Local Religious life

Trio of men become archdiocese’s newest priests

The priests of the archdiocese perform the ritual of the laying on of hands on, from left, ordinands Tim Skoch, George Rhodes and Colm Larkin. The three were ordained priests on May 27 by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at Prince of Peace Church, Olathe. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Marc and Julie Anderson

OLATHE — One of Mike and Ginny Skoch’s favorite pictures of their son Tim is from when he was around 2 years old. He was wearing a plastic rosary around his neck.

“He just beamed,” she said. “He was always very happy.”

That photo was on display during the celebrations surrounding the ordination of her son — along with Colm Larkin and George Rhodes — to the priesthood.

The ordination Mass was celebrated at Prince of Peace Church in Olathe on May 27 by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.

The three ordinands lay prostrate before the altar while Archbishop Naumann, the priests of the archdiocese and parishioners chant the Litany of Saints, calling out to the communion of saints for its strength and support. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

One of the greatest joys of his ministry, said the archbishop in his homily, is to ordain men to the priesthood.

“There’s nothing more important that I do as a bishop than ordain priests,” he said. “God can use one holy, selfless and dedicated priest to touch the hearts of hundreds or thousands — tens of thousands — of men and women.”

 And what a day for an ordination — on the vigil of Pentecost.

“Today, through this ordination, the Holy Spirit is being poured anew into your hearts to empower you to not be prophets of doom, but to be bearers of joy, glad tidings for the lowly, healing for the broken-hearted, liberty for the captives, comfort for those who are mourning,” the archbishop said.

Deacon Tim Skoch processes into Prince of Peace Church on May 27 for his ordination to the priesthood. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Likewise, he continued, the ordinands were to always remember to extend God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Be generous in making yourselves available to the people of God for opportunities to receive the sacrament of reconciliation,” he said. “Jesus is empowering you to speak on his behalf the words of divine mercy.”

After the homily, the Rite of Ordination continued with the three men lying prostrate on the floor as the congregation chanted the Litany of Saints.

The litany was followed by the archbishop laying his hands on each man in turn, ordaining them to the priesthood. It was followed by all of the other priests in attendance doing so as well.

Calling the entire experience “phenomenal,” Mike Skoch said, “The liturgy itself is beautiful, but I sat there, fighting back tears. The most beautiful thing is seeing my son so happy.”

Deacon George Rhodes has his hands wrapped in cloth after having them anointed with chrism. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

As a priest, the couple thinks their son will benefit from the servant leadership he exhibited at a young age.

“If there wasn’t a server, he was always like, ‘Can I go serve?’” Ginny recalled. “I feel like he had a real servant’s heart from very early. . . . He always had a desire to do not only what was right, but what God wanted him to do.

 “He sees a need, and he does whatever he can to fulfill it.”

The Skoches never pushed any of their children into a religious vocation, although Ginny admits she did offer some prayers that one of her sons would become a priest.

“Because the harvest is great and the laborers are few, I said, ‘Lord, you know I have four sons. Maybe one of them could become your priest,” Ginny said, her voice trembling.

Msgr. Michael Mullen, co-director emeritus of seminarians for the archdiocese, performs the laying on of hands on Father Colm Larkin. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Mike agreed.

“It had to be God’s call,” he said. “We certainly hoped and prayed.”

“It’s been really neat to watch the Holy Spirit work in his heart and in his life,” Ginny said, adding that another moment that will definitely stick out in her mind from the ordination Mass is the fraternal greeting.

One by one, all of the priests in attendance embrace the newly ordained as their brother.

“That touched my heart a lot,” said Ginny. “He’s talked a lot about becoming part of that brotherhood.”

Mike agreed, saying, “He eagerly anticipates being [and serving] among his brothers.”

Father Frank Burger vests Father George Rhodes. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Serving alongside his brother priests is also important for the newly ordained Father Colm Larkin, something with which Clare (Larkin)              Ostmeyer said her brother will have no problem doing. After all, she has seen the pastoral approach firsthand.

“He has suffered a lot in his life through medical stuff and then the transitions we had when we moved from Nebraska to Iowa,” she said. “He has known suffering, and I think he’s worked through that suffering with Our Lord, and it hasn’t made him bitter.”

For example, Ostmeyer said, last May, a health condition she has that had been lying dormant since college flared up again.

“It was very intense,” she said, requiring her to postpone her wedding by six months. At the time, her brother was a transitional deacon.

“He was so pastoral with me. He was really able to enter into that suffering with me,” she said. “I think it’s because he has suffered, but he hasn’t allowed it to make him bitter. . . . He has been able to just take everything that life has given him and polish all of it so that it shines.”

From left, Tim Skoch, George Rhodes and Colm Larkin kneel before the altar while receiving a blessing from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The siblings’ parents, Dennis and Jean Larkin, agreed.

“People just seem to like him and go toward him,” Dennis said.

“He loves talking to a janitor as much as a bank president,” he added. “He’s very approachable, and I think that will serve him well.”

The couple also said they’ve seen how happy their son has been as he’s discovered God’s will for his life, and they can already see how radiating the joy of Christ can have a profound impact on people.

“Colm is just really happy,” said Jean, “and one of the things I noticed through the years that Colm has been in [the] seminary is that that happiness has spread throughout [our] family — from his corner to his aunts, uncles, cousins. People are genuinely happy for him and for the church.”

Father Colm Larkin blesses his parents, Dennis and Jean, during his ordination to the priesthood. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

“Those three young men are just happy,” Dennis observed, “and the church needs good, happy priests.”

Seeing Father George Rhodes turn around and face the congregation after being vested was a moment that Jason and Kathy Rhodes say they will never forget.

“I always prayed for a son to become a priest,” Kathy said.

Jason said that their son baptized their first grandchild the very next day on Pentecost, a moment the couple will also cherish forever.

Still, he found himself unable to say much after the ordination Mass itself.

Fighting back his own tears, he said simply, “God is good. I’ll cry. So, I can’t talk.”

From left, Father Tim Skoch, Father George Rhodes, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Father Colm Larkin are all smiles after the new priests’ ordination on May 27. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

What of the new priests themselves?

Father Larkin said he’s definitely looking forward to hearing confessions and feels “a sense of wholeness and totality” now.

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and joy,” confessed Father Rhodes. “It’s hard to take it all in.”

But perhaps it was Father Skoch who best expressed their collective feelings.

“I’m just happy,” he said. “I’m just happy being Christ’s priest.”

To view the full album of photos from the ordination, click here.

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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