Newly ordained Franciscan Father Sam Nasada could have easily counted himself among the large numbers of young adult Catholics who fall away from the faith in college and shortly beyond. He came to the U.S. in 1997 to finish college and took it upon himself to get involved in parish life.
Fr. Sam could have also never been Catholic at all. He hails from Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. The Jesuit high school graduate overcame all of those odds to become the ninth known Indonesian priest ordained and serving in the U.S.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted ordained Fr. Sam Nasada, OFM, Dec. 3 at Our Lady of the Angels Conventual Church, the spiritual hub of the Franciscan Renewal Center. Fr. Sam has served at the center — lovingly known as “The Casa” — since 2018 as a brother and then as a transitional deacon. Faithful from The Casa, St. Mary’s Basilica where Fr. Sam spent a pastoral half year as “Brother Sam,” family from Indonesia and stateside— not to mention a wing full of Franciscan brothers, priests and sisters — massively filled the church for the occasion.
In his homily, the Very Rev. David Gaa, provincial minister for the Friars’ Province of St. Barbara, which serves the Western U.S., acknowledged all of them, group by group. He reminded them that their baptismal call to be disciples of Jesus means there is a priesthood of the faithful and that their witness propelled Fr. Sam’s priestly vocation.
“We really learn how to be a priest from the people of God … so, in many ways, you are also responsible for his formation,” Fr. Gaa said. In thanksgiving, Franciscan tradition allows a newly ordained priest to dedicate at least his first year of ministry where he spent time as a transitional deacon.
Fr. Sam indeed described The Casa community as welcoming and supportive and looks forward to continued growth among its members. His guiding image for priesthood is the same that graced the worship aid’s cover for his ordination Mass: an Indonesian-inspired depiction of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. “How can I, as a priest, serve others?” Fr. Sam asked.
He used the time laying prostrate on the floor during the Litany of Saints to privately thank the priests who served him during his discernment, especially those who have since passed away. Going by the volume of illuminated camera phones, it was moments before that — during the promise of the elect — that first stood out to the faithful. They reverently took pictures as Fr. Sam promised to worthily teach, preach and celebrate the faith, pray without ceasing and consecrate himself to God daily for the salvation of all.
“It was such a powerful moment when the bishop was ordaining [him],” said Margie Camacho, a member of the community for about 10 years. She had been to other ordinations in the past, but that moment felt extra special.
She has worked with Fr. Sam while he was still a Franciscan brother when they joined other Casa community members welcoming asylum seekers to the Valley. He exudes joy in those moments, she said. Fr. Sam has walked the Migrant Trail more than once and helped establish a new Franciscan community in Elfrida, near the border town of Douglas, Arizona.
“For Fr. Sam, it’s about serving. We see it every day all day long. He is the servant leader,” Camacho said.
The Mass crowd got several glimpses of that. Fr. Sam offered first blessings to Bishop Olmsted and Fr. Gaa, his provincial minister, as well as to his parents before the Mass’s final blessing. Then, instead of a long single file line after Mass of faithful seeking his priestly blessing, Fr. Sam came individually to dozens of round dinner tables in the church hall during a post-Mass dinner to offer a blessing.
When it comes to the most meaningful aspect of being a Franciscan though, it wasn’t the people who came to mind. The challenge to be a brother to them is second nature, so Fr. Sam keeps the challenge to be a brother to creation in mind.
“It always makes me think back: Am I doing this in a spirit of creation or am I doing this for myself? It moves me to be a better person and a better follower of Jesus,” Fr. Sam said.
Nature may have subtly acknowledged his ordination day. A subdued winter rain crossed the Valley a day early, enough to gently wet the ground and cars following his ordination Mass.
Read Fr. Sam’s vocation story:
This St. Mary’s High School alum was ordained a transitional deacon Dec. 4. Dcn. Robert Serrano, O.F.M., graduated in 2005 and ordained to the Order of Diaconate at Sacred Heart Croatian Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois.