to receive ordination during the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders, celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Cunningham. The rite brings the seminarians, currently ministering in parishes during their pastoral year of formation, one step further on their journeys to ordination.

In his homily, Bishop Cunningham reflected on the call to live as disciples of Jesus.

“We are all called to be disciples of the Lord, however the specific character of this call is unique to each person,” he said. “Brendan, Dennis, John Leo, your call to follow the Lord includes the invitation to follow him in the ministerial priesthood. Compelled by the love of Christ and strengthened by the inner working of the Holy Spirit, you have arrived at the moment when you are to express openly your desire to be bound in Holy Orders for the service of God and humankind. This desire we shall receive with great joy.”

Seminarians John Leo Oduor, Dennis Walker, and Brendan Foley express to Bishop Robert J. Cunningham their intention to receive ordination during the Rite of Candidacy May 6, 2019. (Sun photo | Katherine Long)

Called forth from the congregation of family, friends, and supporters, the three seminarians stood before the bishop and resolved to complete their preparations to assume ministry and to prepare in mind and body to give faithful service to the Lord and the Church. The congregation affirmed that resolve with thunderous applause.

Following the liturgy, the three aspirants received handshakes, hugs, and words of encouragement from numerous diocesan clergy and a sea of well-wishers.

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham hugs seminarian John Leo Oduor during the Rite of Candidacy May 6, 2019. (Sun photo | Katherine Long)

Oduor said he felt excited and “really happy to see all of my parish members here to support me.” Oduor, a native of Kenya, credited his pastoral year parish, Our Lady of Hope in Syracuse, and its pastor, Father Chris Ballard, with teaching him more about culture and kindness.

“I feel like I’m welcomed, I feel like I’m part of the family of New York, of Syracuse, of the Diocese of Syracuse,” he said.

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham hugs seminarian Dennis Walker during the Rite of Candidacy May 6, 2019. (Sun photo | Katherine Long)

Walker also sang the praises of his pastoral year assignment, the linked parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica and Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford. The parishes are diverse, he said, with lots of different activities and demographics. “There’s a wealth of experience I’ve gained from both of them,” he said.

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham hugs seminarian Brendan Foley during the Rite of Candidacy May 6, 2019. (Sun photo | Katherine Long)

Foley said he couldn’t help but feel humbled and grateful for the many people who came to support him — including a busload of parishioners from his home parish of St. James in Johnson City. “I will continue to count on their support,” he said.

He also expressed gratitude to the community where he’s spent his pastoral year, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. “It’s been pretty incredible to have a parish that’s so hospitable and has been welcoming to me and really encouraged me to get involved as much as I can. But also learning from Father [Joe] O’Connor day in and day out — his authentically lived-out priesthood is one of the most important parts of this year for me.”

All three seminarians will spend the summer in their parish assignments, then return to seminary in the fall. Following two final years of study, their ordinations are anticipated to take place in 2021.

Foley’s parents, Dan and Pat, declared the evening a joyful one. “Certainly for us and I think for the whole diocese, too,” Dan said. “These are three great young guys who give reason for optimism and feeling good about the Church. They’re three outstanding young men.”


Candidates for ordination


Brendan Foley

Age: 27

Native of: Binghamton

Education: Seton Catholic Central High School; University of Scranton

Prior to seminary: Served in FrancisCorps, a year-long post-graduate volunteer service program for young adults directed by the Franciscans. Served in Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement program in Syracuse Pastoral year assignment: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Baldwinsville


John Leo Oduor

Age: 35

Native of: Kenya

Education: Consolata Institute of Philosophy; Aquinas Institute of Theology

Prior to seminary: Worked for Barclays Bank International Limited-Kenya, where he was a tea/coffee server and rose to be a direct sales representative; worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees based in Tanzania, serving refugees from Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi, and in Ethiopia, serving refugees from Somalia, South Sudan, and the Ethiopian Oromo community.

Pastoral year assignment: Our Lady of Hope, Syracuse


Dennis Walker

Age: 31

Native of: Syracuse

Education: Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School; Le Moyne College

Prior to seminary: Worked as an auditor for Onondaga County and New York State; worked for M. Walker Sprinkler Co., his family’s business, as a fire sprinkler technician

Pastoral year assignment: Our Lady of Lourdes, Utica and Our Lady of the Rosary, New Hartford


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