Father Samuel Aniekwe who assumed the role of Parochial Administrator of St. Mary Catholic Church on July 1, 2018 was born in Agulu, Nigeria in 1964. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1996. Father Sam comes to Americus with a wealth of experience and education which he shares with us: “Since ordination, I have enjoyed serving in the following capacities: I was a parochial vicar of St. John’s Baptist Church in Awka, Nigeria; a pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Awka, Nigeria and a school manager at Madonna Secondary School in Uga, Nigeria. I served in the above capacities from 1996 to 2004 prior to my migration to the United States on July 24, 2004. Upon entering the United States, I worked with the diocese of Pittsburgh, PA as parochial vicar of St. Maurice Church in Forest Hills and on-call hospital chaplain at University Teaching Hospital in Pittsburgh. I helped the diocese of Pittsburgh in the above areas while completing my Master's degree in Healthcare Ethics at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh from 2004 to 2009. After completing my Master's degree, I was summoned by the Lord to serve the country as an Army Chaplain in USAR. As a Roman Catholic Army Chaplain (USAR) I served at Fort Gordon, GA as a mobilized active duty chaplain from 2010 to 2012. At the end of my mobilization tour I got a study leave for my doctorate in Pastoral Community Counseling Education. I completed this academic work while serving as a parochial administrator of St. Boniface in Springfield, GA from 2012-2014 and as parochial administrator of St. Michael Church in Montezuma, GA, from June 4, 2014 to June 14, 2017. I was assigned to IRR (USAR) even as I served as Associate Pastor at St. James the Less parish in Savannah. It is a great honor to serve the good people of Saint Mary in Americus as your parish priest. Please pray for me as I will for you."
In addition, Father Sam tells us about his journey to the priesthood: "My journey of life started when God in His infinite mercy brought me into this world on July 10, 1964, in a town called Agulu in Nigeria. If you are searching for a person raised in a refugee camp, you have one with you here. I was just three years old when the Nigeria civil war broke out from 1967 to 1970. Because I was a child then I can’t personally recall the entire experience of the war, but I have a little memory of the sounds of bombs, bullets and cries for food and water. More than two thousand babies died by starvation on the side of Biafra (where I come from) according to the story. We came home from the refugee camp after the war to find our homes destroyed and food and livestock looted. Therefore, hunger and starvation persisted many years after the war. This was the puzzle I found myself in growing up among my four older brothers in our parents’ home. I was enrolled in kindergarten immediately after the war. There was no school bus then, so I remember walking more than two miles to my elementary school every morning. As a teenager and young boy, my parents bought a little lamb for me to raise, as it was the custom then for parents to train their male child to become a responsible man in the future by encouraging them to raise a home animal. My mind goes back to those days I used to take my lamb out for grazing at the field as I walked to school. My older brothers had theirs, too, and sometimes I took care of all the lambs. I loved my little lamb for its meekness and the companionship it offered me when I was alone in the field feeding it. It was a tough and challenging task for me as young boy to take care of my beautiful lamb and do my school work at the same time. Many times, I found out my lamb was missing, and I would walk inside woods searching for it. I had to feed it more than three times in a day because lambs eat a lot, you know. By enduring the little pain and discomfort from raising the lamb I learned to endure big painful conditions of my life. Additionally, seeing my lamb growing everyday then reassured me that if I work hard I can succeed in any good work I embark on. The sense of humility, responsibility and care I acquired from my home training as a young Christian boy were some of the motivating factors in my vocation to the priesthood. My priesthood discernment started as an altar server, when in 1981 I was admitted into junior seminary. I graduated from junior seminary in 1986. I spent a year outside seminary for pastoral experience as a teacher in one of our diocesan junior seminaries. In 1987, I was sent to major seminary for philosophy and religious studies. I graduated in 1991, and I took a year probational leave to discern finally if the priesthood is my vocation. I worked as one of the secretaries in a paper producing company. I received fifty thousand Naira monthly salary which is the equivalent of one hundred fifty dollars ($150). With this amount I paid my house rent, fed myself and took care of my other bills. After a year of civilian life and work experience, I was sent back to major seminary for another bachelor degree study in theology. I graduated in 1996 and was ordained a priest the same year.