Newly ordained (from left) Fathers Dennis Walker, John Leo Oduor, Brendan Foley, and Daniel Caughey stand with (center left and center right) retired Bishop Robert J. Cunningham and Bishop Douglas J. Lucia following ordination Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception June 5. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)
By Katherine Long | Editor
Fathers Daniel Caughey, Brendan Foley, John Leo Oduor, and Dennis Walker were ordained the newest priests of the Diocese of Syracuse June 5 during a Mass [watch below] joyfully celebrated by Bishop Douglas J. Lucia at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Dozens of priests, deacons, and seminarians joined the bishop and retired Bishop Robert J. Cunningham for the liturgy, celebrated in a full Cathedral — a sight not seen since the coronavirus pandemic exploded in March 2020.
“Dear sisters and brothers, this truly is the day that the Lord has made,” Bishop Lucia said. “And as a local Church, we rejoice and are glad over the ordination of these four men to the sacred priesthood. We give praise and thanks to God that on this day, we can gather as a diocesan church as family and friends, particularly in such numbers.”
The readings proclaimed at the Mass all spoke of the importance of the ministry to carry on the work of Jesus within the Church.
The first reading, Isaiah 61:1-3, declared, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.”
The Rite of Ordination began after the Gospel, as Father Joe O’Connor, director of Seminarian Formation, called the candidates forward from their seats in the congregation. The Church believes that those who are called to ministry answer the call from the Lord and are called from the midst of the Catholic community.
After the candidates declared themselves present, the bishop asked those charged with their formation if they had “been found worthy and competent to fulfill the Office of the Priesthood.” Affirming the candidates, the bishop elected them for ordination; the congregation affirmed the elections with thunderous applause.
Speaking from the pulpit and directly to the candidates, Bishop Lucia offered a homily reflecting on the mission and meaning of the priesthood.
Gesturing to a statue set at the base of the pulpit — a hooded, seated figure with one pierced hand outstretched — the bishop noted it came from St. Leo’s & St. Ann’s parish in Holland Patent, where he recently celebrated Confirmation.
“I totally overlooked it and almost jumped out of my skin when I turned toward the ambo for words of welcome that were being given,” he said. “I had to ask myself, ‘How the heck did I miss seeing this image of Christ sitting in front of me?’”
“The question was on my mind not only for the duration of the Confirmation Mass, but has been percolating in my brain since then. Particularly, I keep challenging myself to consider, ‘How attentive am I to Jesus Christ in my life? Do I pay attention to him through prayer? Do I look for him when I am with others? Are his commandments the ones I live by? Is his way of loving my way of loving?’
“Such questions are important for all followers of Christ, but particularly for those who are called to live their lives in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the head. How can the ordained priest lead others to Christ unless he pays attention to and remains united with what his master is doing?”
“Ordination to the priestly office is meant for one thing and one thing only — to continue the mission and the service of Jesus Christ — and not to make for ourselves a cushy life, seeing how many days off, vacations, fine meals, and golf games we can rack up,” the bishop continued. While rest is important, “first and foremost, we have to remember our place is on the ground, stooping to wash the feet of fellow pilgrims or seeking them out and picking them up when they have strayed off the path. Our place is on the cross with Christ, stretching out our hands between heaven and Earth, bringing God to the people and the people to God. This is the greater love the priest is ordained to live on in.”
“I have asked myself over and over what concerns distracted me from seeing the Christ in front of me at Holland Patent. Moreover, this particular image of Christ reminds me that I may have to get really down and even dirty to see the face of Christ in those around me,” Bishop Lucia continued. “Therefore, dear ordinands, keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost. Remember this day the gift that is being conferred upon you and persevere in the tasks of teaching, sanctifying, and leading the flock. Dennis, John Leo, Brendan, and Daniel, throughout your priesthood of service may you forever sing the goodness of the Lord.”
Following the homily, the candidates declared themselves willing to be ordained and one by one promised obedience to Bishop Lucia and his successors, kneeling and placing their hands inside the bishop’s.
The candidates then prostrated themselves before the altar, signifying their submission to God’s will, as the congregation prayed the Litany of Supplication.
The essential rite of the sacrament — when the ordination takes place — is the Laying on of Hands and the Prayer of Consecration.
Bishop Lucia placed his hands on each candidate’s head in silent prayer, as did the priests present. By this ritual, the bishop and priests “invoke the Holy Spirit to come down upon the one to be ordained, giving him a sacred character and setting him apart for the designated ministry” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).
The bishop then offered the Prayer of Consecration, completing the sacrament.
The new priests were then vested in the stole and chasuble of their office, assisted by diocesan priests who have been important figures in their journeys to the priesthood. Father Caughey was vested by Father Sean O’Brien; Father Foley was vested by Father O’Connor and Bishop Cunningham; Father Oduor was vested by Father Chris Ballard; and Father Walker was vested by Father John Manno and Father Dan O’Hara.
Bishop Lucia anointed the new priests’ hands with Sacred Chrism and placed a paten and chalice into their hands, saying, “Receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
The Ordination Rite concluded as the bishop, followed by brother priests, offered the newest priests of the diocese a fraternal embrace.
Fathers Caughey, Foley, Oduor, and Walker then concelebrated their first Liturgy of the Eucharist as priests alongside Bishops Lucia and Cunningham; Msgr. Timothy Elmer, vicar general; Father Manno, vicar for clergy; and Father O’Connor.
Bishop Lucia offered congratulations to the ordained and thanks to their families at the close of Mass. “Thank you for your gift to the Church. We know that they are not the men they are today without you,” he said.
He also commended the seminaries that formed the priests, as well as the work of his predecessor. “I confess to you all, I feel a little guilty ordaining these men, only in this sense — that, really, a bishop who has walked with them a greater part of the journey than I have is Bishop Cunningham. So I certainly want to acknowledge that I reap the fruits of his labors.”
Bishop Lucia ended with a reminder that all are called to vocation.
“We continue our prayers for vocations — for vocations to the priesthood, the consecrated life, the diaconate, and also we pray for lay ministers — all are needed in the Church today. Because as St. Paul writes so eloquently, each of us has a special part in the body of Christ, each of us has a call from God. But more than ever today we need people to listen to that call. … Sometimes, all we think about is what I want. But we need to think, ‘What does God want? What is God’s vision for the world today, and how can I be part of that vision? So especially in this year of St. Joseph, and this Year of Vocations in our diocese, I just invite you to continue your prayers for vocations in this local Church and in the Church universal.”
The newly ordained exited the Cathedral to cheers and applause. They offered blessings to family, friends, and fellow priests in the warm sunshine outside the church doors.
Father Caughey cited his brother priests imposing their hands upon him as the most memorable moment of the Mass: “I really felt the Spirit within me and I knew I was a priest.”
This story will be updated.