Joseph Archibong can't remember a time when he didn't imagine becoming a priest. Though he wasn't sure God was calling him to this life, openness to the possibility has guided his choices since the age of 12.
After graduating the sixth grade at St. Anthony Primary School in 1991, Archibong made the decision to leave his family and hometown of Uruk Obong, a small village in southern Nigeria, to attend Queen of Apostles Seminary, a boarding school in Abak, 55 miles away.
"Looking at it now in retrospect, as difficult as it was, I am glad I made the decision because it prepared me for what God had in mind for me in the future," he said.
Archibong felt he might be called to priesthood. In October 1997 he joined the Congregation of Christ the Emmanuel, a religious order.
He went to college at Seat of Wisdom Seminary in Owerri, Nigeria, and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy in June 2002.
In October 2003, he entered St. Joseph Major Seminary in Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria. A year later he moved to Rome to continue studying theology. He earned a bachelor's degree in theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in June 2006.
Archibong went on to pursue a licentiate in social doctrine at Lateran University, also in Rome. The following year, while he was preparing to make his final vows, he realized religious order priesthood was not for him. So he left the order and the social doctrine program to pursue diocesan priesthood instead.
Archibong researched the dioceses in Nigeria and went online to learn about American dioceses as well. When he came across the website for the Diocese of Little Rock, he found several Nigerian priests serving in Arkansas, including some of his former seminary professors, one of whom had been his spiritual director.
"Having known them very well, I trusted them. I thought, if these guys are here, it must be something good," Archibong said.
By June 2007 he was accepted as a seminarian for the Arkansas diocese and entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana that fall. He earned a master's degree in divinity earlier this month.
Having attended seminaries in Nigeria, Italy and the United States, Archibong, 30, has had a unique journey to the priesthood. He said these experiences exposed him to different cultures and languages, which helps him now as he adapts to life in Arkansas.
Thinking of his upcoming ordination, Archibong said he was excited to receive the gift of priesthood.
"I see it also as a dream come true. I have worked all my life and have prayed to God for this day. I see it as God answering my prayer," he said.
But he does feel nervous about it.
"Priesthood is huge responsibility and demands a lot," he explained.
Yet he said he relies on God's grace to guide him.
"I know I am only a messenger of he that called me and the work is ultimately his," he said. "I rest secured in knowing that his grace is sufficient for me."
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