By Natashya Fernandez
Girrawheen Parish Priest Father Albert Saminedi, also known as Fr Sam, last month celebrated 25 years of priestly vocation on 20 May at Our Lady of Mercy Parish together with parishioners, family and friends.
It was a memorable occasion for Fr Sam, who’s only wish is to continue to do God’s work who keeps on inspiring him.
The Mass on 20 May was celebrated by Fr Sam and concelebrated with Frs Bonaventure Echeta, Augustine Puthota, John Paul, Philip Fleay in addition to his brother, Rev Dr Julian Saminedi who was visiting from Germany, together with former Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Bamberg, Rev Dr Gerhard Foerch. They were also accompanied by a group of 30 people who came from Germany to celebrate the momentous occasion with Fr Sam.
Born in Kilachery, a small town close to the City of Chennai, India and the fourth of five children, Fr Sam said that his family was very religious and connected to their Catholic faith, which served as an encouragement to follow in those footsteps.
It was when he was at University in 1978 when Archbishop Mario Mugalunde from the Archdiocese of Iringa Tanzania, East Africa, visited India to speak about the urgent need of missionaries in Africa and around the world that touched Fr Sam’s life and planted the seed to become a missionary.
Fr Sam realised then that he found his calling.
He joined the Salesian Order in 1980 and was ordained on 22 April 1992.
“In 1982, I volunteered to become a missionary under the Salesian Order to go to Africa and that’s when we set up Project Africa which was an initiative by Rome. We were the first priests and brothers from the Salesian Order to go Africa,” he said.
Since then there was no turning back. With more than 20 years of experience of missionary work in various parts of Africa, namely Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Egypt, and South Sudan, Fr Sam helped build and set up many churches, schools, technical colleges and educated many children.
Some of those are now doctors, engineers and other university graduates who still keep in touch with Fr Sam today.
“I taught scripture at the National Major Seminary for some time and was made principal of the John Paul II College in Wau.
“I continued as the Rector of the Community and later was appointed as the Development coordinator of the Diocese of Wau, where I helped in the fields of education and health and evangelisation,” he added.
Being in Sudan, Fr Sam said, wasn’t easy for any of the missionaries as they were constantly under threat of being deported or raided by security.
“It was a tough situation because it was during the war and we were right in the middle of the war areas.
“About 30,000 men, women and children died in the town of Wau in 1999, where I lived for 11 years.
“We did our best to educate the children. In 1999, two of my companions were expelled from Sudan which meant I had to manage everything on my own.
“I got very sick and it was then that I realised that I had to leave as it became a very stressful situation and threat to my life,” he explained.
With family in Australia, Fr Sam came to Perth in 2002. Within a week he was working at Dianella Parish and with large numbers of African refugees arriving in Australia at the time, he was asked to start an African community for the Parish.
“I was requested to start an African community as they were scattered everywhere in Mirrabooka, Nollamara, Balga and Girrawheen.
“I stayed in Mirrabooka to get to know the people and understand their needs. That’s when I started St Josephine Bakhita Centre in Westminster and till today we have Mass every Sunday in Arabic,” Fr Sam said.
A big drawcard for Fr Sam was that he spoke fluent Swahili, Arabic and four other languages that helped him connect with many in the community.
“I speak Swahili so it was easy to connect with people from the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and East Africa.
“I also speak Arabic and work closely with the Sudanese, Egyptian, Lebanese and Syrian communities. I have also travelled around Australia to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to serve Mass with many African communities.
“Together with some Catechists, we prepare children for the sacraments, have Sunday Mass together and help out with the many troubled youth in these communities,” he said.
Celebrating his 25 years of priesthood, Fr Sam says that even though it’s been 25 years, he still feels like he was only ordained yesterday.
A special moment of the celebrations occurred when Fr Sam’s family gifted him with a Monstrance for the Girrawheen Parish in celebration of his 25 years of service.
“I am happy that I have been called to do this vocation and feel very blessed to have this calling.
My motto was and still is to go and proclaim the good news to the whole world. So God was inspiring me and sending me out into the world to do His will,” he ended.