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Archdiocesan priests meet Pope Francis during pilgrimage

Pope Francis kisses the hands of Father Andrew E. Gaffney, who was ordained to the priesthood in May for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, at the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square June 15. Joining Father Andrew with the pope are Father Luke Doyle, left, and Father Thomas Maddock, right. (CNS PHOTO/VATICAN MEDIA)

by Therese Horvat

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Three recently ordained archdiocesan priests shared the experience of a lifetime this summer while on pilgrimage to Rome.

Friends from their seminary days, Fathers Luke Doyle, Andrew Gaffney and Thomas Maddock were in the Eternal City for the first time since becoming priests. Fathers Luke and Thomas were ordained in May 2021; Father Andrew, this year on May 28. As new priests, they found deep meaning in visiting the sacred foundational site of the Catholic Church. 

The three scored second row seats for the Wednesday, June 15, general audience at which Pope Francis addressed and blessed the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square. 

Better yet, the three were among those granted brief personal visits with the pope.

And when Father Luke introduced the trio as newly ordained priests from the U.S. and Kansas, the pope’s face lit up.

Pope Francis then asked if he could kiss their hands — the traditional way of reverencing the presence of Christ in a priest.

“We were shocked and humbled that the Vicar of Christ would kiss our hands,” exclaimed Father Thomas.

Father Luke agreed.

“It was very humbling to have the presence of Christ in me reverenced by the Vicar of Christ on earth, by the successor of St. Peter,” he said.

Father Andrew says the personal encounter of only a couple of minutes felt amazingly like forever. He remembers the pope speaking to them in broken English and saying, “Know that I am praying for each of you. Please pray for me.”

Walking away from their exchange with Pope Francis, the three priests remained astonished. They kept commenting that they had met the pope and he kissed their hands. That sense of awe continued as they offered Mass together on June 18 in the Irish Chapel in the Vatican Grottoes under St. Peter’s Basilica. This chapel was across from the Clementine Chapel where St. Peter, the first pope, is buried.

Fathers Luke and Thomas had been in Rome before, but this was Father Andrew’s first time. Their meeting up was both a bit of luck and a little coordination.

Fathers Thomas and Andrew had made a pilgrimage of attending the ordinations of friends in the United States and traveling to Rome. Father Andrew’s intention was to offer a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Basilica for his own ordination.

Father Luke, meanwhile, was in Rome as guide and translator for a small group from St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Leawood, where he is associate pastor.

But it was a little help from a friend that made their time even more special.

When he lived in Rome while in the seminary, Father Luke worked in the U.S. Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican. In preparation for this trip, he contacted acquaintances there who helped arrange tickets for special seating at the pope’s general audience.

Father Luke’s friend Father Sean Patrick Riley, a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool, England, facilitated the personal visit with Pope Francis. He secured a letter from his archbishop to the prefect of the papal household requesting that the three new priests meet the Holy Father.

So, at dinner the evening before the general audience, Father Sean told the three Kansans they would soon be meeting the pope.

Even as Father Sean handed them the specially marked tickets, however, they didn’t believe him.

In fact, they can hardly believe it still!    

Father Maddock is associate pastor at Christ the King Parish and chaplain at Hayden High School, both in Topeka; Father Gaffney is associate pastor at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe and chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Overland Park. In addition to his parish ministry, Father Doyle serves as assistant director in the archdiocesan vocation office.  

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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