SS. Peter & Paul celebrates Nigerian's journey to priesthood

June 11, 2004|JULIE McGLOTHLIN

As an altar boy at Saint Gabriel's Catholic Church in Umunachi, Nigeria, just east of the Niger River, Father Anthony Arinza Aduaka first served the church. Drawn to the priesthood, he traveled thousands of miles to Kentucky to answer God's call.

Over the course of the last five years, Aduaka, a 32-year-old Nigerian who immigrated to the United States to attend seminary, has been serving off and on at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Danville, not as a priest, but rather as a "son" of the congregation.

"We sponsored him as a family, as his parents. Many people prayed for him, that is very important, and supported him with some financial support," says Father Linh Nguyen, the priest at Saints Peter and Paul.

Although Aduaka attended Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, he also spent time living with Nguyen and was able to form a close relationship with the parishioners here in Danville.


"He is well-liked by everybody. He's young; he's 32. He's just adored by everyone. ... He is just so much fun to be around," says Jim McGrath, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus.

Aduaka brings an unique strand of multiculturalism to Saints Peter and Paul. In addition to his thick Nigerian accent, "his tradition as a Catholic is very different, very solemn and reverent," says Nguyen.

"Anthony comes from a different country, Nigeria, so he brought with him a lot of special gifts, a lot of culture."

He illustrates "the Catholic church is large"

He illustrates to the congregation the fact that "the Catholic church is large," both by quantity of followers and in "quality:" diversity, strength, and depth, says Nguyen.

"Anthony brought with him a reflection of the enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit that calls us to move beyond our boundaries and reach the heart of Christ, which has no boundaries."

Aduaka was ordained May 29 in Lexington by Catholic Bishop Ronald Gainer. He celebrated his first Mass the following day at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, assisted by several fellow seminarians, one of his professors and Nguyen.

About 250 people attended the Thanksgiving Mass May 30, which the Knights of Columbus opened with their color guard. A reception in the church basement followed the service.

In honor of his ordination, the local Knights of Columbus as well as the state council of Knights of Columbus each gave Aduaka a $500 check.

"New priests have a lot of expenses. They have to buy vestments... [The money] was a surprise because he wasn't looking for it. We kind of swept him off his feet," says McGrath.

Aduaka is the first African priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington.

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