by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The ordinations of two men to the priesthood on May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Peter here had an especially poignant moment when Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann spoke of the ordinands’ parents.
Following longstanding custom, the first two pews were reserved for family. Both were full.
On the left sat John and Lori Gaffney of Topeka, parents of Father Andrew E. Gaffney, and other relatives. But on the right sat Visweswara Rao Mopur, first cousin of Father Sudeep Kodigandla, and others who could only be called “relatives by proxy.”
“I regret that because of current travel complications, [Father Kodigandla’s] mother, Puspavathi, and his siblings and other family members are not able to be physically present today for our ordination liturgy,” said Archbishop Naumann, ordaining minister, in his homily.
“But I am delighted they are able to participate with us virtually through the wonders of livestream [technology],” he added, “so we hope many are watching in India.”
And one very important face was missing — even virtually.
“Sudeep’s father Dominic died a little more than a year ago, and sadly because of COVID restrictions, Sudeep was not able to return for the funeral liturgy.”
Visweswara Rao Mopur, who is from Anantapur in the state of Andhra Pradesh, has been to a few ordinations in India thanks to his Catholic relatives, although he is of the Hindu faith. He was able to come to the ordination because he lives in Atlanta with his wife and son.
A few thoughts, commingled with pride and happiness, filled him as he witnessed Father Kodigandla’s ordination.
“I don’t know many things about [Catholic ordinations], but I had one thing in my mind,” he said. “He had a wish to give back to the community, and for that reason he struggled a lot and he went through the tough times . . . and went through all the situations, and he’s here. He made it.”
Also looking on with pride and happiness were Father Kodigandla’s “Kansas parents,” Allan Goodman and Barb Chamberlain, from Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka. Allan and Barb befriended Father Kodigandla three years ago when he served at their parish as a seminarian.
“Allan and I are very involved in the church,” said Barb. “I serve on the liturgy committee. Father Sudeep was amazing. He jumped in, brought back the youth group, assisted Sister Ann with home visits and taught RCIA classes. He was just incredible. And we just loved him — it was just like having a son.”
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann then thanked John and Lori Gaffney for giving Father Gaffney life and laying the foundation of his Catholic faith, which led to his ordination.
“He spent a long time in formation, but I’d say since the day he said, ‘I want to be a priest,’ I knew today would come,” said John, with tears in his eyes.
“I was thinking of when I asked him why he wanted to be a priest, and he said, ‘I just think this is what I’m supposed to do.’ And I told him all I wanted was for him to be happy, and he is truly happy,” said Lori.
The Gaffneys know that parents of priests have to share their sons with many others, and that he’ll be missing from a lot of family get-togethers on Christmases and Easters. They accept that.
“I know we’ll still get to see him, and he’ll be a part of all our family celebrations,” said Lori. “And he’ll get to baptize all the grandchildren and have lots of nieces and nephews to keep track of.”
“His ministry is to serve others,” said John. “We have to know and respect that is what his role is, to serve others. He’ll still have time for family. When he’s not with us, he’ll be with others doing his work.”
Father Gaffney’s first assignment is as associate pastor at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, and chaplain to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park. Father Kodigandla’s first assignment is as associate pastor at the Church of Nativity Parish in Leawood.
For a full photo album from the ordination, click here.