Catholic diocese mourns death of priests


FATHER Stephen O'Donnell devoted his life to the Catholic Church for more than two decades; his colleague Father Charles Kakumanu for more than 12 years.

Yesterday the region's Catholic community expressed its shock and paid tribute to the two Lismore Diocese priests who were killed in a car accident near Arrawarra on Tuesday morning. Fr Charles, 45, and Fr Steve, 50, died in a head-on collision between their Mitsubishi Magna and a Toyota Landcruiser on the Pacific Highway near Arrawarra Creek.

The accident occurred at around 7.30am, the northbound Magna colliding with the southbound Landcruiser, which was towing a caravan. A third priest, Fr Peter Padsungay, 37, from the Philippines, suffered minor injuries and was released from hospital yesterday.

Fr Charles, originally from Hyderabad, India, had worked in the Lismore Diocese since September 2004, while Father Steve, a native of the United States, joined the diocese in July, 2006. Bishop of the Lismore Diocese, the Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett, said the diocese felt great sorrow at the deaths.

"Considering Fr Charles Kakumanu and Fr Steve O'Donnell had been with us for only a short time many people were grateful for their ministry at the Cathedral," Rev Jarrett said. "We have been in contact with both families and have expressed to them our deep sympathy and our great gratitude for the work their sons have done for the people of Lismore."

The administrator of St Carthage's Cathedral, Fr Dennis Carroll, said the parish was in a state of shock.

"Parishioners and members of the wider Lismore community have been calling at the Parish Centre to express their profound sorrow and sense of loss at the tragic deaths of these two well-loved priests," Fr Dennis said.