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)
Four ordained to the priesthood
By Katherine Long | Editor
Kneeling before Bishop Douglas J. Lucia for the Laying on of Hands, Father John Leo Oduor felt a profound change within him.
“I was praying by that time, but I just felt that I was so blessed and the Holy Spirit was there,” he recalled June 7. “It was so touching that I felt my heart move. I felt like there was a complete change. … We had learned it in class, what it means, but now I was really experiencing the moment.”
Fathers Oduor, Daniel Caughey, Brendan Foley, and Dennis Walker were ordained the newest priests of the Diocese of Syracuse June 5 during a Mass joyfully celebrated by Bishop 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 Cathedral full of family and friends — a sight not seen since the coronavirus pandemic began 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 Rite of Ordination began after the Gospel. Deacon Brennan Ferris, a classmate at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore who is studying for the priesthood for the Diocese of Wilmington, called the candidates forward from their seats in the congregation. Father Joe O’Connor, director of Seminarian Formation, presented the candidates to the bishop.Bishop Lucia elected the candidates for ordination, which the congregation affirmed with thunderous applause.
Speaking from the pulpit and directly to the elect, Bishop Lucia offered a homily reflecting on the mission and meaning of the priesthood. (Read his full homily on page 3.)
He referenced the statue set at the base of the pulpit — a hooded, seated figure with one pierced hand outstretched — and 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 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 ever since. 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 said. While rest is important, “first and foremost, we have to remember that 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 h ands 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.”
Following the homily, the elect 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 elect then prostrated themselves before the altar, signifying their submission to God’s will, as the congregation prayed the Litany of Supplication. The ordinands all included saints special to them in the litany (see sidebars).
At the Laying on of Hands, Bishop Lucia placed his hands on the head of each elect in silent prayer; the priests present then did the same. 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 completed the sacrament with the Prayer of Ordination.
The new priests were then vested in the stole and chasuble of their office, assisted by clergy key to their vocations (see sidebars). Father Foley said the examples and prayers of his vesting chaplains, Bishop Cunningham and Father O’Connor, were essential in his journey to the priesthood. “They really have carried me to this day,” he said.
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 concelebrated their first Liturgy of the Eucharist as priests alongside Bishops Lucia and Cunningham; Msgr. Timothy Elmer, vicar general; Father John 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 ministry 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 a 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.”
That weekend, the new priests celebrated their first Masses in their home parishes: Father Caughey at St. Anne, Mother of Mary in Mexico; Father Foley at St. James in Johnson City; and Fathers Odour and Walker at Our Lady of Hope in Syracuse.
Celebrating his first Mass was “just really incredible” Father Walker said, as well as “a little nerve-wracking and kind of surreal.”
“I think one of the most powerful parts was at the end of the Eucharistic prayer,” he said. “I included the names of my relatives that have passed on. … It was a powerful moment, because I realized it was the uniting of heaven and Earth right there. I really felt their presence.”
Father Caughey said celebrating his first Mass as a priest, after 17 years of ministry as a permanent deacon, went smoothly. And he, too, said a profound change has been made in him.
“I told my congregation [Sunday] morning — before heading up to Mexico, a couple of times I just happened to look at my hands, and I noticed that there is something different.”
Father Daniel Caughey
Born in: Cortland, New York
Home parish: St. Anne, Mother of Mary, Mexico
Will minister as: 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
Special saint included in the litany: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. Father Caughey said he has a special connection to this American saint, in part because Sister Barbara Staley, MSC, General Superior of the Missionary Sisters of Sacred Heart of Jesus (the congregation founded by Mother Cabrini), is a cousin of his late wife, Mickey. Sister Barbara traveled from Rome, Italy, to attend Father Caughey’s ordination.
Vesting chaplain: Father Sean O’Brien, pastor of St. Mary-St. Peter Parish in Rome. “I had my summer assignment with him last summer. … He is such a spiritual man. He just oozes love for the Lord and he brings it across to his people so well. I want to do the same.”
Chalice: Father Caughey’s chalice includes a Miraculous Medal from his mother, Audrey. “She has worn that medal since I was a little boy.”
Father Brendan Foley
Born in: Binghamton, New York
Home parish: St. James, Johnson City
Will minister as: Parochial vicar of Holy Cross Parish in DeWitt
Special saint included in the litany: St. Thérèse of Lisieux. “Her little way, which she’s known for, really touched my heart. There was so much depth and profound wisdom. … and she knew how to carry crosses.”
Vesting chaplains: Retired Bishop Robert J. Cunningham and Father Joe O’Connor, former director of the Office of Vocation Promotion, current director of Seminarian Formation, and pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Baldwinsville, where Father Foley ministered his pastoral year.
Bishop Cunningham “saw the vocation in me far before I was ready to hear God’s call. And that goes back to before I finished high school when he first became bishop of our diocese. … He saw something in me and my heart. … He has always just patiently been bringing me to this day.”
“Father O’Connor was newly ordained at my home parish and just ever since he’s been there. … His receptivity of the Holy Spirit in his life and how that manifests in everything he does — whether it’s preaching, whether it’s his leadership, his pastoral skills, his patience, his prayer life, everything that I get to see — has just been the fruit of his incredible surrender to God’s calling in his life, and that’s something that I want to emulate.”
Chalice: Father Foley’s chalice was given to him by Bishop Cunningham; Father Foley’s parents and grandparents had the chalice restored. It is inscribed with the Totus Tuus prayer.
Father John Leo Oduor
Born in: Siaya, Kenya
Home parish: Our Lady of Hope, Syracuse
Will minister as: Parochial vicar of Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Oswego
Special saint included in the litany: St. Teresa of Kolkata. Before entering formation for the diocese, Father Oduor worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, based in Tanzania. “I added St. Mother Teresa just to continue praying for those who are suffering in the community and in society, and to also give me strength through her intercession so I can approach each and every person and continue being present for them, as she did.”
Vesting chaplain: Father Chris Ballard, former pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Syracuse and current pastor of the Spirit of Hope Catholic Community in Oneida. “Since I came to the diocese, I’ve been so close to him. … He has been walking with me, he has been journeying with me. I think a lot of things I know from him — being now a son of Syracuse, a son of Our Lady of Hope — taking me through the way of life in New York.”
Chalice: Father Oduor’s chalice was a gift from Our Lady of Hope Parish. He had it inscribed with gratitude from his family “to the whole diocese, the whole parish, [for] accepting me and giving me this opportunity of priesthood. … I also thank all those who sponsor me, those who pray for me, those who care for me and are always beside me in this journey. Those are inscribed there to show that each and every time I’ll be saying Mass, I will be praying for my sponsors and for all those who call me son.”
Father Dennis Walker
Born in: Syracuse, New York
Home parish: Our Lady of Hope, Syracuse
Will minister as: Parochial vicar of St. Rose of Lima Parish in North Syracuse and St. Margaret Church in Mattydale
Special saint included in the litany: St. Denis. The saint has “taken on more significance in my life. … I went to Montmartre, where he was said to be martyred. Just being in a place where … my namesake was gave me a sense of him.”
Vesting chaplains: Father Dan O’Hara, pastor of Epiphany Parish in Liverpool, and Father John Manno, vicar for clergy and pastor of Holy Family Church in Syracuse. “They were two of my pastors [at St. James Church, now Our Lady of Hope] that really were instrumental. While I was in school and through college, they both encouraged me to become a priest. It took me a while; it wasn’t the easiest decision for me to make, but just through their encouragement and their examples of them being great priests and holy priests it helped me to recognize the call in my own life.”
Chalice: Father Walker’s chalice was left to him by the late Msgr. James McCloskey. In 2017, Father Walker served a summer at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. During that time, he got to know Msgr. McCloskey, who had been in residence at the parish since his retirement in 1995 but had suffered a stroke and was residing in a nursing home. Before his death that November, Msgr. McCloskey told Walker he had two chalices. Of the second: “I’ve told [IC Pastor] Father [Tom] Ryan that it’s yours.’”