"I, Anthony, an immigrant, have received a grace from God to bring it to everyone."

Nigerian, a few months shy of his 30th birthday, Anthony was born into a large Protestant family and arrived in our country by boat. This September, he will begin his fifth year at the Conciliar Seminary of St. Bartholomew in Cadiz.

Maria José Atienza-July 31, 2021-Reading time: 6 minutes

Photo: Anthony Enitame. ©Alejandro Moreno Fariñas

Some might think that Anthony Enitame Acuase's life is from a movie, but what is certain is that it was his vocation, his arrival in Europe that was born out of seeing a film about a priest.

Born in Nigeria and a few months away from his 30th birthday, Anthony was born into a large Protestant family and arrived in our country by boat. This September, he will begin his fifth year at the Conciliar Seminary of St. Bartholomew in Cadiz.

He has already crossed the frontier of his preparation for the priesthood. It has not been the only frontier he has crossed with effort: for months, like so many other Africans, he crossed the desert and embarked for Spain in search of a better life through which to help his family. In his case, moreover, with the conviction that Spain was the place where God would make him see his will, which he had not yet been able to give shape to.  

"I had to drink my urine to survive."

"My trip to Spain was an unforgettable experience," he tells Omnes, "God takes advantage of every situation to open a new door. Every moment of my life I thank God for all the good he has done me because I almost died several times. It was a long journey, across the desert from Nigeria to Morocco. We had hardly anything to survive on, several times I had to drink my own urine. In Morocco I took a boat to Spain with the risk of dying because we Africans hardly ever know how to swim, several died on that trip. Now I believe that the Lord allowed all this suffering to make me strong, to prepare me for the vocation to which he is calling me".

"I got to know the Church that always has its arms open for everyone and I have learned that tomorrow, when I become a priest, I have to do the same."

Anthony Enitame Acuase

That boy, barely 18 years old, who had seen near death on the trip, did not know Spanish, did not know where to go... but, once he arrived in Cadiz, there was something he knew he had to do: "go to a church to thank God for having been able to finish the trip. And in that church my new journey began". Among the people God put in his path, Anthony met the priest Gabriel Delgado, director of the Secretariat of Migration in the diocese of Cadiz and Ceuta, thanks to whom he was able to regularize his situation. He also remembers Father "Oscar, who made me study at Salesianos and, especially, Father Salvador, who helped him in his vocational process: "I met the Church, which always has its arms open to everyone. Every day I thank God for his affection, for his presence because he is always available and I have learned that tomorrow, when I become a priest, I have to do the same."

"God's hand is seen in your life."

Together with his fellow seminar participants

How does an immigrant boy, without much idea of Spanish, get to the diocesan seminary? Anthony's vocational restlessness came from a long time ago. It was in his country when, as a child, he saw a movie about the life of a priest and that marked him: "I did not belong to the Church, and I saw a movie in which there was a priest who had a full life, a great intimacy with God and with the people of God, who always prayed and, after prayer, had a great joy... at that time, I did not know that a human being could have that intimacy with Christ and that dedication to the people of God. To live beyond and to live with my feet on the ground. I liked it and, from that moment on, my life was never the same. Every day I thought about that vocation and I wanted to know Christ better to make him known to others.

Just before entering the seminary he had signed a good contract. Humanly, he had achieved the goal of many like him who come to our country. But he heard (and answered) God's call, as he points out: "God put these people on my path. He puts people by our side who help us and we have to listen, to reach the destination that God wants".

From Nigeria to Spain and, in Cadiz, to that church where he entered to give thanks and which "radically changed my story". Anthony, who then had a stable job as an electrician, remembers how Father Salvador, who was very sick "before he died, in the hospital, told me 'go to the seminary, try it. You have to know if God is really calling you because you see something special in your life. I said to him "let it go, really..." but in the end I went. And I'm still here.

Before I died, a priest told me "you have to know if God is really calling you because you see something special in your life".

Anthony Enitame Acuase

His family, non-Catholic, did not understand that Anthony, once he had overcome all the obstacles to live in Europe, with work and income, would leave everything, once again, to dedicate himself to a life of dedication. As he himself points out: "his idea was that I was coming to Spain to have a new life to take care of them and help them financially, especially my mother. Now, my mother is calmer, but some of my brothers, when we talk, ask me 'are you sure, how is it possible for a man not to get married, not to have children'... and I answer 'may it be God's will'".

"Where are you, Lord?"

Anthony is not indifferent to the news he hears and lives every day of the fate of many of his compatriots who lose their lives trying to reach our shores "I feel very sorry for them. They are people who have been working all their lives for this, crossing the desert and the sea... many times losing their lives... it hurts me a lot. Sometimes, in the face of this, I ask the Lord "Where are you? We are just looking for a better future. In Africa there are many people who do not have a plate of food and now, with the coronavirus, the situation is worse. The corruption in our countries leads to this. The Lord knows.

Aware of his fate and his calling, Anthony points out that "the life of a human being is always a migration, like that of Abraham or Jacob... that is why I also ask that all of them know Christ as I do, because he is a friend who never fails".

"With the Lord I talk about everything, even about what I don't understand."

Anthony speaks of his life, past and present, with the simplicity with which Africans see the divine hand in ordinary life. He states emphatically that "prayer is the main weapon of all Christians, especially those whom the Lord has called. For me, it is the central moment to talk to the Lord who has called me. I look for a quiet place where I can have a 'heart-to-heart' conversation, as when one talks to a friend and shares with him my desires, my worries and problems... and even those things I don't understand. Above all, I give thanks for the life he has given me. In the seminary, prayer is the main thing: to begin with prayer, to end with prayer, to be faithful to that vocation that God has given us."

"I receive a grace to bring it to others."

Anthony Reader Institution

God's will, God's call at every moment, is the one that, together with his fellow seminarians, Anthony strives to know and fulfill on a daily basis. Shortly before the publication of this interview, he received, along with two other companions, the ministry of the Lectorate.

Each step on his path to the priesthood is, for this Nigerian, an undeserved grace from God: "The Lectorate means serving the people of God, the Church, through the Word of God, which must be the center of our life and which is shared with others. For me it is a grace, a joy. That I receive a grace here on earth to share it with others. The days before I received the Lectorate I asked the Lord "soooo?" ... I was nervous, because in the future, even if it scares me to think about it, God willing, I will be a priest. It is one more step in my life, a supernatural joy, because the word of God is living and effective, capable of entering the heart and transforming life. Not because it takes away the problems, but because it gives peace in the heart to take it to others".

To receive in order to share, this is how Anthony lives his surrender to God "knowing that I am not worthy. I, Anthony, an immigrant, without knowing anything, want to receive this Word of God, this grace that my bishop gives me, that he puts on me so that I can put it in my life and take it to others".

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