Bishop Stika ordains priests for Glenmary Home Missioners

Father Aketch, Father Toboso will serve in dioceses of Knoxville and Nashville for the Cincinnati-based religious order     

By John Stegeman

Bishop Richard F. Stika added two men to the ranks of the holy priesthood on April 27, priests whose first assignments for the Glenmary Home Missioners will be in Tennessee.

The Diocese of Nashville and the Diocese of Knoxville, which has a long-standing relationship with Glenmary and its mission of starting churches in rural areas, will be the first homes for Father Charles Aketch and Father Richard Toboso.

Glenmary is a Catholic society of priests and brothers based in Cincinnati that serves parts of Appalachia and the South where the Church is not yet well established. The society serves three parishes in the Diocese of Knoxville.

While they will serve parishes in Tennessee for a time, their ordinations took place hundreds of miles from the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville.

Father Toboso will serve as associate pastor at St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish in Maynardville, and Father Aketch will fill the same role at Holy Family Parish in Lafayette in the Diocese of Nashville.

Bishop Stika presided at the ordination Mass, which was celebrated at St. John Neumann Church in Cincinnati.

Glenmary Father Steve Pawelk, pastor of St. Teresa of Kolkata and St. John Paul II Catholic Mission in Rutledge, arranged a charter bus that carried more than 70 parishioners from Maynardville and Rutledge to the ordination.

Also attending were Glenmary Father Tom Charters, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Erwin; Glenmary brothers Craig Digmann, Ken Woods, Tom Sheehy, and Joe Steen, who serve in East Tennessee; Father Bart Okere, pastor of St. Henry Parish in Rogersville and St. James the Apostle Parish in Sneedville; and Deacon Larry Rossini, who serves at St. Teresa of Kolkata. Glenmary lay missioner Kathy O’Brien of Erwin attended as well.

Bishop Stika greets Father Charles Aketch and Father Richard Toboso during their orientation Mass for the Glenmary Home Missioners.

During his homily, Bishop Stika spoke to the ordinands and faithful, exhorting them to help each other.

“In the name of the people of God you are now called to serve, teach us. Witness to us. Help us to believe deeper and deeper,” he said. “And to the people of God, pray for these your brothers, that they might be successful. Success as a priest means to grow in holiness and maybe one day become a saint.”

The newly ordained priests have come a long way to serve in the U.S. Home Missions. Father Aketch and Father Toboso made their way from Africa to the United States to carry out their ministry.

Father Aketch is from Kisumu, Kenya, where he learned to value community life from living with his parents and seven siblings. He attended Mass regularly with his grandmother, whose faith served as a strong example. After training for some years with another Catholic community, he found a passion for Glenmary’s way of missionary life and started over, desiring to serve the people of the rural South and Appalachia in the United States.

Father Toboso grew up in a strong Catholic family in Kakamega, Kenya. He is the fourth of eight children. His mother provided a constant example, the family valued community prayer, and his brother introduced him to altar serving. As a young boy, Father Toboso looked up to a missionary priest from Ireland who served in Kakamega. Despite the struggles of missionaries, the priest was a role model, in part inspiring him to pursue missionary life.

Early in the ceremony, Glenmary president Father Chet Artysiewicz called the then-deacons forward. When he announced their names, they replied, “present.” Bishop Stika expanded on that moment in his homily.

“Everything you are. Everything you have been. Every experience that is a part of your life; family and friends from different parts of the world, in one dramatic moment were contained in that word, ‘present,’” Bishop Stika said.

“Because now you present yourselves before the Church, to be of service for the Church. And not as a building, but service of the Church as the living body of Christ,” he added.

The Rite of Ordination saw the men answer questions about their willingness to take on the obligations of priesthood, kneel before the bishop to make promises of obedience, lie prostrate on the floor while invoking the prayer of the saints, and the laying on of hands by Bishop Stika. The assembled priests, which included Glenmarians and others who came to support the ordinands, then laid hands as well.

Fathers Toboso and Aketch removed their deacon’s vestment and were vested as priests. The bishop anointed their hands with sacred chrism oil and presented them with a chalice and paten as symbols of their new office. After the sign of peace, the Mass continued with the newly ordained joining as concelebrants.

Following communion a choir sang “Moyo Wangu Wamtukuza Bwana,” which is Swahili for “My Heart Glorifies the Lord.” The congregation clapped along as the newly ordained priests were joined by others in a dance as is commonly seen in Kenya worship.

The new priests concelebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving together Sunday at St. Matthias Church in Cincinnati before returning to the missions.

To learn more about the Glenmary Home Missioners, visit Glenmary.org.

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