MEDIA RELEASE: Priests’ Funeral


At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the Easter Month of April, the bells of St. Carthage’s Cathedral tolled the final obsequies for Father Charles Kakamanu and Father Stephen O’Donnell, both assistant priests at the same Cathedral and both killed tragically in the same motor vehicle accident near Woolgoolga on Tuesday morning April 3. The third priest, who near miraculously escaped injury in the same accident and also an assistant priest at the Cathedral, Father Peter Padsungay, was a concelebrant at the Requiem Mass.

Father Charles Kakumanu was born on the 4th of September 1961 in Hyderabad India. He began his work for the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga, Papua New Guinea in 1994. He worked in parishes in Kiunga until his ordination as a deacon on the 5th of March 1995. He was ordained to the Priesthood on the 10th May 1995. He became well known for his outreach to isolated small communities throughout the region. Looking for a change in ministry, he applied to work in the Lismore Diocese and was appointed assistant priest at the Cathedral Parish on the 21st September 2004. He was appointed Chaplain at Trinity Catholic College and spent much time in ministry to the hospitals and the smaller communities in the Terania Parish as well as his commitment to the Cathedral community.



            Cousins of Father Charles Kakamanu speak their words of remembrance at the Requiem Mass

Father Stephen O’Donnell, a United States citizen, was born on the 15th February 1957. He was ordained to the Priesthood at the Shrine of the Virgin Mary of Torreciudad in Huesca, Spain on the 15th August 1984 by the Most Reverend Angel Suquia, the Archbishop of Madrid. The University of Navarra awarded him the title Doctor in Sacred Theology on February 22, 1994.
Father O’Donnell visited Australia on a number of occasions and decided to add to his experience by applying to work in a regional diocese here. He began work in the Lismore Diocese in July of 2006 as Assistant Priest at St. Carthage’s Cathedral. He was also Chaplain at Trinity Catholic College and the Catholic Chaplain at Southern Cross University.

Forty Priests from the Lismore Diocese and surrounding dioceses gathered to concelebrate the Requiem Mass. Principal Celebrant was the Bishop of the Diocese, the Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett. Principal co- concelebrants assisting Bishop Jarrett were Very Reverend Father Dennis Carroll, Administrator of St. Carthage’s Cathedral, Reverend Monsignor George Rossman, the Regional Vicar for the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei , Reverend Father Peter Padsungay (who survived the motor vehicle accident) and Father George Condookala.

Principal mourners for Father Stephen O’Donnell were his brothers Paul and Matthew O’Donnell who had travelled from the United States and Mr and
Mrs Paul Murphy of the Lismore Parish.
Principal mourners for Father Charles Kakumanu were Mrs Stella Thalluri and Mrs Teresa Simon, relatives living in Melbourne.
Words of Remembrance were spoken for Father Charles by Mrs Teresa Simon and Mrs Stella Thalluri. They spoke of Father Charles’ early days in Hyderabad, his connection with family and his intense happiness from his work in Papua New Guinea and then in the Lismore Parish. They spoke of his uncomplicated outlook on life, his sense of humour and his ability to communicate his religious faith to inspire others. They thanked the people of the Parish for their love of Father Charles and their care for him. They thanked Bishop Jarrett and Father Carroll and the Cathedral staff.
Mr Paul O’Donnell, the brother of Father Stephen, spoke of their early years as a family in Washington, DC. He said this bond was strengthened when Father Stephen was ordained a priest and amplified to include so many others in the countries around the world where Father Stephen worked in ministry. He loved Australia and his work in Lismore was special. He said that he and his brother Matthew had come “ to take Stephen home because the family needed to have him resting there with them”. He thanked the people of Lismore whom his brother had met in ministry and friendship. He thanked those who had looked after him and he especially thanked Bishop Jarrett, Fathers Carroll and Doyle and Mr and Mrs Paul Murphy. He offered a prayer of thanks for Father Peter Padsungay’s survival and the return to good health for others who were injured in the accident.

Burial for Father Charles Kakumanu took place at the Lismore Lawn Cemetery. A cremation was held for the remains of Father O’Donnell. His ashes are to be taken back by his brothers to the United States for internment.
Pallbearers both at the Cathedral, the cemetery and crematorium were priests of the Diocese of Lismore, relatives and friends of the deceased.