Local Religious life

Family’s faith led deacon to consider a vocation to the priesthood

Deacon Sudeep Kodigandla distributes Communion at his diaconate ordination last May. He will be ordained to the priesthood on May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Faith nurtured from an early age within his family led Deacon Sudeep Kodigandla to discern a vocation to the priesthood.

But it was the example of missionaries to his homeland that led him from India to Kansas.

“I’ve always prayed [to God] to allow me to be his instrument, to allow me to be like a ‘brush in the painter’s hand,’ to become a mediator between God himself and his people,” said Deacon Kodigandla, “allowing God to live through me, to come to his people where they are at.”

He was ordained a deacon on May 22, 2021, at St. Matthew Parish in Topeka, and will be ordained a priest by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas. The ordination will be livestreamed at: livestream.com/archkck/ordinations.

Deacon Kodigandla was born and raised in the Anantapur District of the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. He was one of three sons of Dominic and Puspavathi Kodigandla. His father was a cradle Catholic and his mother is a convert from the Hindu faith. His father is deceased.

The faith was of utmost importance in his devout extended family.

“We prayed regularly in our home,” he said. “We would wake up and the head of the household, my uncle, would ask everyone, ‘Did you say your prayers?’ Everyone would wake up and sit in the bed and pray. Then, we had morning prayer [together] before leaving for school.”

After returning home from school, they would have meal prayers, evening prayers, an evening family rosary and other devotions.

“Prayer was part of my upbringing,” said Deacon Kodigandla. “Every time and anytime we did something, the credit was given to God, because he was the one who provided the opportunities and graces we needed to make it through life.”

And he had other good examples, too. There were many vocations in his family, both priests and religious.  A couple of his uncles were ordained priests, one of them being Father Marianand Mendem, pastor of Sacred Heart-St. Casimir Parish in Leavenworth.

Watching his uncles being ordained — as well as getting to know other priests — inspired him to consider the idea of a priestly vocation from a very early age.

“Growing up, as I attended many ordinations, and met a number of priests and religious that my family has gotten to know over the years, my desire to become a priest grew stronger,” he said. “This desire was nourished through regular discussions about priesthood and the beauty of priesthood in our family.”

All of his faithful relatives influenced him, but the greatest influence in Deacon Kodigandla’s faith life was his grandfather.

“My grandfather was very influential,” he said. “He was a teacher. I come from a family of teachers. Whenever we’d go to visit during summer, instead of wasting all day playing, he started catechizing us. In the morning, he’d tell us — my siblings and cousins — biblical stories or about the saints. He’d teach us prayers and give us spontaneous quizzes.”

His grandfather also told him stories about the missionaries who came to India to spread the Catholic faith. A desire grew in him to become a missionary priest.

“As he pursued his education, he had that desire [to become a priest],” said Father Mendem. “He shared that desire [with me], and I knew he was very genuine. I thought he would be a good priest, and perhaps a good priest for the archdiocese. That’s why I went to [Archbishop Naumann] and shared with him [about Deacon Kodigandla]. . . . Archbishop was very kind and he gave him an opportunity.”

Deacon Kodigandla made two trips to the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

“I was here for three months to discern and see if Kansas City was the place for me to pursue this desire, this dream,” he said. “I stayed at St. Patrick Parish [in Kansas City, Kansas] with Msgr. Michael Mullen. Then, I went back to complete the process.”

Deacon Kodigandla returned and, in the fall of 2015, entered Kenrick- Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. He graduated this spring with a master’s in divinity.

Of course, Deacon Kodigandla misses his native land and family. His mother will not be able to attend his ordination in person but will view it with family members via livestream.

“Yes, I miss a lot of things in India,” he said. “I have left everything and I had to start my life over in the United States. I miss being with my family. I’ve not been home in five years. I couldn’t even go for my father’s funeral. It’s been hard.”

“But the other side of the coin is the missionary desire God has placed in my heart,” he said. “That’s where the strength comes from. One of the main focuses of my formation at the seminary was to grow in greater trust in the Lord and his plan for me.

“That trust has helped me grow strong.”

Personally Speaking

Deacon Sudeep Kodigandla
Age at ordination: 30
Born: C. N. Kota, India
Raised: C. N. Kota, India
Parents: Dominic Kodigandla (deceased) and Puspavathi Kodigandla
Siblings: Two brothers, Sudheer Kodigandla and Suman Kodigandla
Parish where you grew up: St. Joseph Catholic Church in C. N. Kota, India
Current home parish: Sacred Heart, Shawnee
Education (School, degree, date of graduation): • L.R.G. High School, graduated in 2006; “Intermediate” at Andhra Loyola College in Vijayawada, graduated in 2009; bachelor’s degree in Commerce, Accounting and a minor in Computer Application at AVS College of Arts and Science in Salem City, Tamil Nadu state, graduated in 2013; bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, graduated in 2017; master’s in divinity at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, graduated in May 2022
Favorite food: I like Indian, Mediterranean and definitely Kansas BBQ
Least favorite food: Frog legs
What I wanted to be while growing up: I always wanted to be a priest. But every now and then, I would think of being a dentist.
Worst job I’ve ever had: Part-time job at a catering company
Best job I’ve ever had: I enjoyed visiting the hospitals, the homebound and the dying during my internship year. I enjoyed teaching as well.
Things I like to do: I like to play table tennis (pingpong), and I like to spend time around water, like fishing and swimming.
My hidden talent: I am very funny (lol…).
People would be surprised to know that I: can speak, read and understand seven languages.
Book recommendation: “Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement” by Father Timothy Gallagher
A place I’d like to go: Holy Land, Rome and Australia
Favorite devotion: Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet
Most important life’s lesson so far: Being honest is always a best policy in life.
My greatest adventure or interesting experience: Coming to the United States and entering seminary has been an awesome experience and a blessing.
Most inspirational Christian I’ve ever met: My grandfather, my parents, my aunt who is a nun and a few priests that I have met over the years.
Best vocational advice I’ve received: Trust the Lord and rely on him rather than my own abilities while discerning.
Favorite class at seminary and why: I enjoyed classes on canon law and fundamental theology.
My advice to vocational discerners: Learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and seek the courage you need to move in the direction he guides you.
What I’m looking forward to the most as a priest: Celebrating the sacraments, especially holy Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation.
Priest vesting me: Father Mark Aune

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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