Rev. Charles Atuah begins pastorship at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pratt

Edward J. Naughton
Pratt Tribune
Reverend Charles Atuah began his pastorship at Sacred Heart Church in Pratt on July 6, 2021.

With a spirit of humility, Reverend Charles Atuah began his pastorship at Sacred Heart Church in Pratt on July 6, 2021. During the homily portion of the mass recently he asked his new congregation to accept his differences and join him in seeking peace.

"I need your help. I am begging you. Please come forward. Don't let my Nigerian accent stop you from coming and talking to me about things concerning the church and the community," he said.

Rev. Atuah took the reigns of Sacred Heart after Reverend Michael Klag completed his five-year assignment in Pratt.

Peace is the watchword for Rev. Atuah. He possesses an intense desire to not just talk about peace in the general sense of the word, but rather Rev Atuah has taken his desire for peace much deeper.

Rev. Atuah goes way back to his childhood experiences in war-torn Nigeria as a jumping off point to gauge his desire for peace and to promote peace in everyday living. Obviously he desires to make peace a priority in his life and speech, really in whatever he does, as he serves God and ministers to his new-found flock in Pratt.

His educational experience was suspended when he was a youth because of fighting in his country. Extended perioed of lockdown traumatized his learning process, but it did not stop his spirit.

"I was a typical village boy," Rev. Atuah said.

His parents at first did not raise him and his siblings in a Christian household, but eventually he came to appreciate and even embrace the faith of the various missionaries that came and preached and prayed for the native population in his country. He said that some of them died preaching the Gospel because there was always danger in parts of eastern Nigeria which included his village called Agulu where he was born and raised as a child. He experienced a subsistence type of lifestyle, with 10 siblings and parents too, there were needs unmet at times as economic hardship for his village and the entire family was the norm.

Rev. Atuah responded to the message of the Gospel as a young boy while attending elementary school, though his first significant experience was not with missionaries of the Catholic faith, rather he first received ministry as a very young boy from those of the Protestant faith.

"I was Protestant, but then things shifted when my eldest sister invited me to a Catholic church," he said.

With encouragement from his older sister, Rev. Atuah came to find there was strength in the Roman Catholic faith that he really came to embrace wholeheartedly. He became a Catholic at the age of nine, and eventually entered the Missionaries of St. Paul seminary in Nigeria as a young man. 

Rev. Atuah is part of the order called Missionaries of St. Paul (MSP), which is a Catholic order of priests with direct origination from his native Nigeria which was the place he initially received both training and ordination.

"I have been in the United States for 19 years. I received my priesthood on June 24, 1990, while residing in Nigeria," he said.

Rev. Atuah said he believes that love is the foundation for peace. He cited the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel texts of St. John for instance. He believes in peace as a precept for everything we do for God in our lifetime.

"God wants us to listen and follow him, and do what He is asking us to do," he said.

While grappling with the issue of violent acts and everything that is going on in the world today, even things happening right now that may fall short of actual violence, yet dealing with our anxiety-ridden lives and unrest as a whole, whether it is in Nigeria or here in the United States, Rev. Atuah said, "We exalt our self-importance. All these fights will not be if we submit ourselves to God, that means giving glory to God and pleasing God."

Rev. Atuah is far from his homeland, though he is, in his heart and soul still very much connected prayerfully to his native country of Nigeria, and he is very knowledgeable about what has happened there in the years long past, recent years, and events of today. 

He is prayerful and mindful of his fellow Nigerians suffering right now as terrorism is still raging in his homeland with Muslim extremistism trying to constantly bring large swaths of the country into a strict observance of Muslim religion that dictates repressive Sharia law like the cutting off of a hand in case a young man is accused of shop-lifting for instance. 

The form of Sharia law that he refers to is not native to the Muslim population historically residing in Nigeria, so obviously foreign influence has come into play, and these forces are recruiting both school-age young boys and young men to join their cause, and trying also to impose archaic and repressive measures against women in general, to which he vehemently opposes on principle that these cruel practices do not represent the same kind of faith akin to what traditionally peaceful Muslims have practiced for years in his country.

In terms of youth of today for example when discussing young people who reside in Pratt specifically, Rev. Atuah holds a traditional view as to responsibility for their upbringing, which he feels is dependent on their parents in large part in that if children have parents who are excited about God and what His will is for their own lives, then that spirit trickles down to the children and they will want to attend church, faithfully observe the sacraments, go to confession, etc., even as they age and start to graduate from high school or think about college.

Rev. Atuah has held mass several times already since arriving in Pratt and St. John, and, at first, he was a bit overwhelmed by the number of Catholics who came to the church in Pratt for one of the first masses since his official arrival as pastor, and he suddenly found that he needed help from one or two lay eucharist ministers who happened to be in church that day, so that he could meet the needs of those seeking communion.