Fr. Akolla Etuge’s journey to Neumann University began in Cameroon, Africa, made stops in Washington, D.C., and Cleveland, Ohio, and landed him in Philadelphia, where he found his way to Aston. Fr. Akolla is a Capuchin Franciscan Friar currently residing at St. John the Evangelist church in the city.
In 2008 when Fr. Akolla traveled to the United States, he was not a friar but rather a college student. He came over from Africa through a special visa program offered to gifted applicants. He stayed with his uncle in Maryland and soon began taking pre-med classes at Montgomery College.
As a college student, Fr. Akolla worked for a security company in Washington, D.C. It was in our nation’s capital that he was first introduced to the Capuchin Friars. He became acquainted with the friars through their work in the community, and he would watch them serve the most marginalized populations with love and respect.
“The friars served an important community,” Fr. Akolla said of the homeless. “They had a shelter for the homeless, and I soon fell in love with what they were doing.”
The mission of the Capuchin Friars, inspired by the example of St. Francis of Assisi, is to attend simply and directly to spiritual and other basic human needs, especially those of the poor and disenfranchised, promoting justice for all. “St. Francis worked with the poorest of the poor and that speaks to me.”
This mission spoke deeply to Fr. Akolla, and he professed his first vows as a Capuchin in 2013, his final vows in 2017, and was ordained to the priesthood in 2019.
“I really believe in what the Capuchin Friars do. I have always wanted to serve people, especially the poor, because I come from a country which, despite being rich in natural resources, has a lot of poverty,” he explained.
Fr. Akolla was no stranger to Neumann University. Previously he had come to campus to celebrate mass with Fr. Suresh Raj, NU’s former chaplain.
“I was excited to come to Neumann. I’m very impressed with how diverse Neumann is,” he said.
Fr. Akolla is eager to get to know the NU community, especially the students, and is looking forward to working with his colleagues in Mission and Ministry.
“We want young people to fall in love with God and grow in that love. Our hope is that young people come to love God and love one another,” he said.