Story by S.L. Hansen
Editor's Note: See also"Lincoln priests to celebrate jubilees"
(SNR) - The ordination class of 1989 was the largest group ordained in more than 50 years. Ten men were ordained at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ that June.
“I’ve been told that we were the largest number ordained at one time,” said one of the 10, Bishop John Folda, a member of the class who was ordained Bishop of Fargo, N.D. last summer. “Sometime back in the 1930s, 12 men were ordained during one year, but at different times.”
This was true of his class as well. Three priests who were ordained elsewhere that year were added to their number later: Father Thomas Kuffel, Father Rayappa Konka and Father Casey Porada.
Father Kuffel and Father Porada were both ordained in Rome. Father Kuffel had been working with Native Americans as a missionary in New Mexico when the bishop there asked him to consider the priesthood. Father Porada was invited to do the same by his parish priest in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Father Konka was ordained as a diocesan priest in his native India.
Separately, these three men found their way to the Lincoln Diocese, where they have become welcome additions to the priestly class of 1989.
Of those originating from the Diocese of Lincoln, they were split up at seminaries in Philadelphia, Maryland and New York. Still, they built camaraderie as they studied for their vocation.
Father Gary Brethour said the strong relationship among the group was encouraged from the beginning, a move he called, “genius.”
Father Michael McCabe recalled the friendly rivalries as the seminarians visited each other at the different seminaries during their four years on the east coast.
“In those days, we didn’t make it back (to Nebraska) except for Christmas,” he said. “It was nice to be able to go on a great little road trip or pilgrimage, stay for free and see the sites.”
Ordination Day 1989 dawned clear and beautiful. Because the diocese expected a very large crowd at the ordination Mass – especially since three transitional deacons were ordained simultaneously – tickets had been issued for the big event. The Cathedral was crowded with family and other well-wishers, and a large contingency of priests.
After ordination, the new priests were able to support each other, the way brother priests should.
“We needed each other,” said Father Brethour.
“We spent some time together on our days off, compared notes,” Bishop Folda said. “We had a camaraderie that developed over the years in the seminary and that really carried over into our priestly lives as well.”
Father Brethour also appreciated that brotherly connection. “It’s a very helpful thing and a very necessary thing,” he stressed.
“I was very blessed to be part of that group of priests because they were just an exceptional group of men, and I know they have been doing great work as priests in these last 25 years,” Bishop Folda said. “They have been great friends to me as well.”
Father Matthew Eickhoff added that the Class of 1989 will concelebrate the 5 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln on their actual 25th anniversary, Tuesday, May 27. A light reception will follow in Rectors’ Hall and all are invited to attend.