Inside the gentle nature of Father Tom Aduri
by Bob Hart
PERRY — “Smooth run the waters where the brook is deep,” says the character Suffolk in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” (Part II).
Though Suffolk may have had in mind one who “harbours treason,” the Bard’s enduring observation has come to be associated with the deceptively quiet type — someone whose mild demeanor masks great depth and intelligence.
Case in point: Father Thomas Aduri. One of his closest friends, Father Bill Bruning, said it’s sometimes easy to underestimate the Indian-born priest.
“A lot of people, when they look at Father Tom, see this very modest priest who’s so quiet. They look at him, and he’s kind of short,” Father Bruning said with a laugh. “He’s not at all imposing.”
“What they don’t realize is that the man is absolutely brilliant. Truly,” he continued. “He’s also a compassionate man — his love for the poor is outstanding. It’s really an honor to be his friend. I’ve learned so much about the universal church from him.”
If it weren’t for a great-aunt on his mother’s side, Father Tom Aduri might be just plain old Tom.
“She kept asking all the kids, the nieces and nephews, if they’d thought about it,” Father Tom said, referring to religious vocations. “Nobody listened to her.
“Finally, after everyone else had grown up and chosen their careers, she wrote me a letter. It said, ‘You are my last hope.’”
As it turns out, the great-aunt had hitched her hopes to a winner.
“I went and took a look at the seminary,” he recalled. “I liked it, and I stayed.”
For how long?
“Oh, gosh,” he said, trying to recall. “Forever? I think it was 11 years.”
When the seminary years finally came to an end, young Tom Aduri had no idea where the priesthood would lead him — figuratively or geographically.
Born May 26, 1975, in Guntur, India, to a schoolteacher father and homemaker mother, he and his sister were fourth-generation Catholics in their predominantly Hindu homeland. Guntur was then a small village of about 2,000 people, with no roads.
Through anecdotal accounts and media depictions, young Tom formed an image in his mind of the United States.
“Everything was mechanical,” he said. “There were big streets and big buildings. No land, just buildings.”
That image, needless to say, has been altered a bit for the man who logged time as an associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park and Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish Topeka before assuming his current duties as pastor of St. Theresa in Perry and St. Aloysius, Meriden.
For one thing, Father Aduri said with a smile, “There’s land!”
“And they’re really good, well-organized parishes. I benefit from having followed two great pastors, Father Francis Hund and Father Robert Hasenkamp. I enjoy being with the people, sharing their joys and sorrows, and celebrating the sacraments.”
In his spare time, Father Aduri is a history and animal enthusiast. A big fan of “Animal Planet,” he also devours both television programs and books about the Founding Fathers of his adopted homeland. He’s recently completed volumes on both George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.
He admits only reluctantly that he’s “not really into music.”
“I think that’s why my choir doesn’t like me,” he said, a sly smile emerging. “I don’t sing.”
As a pastor, he is tireless in promoting the importance of the Eucharist.
“The big challenge is making people realize how important it is to go to Sunday Mass,” he said. “Our life is centered around the Eucharist. We draw our strength from it.”
The simplicity of that message is typical of a man who says the priesthood has taught him a lot about humility.
“I used to be very into myself before I became a priest,” he said. “I was shy, and it was all inside and focused on me. Now it is focused on others.
“I don’t have any big plans, or a mission. I just want to be there for the people when they need me.”