Two Men from Kenya Ordained to the Priesthood as Maryknoll Missioners

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The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America — known as Maryknoll — continues its shift to accepting vocations from its mission regions overseas.

Two young men from Kenya became the newest Maryknoll priests on Saturday when the pair were ordained at the mission Society’s Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel in Westchester County, New York.

Father Charles Ogony and Father Joshua Maondo were ordained by Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne of the Archdiocese of New York before a packed crowd that included a choir of Kenyans from Minnesota, Seattle and New Jersey as well as other parts of the United States who traveled to New York for the event. Bishop Byrne filled in to celebrate the Mass and conferred the sacrament of Holy Orders upon the two deacons after the scheduled presider, Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, was unable to attend.

Bishop Byrne, in his remarks to the attendees, invoked the memory of Maryknoll’s Bishop Francis X. Ford, the mission society’s first seminary student, who was one of the four Maryknoll priests first sent to mission in 1918 when they set sail for China. “He was an innovator in many ways as far as being a missioner,” Bishop Byrne said. “He had a keen sense of the fact that you had to know and love the people among whom you worked if you were to share with them the Gospel.”

The ordination of Fathers Ogony and Maondo is the second such ordination of men from overseas churches since the Society officially opened up to foreign vocations. Father John Siyumbu, who is also from Kenya, became the first Maryknoll priest under the new acceptance of vocations from overseas when he was ordained two years ago.

These three vocations represent not only Maryknoll’s close ties to East Africa, where Maryknoll missioners have served since 1946, but also the influence of Father Lance Nadeau, the Society’s current superior general, who as a college chaplain in Nairobi until 2018 mentored the young men as students. Father Nadeau had also advocated for Maryknoll to broaden its criteria for accepting vocations, which previously was limited to prospects from the United States and occasionally from Canada.

“We look at ourselves like Africans who have been invited by God’s grace to participate in mission,” Siyumbu said. “What unites us is the example of mission of Father Lance. The three of us, and many other young men who are coming from Africa would like to participate in a mission that we have seen. We stand on shoulders of legendary missioners.”

After World Mission Sunday Mass at St. Ferdinand Church, pastor Father Jason Torba and Cardinal Blase Cupich greet the congregation, including all those who do mission in Chicago. (Julie Jaidinger, Chicago Catholic/U.S.)

Father Charles Ogony (left to right), Deacon Matthew Sim, Deacon Patrick Okok and Father Joshua Maondo in the line behind celebrant Bishop Peter Byrne during Mass after Fathers Ogony and Maondo were ordained on June 8, 2024. (Octavio Durán/U.S.)

Father Russell J. Feldmeier, rector of Maryknoll seminarians, said, “We have gone as Maryknollers to the ends of the earth and crossed national boundaries and cross-cultural mission. Recently, we have discerned that God has called us to accept candidates from the countries we have been sent to. And we have invited them into our community as full members and fellow missioners. A new intercultural reality has been born.”

Addressing the new priests who were assigned to mission in Bolivia, Father Feldmeier said that in this “divided and wounded world,” there is great need of this kind of mission. “Boundaries have become more porous, which can be frightening, but to the whole Church and the world as a whole, this is the beginning of a new way of living,” he said. “This is a new era of mission where there is no out there, but it is all in here, in this Church.”

Father Feldmeier singled out each of the new priests for the individual gifts they bring to mission.

“Charles, you have such a such a deep love for the elderly and the poor, for those on the margins, and you seek to be authentic to the needs of others. You also bring with you a deep love for teaching, having created a community of prayer,” he said.

“Joshua, you bring great enthusiasm and radiate so much energy and seek to use that energy for those that need help, especially families,” he said, adding, “And you have great talent in music.”

After the ordination and sending ceremony, Father Ogony said, “Becoming a Maryknoll priest has been my greatest desire, and today it’s been affirmed by the number of people that have attended. I can only give my greatest gratitude to God for this particular moment. Despite the fact that my parents could not make it, the people that came today really made it a day for all of us together.”

Father Ogony said he dedicated his ordination to the Blessed Mother Mary, so that “my priesthood can be guided by her and the mission of God can reach to the ends of the world and I may remain part of the light that shines to guide God’s people.”

Father Maondo recalled first being called to the priesthood and mission as a child, something he reflected upon during the day’s celebration. “From the beginning when I was little, the little instances that, you know, God tries to speak to you: I want you to do this. I want you to go to mission. I want you to be a priest. I want you to serve my people.”

He remarked on the standing-room only crowd that filled the chapel. “All these friends of ours from all over the United States, who left their jobs, their families, some of them come with their entire families just for this event.”

Father Maondo’s father, Nicholas, who was able to travel from Kenya to the United States for the ordination said, “We started accompanying and supporting him a long time ago. It’s a long journey, but he did it.”

Neither Father Ogony’s parents and family nor other family of Father Maondo were able to obtain visas to the United States to attend the event. However, the ordination was livestreamed so that friends and family in Kenya and elsewhere could accompany them virtually.

Andrea Moreno-Díaz and Giovana Soria, both Maryknoll magazine associate editors, contributed to this story.

Featured image: Father Charles Ogony, left, and Father Joshua Maondo celebrate at the Maryknoll chapel in Ossining, New York, after being ordained by Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne of the Archdiocese of New York. They were joined in celebration by members of the choir of Kenyans from Minnesota, Seattle and New Jersey as well as other parts of the United States who traveled to New York for the event. (Octavio Durán/U.S.)

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Lynn F. Monahan

Lynn F. Monahan is editor-in-chief of Maryknoll magazine and served as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Peru in the 1990s. A graduate of Syracuse University, he has worked for newspapers and newswires, including The Associated Press and Bloomberg News. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Manhattanville College, and is the author of the award-winning novel Pistaco: A Tale of Love in the Andes. Twitter: @LFMonahan