Welcome to the “St. John Vianney Catholic School: Meet Our Families” blog. Our blog aims to provide insight into the incredible families of our SJV school and parish community.
From Buea, Cameroon to our St. John Vianney community inRancho Cordova, CA
We would like to introduce the Samoa family: Alphonse, Marie, Jordan (4th grade), and Jayden (1st grade). They moved to California from Buea, Cameroon in 2018.
Here’s a short geography and history lesson. Cameroon is a former European colony of Germany, France, and Britain. The majority of the country speaks French, with Southern Cameroons being the minority who speak English. In 1961, the Foumban Constitutional Conference united the French and English colonies as one Federal state ruled by a constitution. In 1972, this constitution was replaced with a new one that made Cameroon a unitary state – or a dictatorship. In 2016-2017, French-speaking judges were appointed in English-speaking areas of Cameroon, which caused more social unrest and protests in many places, including Buea. In September 2017, the government of Cameroon declared war on the Southern Cameroons. Buea, Cameroon, where the Samoa family is from, is in Southern Cameroon, where they speak English.
Meet Alphonse, a Sir Knight and former banker in Buea, where he helped the Bishop of the Diocese of Buea with finances, collecting Catholic school fees and paying staff. Alphonse grew up in Kumbo and worked in Buea for 6 years to build a beautiful life for his family.
Marie, like Alphonse, grew up in Cameroon. In Buea, Marie worked as an administrative assistant for the local Catholic university. As a Catholic school product herself, Marie knows the value of Catholic education and sent their boys to the Catholic primary school connected to the university where she worked.
The family was actively involved with their parish and incredible stewards for the Diocese of Buea. However, Alphonse’s work at the bank, his passion for justice, and his advocacy for the oppressed Anglophones in Cameroon put him and his family at risk. With the ongoing war, those who supported the Southern Cameroons, like the Samoas, including Catholic priests and others connected with the Church, were kidnapped and, in some cases, murdered. The Samoa family’s safety was a daily concern.
One day, the family’s safety concerns hit an all-time high. As we mentioned, Jordan and Jayden were enrolled at the local Catholic school connected to the university Marie worked for. Marie recalls that the university had two campuses. On this day, she was at the remote campus while the boys were at the main campus – miles apart. Marie got a phone call that gunfire and shooting broke out at the boys’ school. The kids were hiding under their desks and doing whatever they could to stay safe.
When Marie heard about the shootings at the school, all she could think about was her kids. She called a priest the family knew to get Jordan and Jayden and bring them to safety. The Samoas knew they needed to give their family a better life – a life where the kids could go to school and learn without the fear of gunfire. A life where school wasn’t canceled due to war.
For the safety of their family, they decided to move, leave their family home in Buea, and seek refuge in the United States. In late 2018, Marie and the boys fled to the U.S. to live with family in Elk Grove.
Alphonse had a much more dramatic trip. He had to sneak out of Cameroon. Alphonse’s journey started with being smuggled on a boat, which broke down in the ocean, only to be rescued and brought to safety. He then rode a motorcycle hundreds of miles – just to get to safety before he could board a plane to reunite with his wife and sons in America.
When they arrived in the U.S., Alphonse and Marie could not work. They used their savings to support their family while waiting for authorization to work. They initially enrolled the boys in public school until they could get Jordan into St. Elizabeth Anne Seaton in Elk Grove. Jayden really wanted to go to Catholic School, too; however, Alphonse and Marie wanted to wait for Jayden’s kindergarten year and until they felt a bit more financially stable.
After a year in the U.S., both Alphonse and Marie were granted temporary work authorizations. and they ultimately both found work here in Rancho Cordova. When they moved to the area, the first thing they did was find their local parish – St. John Vianney.
The Samoas vividly remember how welcoming the SJV community was as they settled in Rancho Cordova. Alphonse was invited to join the Knights of Columbus and is now a Fourth Degree Knight. They also met with Mrs. Hale and were able to enroll both Jordan and Jayden here at St. John Vianney Catholic School.
The Samoa family is adjusting to their new lives, and they admit that being away from home is hard. Both COVID and the resettling process have made it even more difficult. Even in their new, safer lives, the Samoas deal with the stress of uncertainty on a daily basis. They pray and hope to settle permanently in the United States very soon, for fear of returning to Buea where they could possibly face retaliation due to Alphonse’s steadfast advocacy on social media for his home people.
As a family, the Samoas have been supported by the St. John Vianney community – the Knights, friends, parents at the school, and parishioners. When asked about how they deal with the daily stress, Alphonse said, “You can’t go anywhere without God!” He listens to David Ekene’s “Greater Tomorrow” every day. He reminds himself of Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” Marie said, “Why worry when you can pray! Worrying can’t provide for our kids. I want my boys to be honest, smart, obedient, responsible, and love God.”
As Catholics, we are called to trust in God. I Corinthians 5:7 says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” The Samoa family exemplifies a trust in God on so many levels. A family that could view life through a negative lens, instead walks by faith and trusts in God every day.
This strong belief in their faith keeps this kind, warm, loving family smiling every day. Their story, which we couldn’t share all of here, is amazing, but their positive attitude is truly inspiring. Psalm 16:1 says, “Keep me safe, O God; in You, I take refuge.” The Samoas are living proof of taking refuge in the Lord.
We are blessed to have many great families in the SJV community. Our families, including the Samoas, make us a solid and diverse community. Thank you for taking the time to learn about the Samoa family . . . their story is a gift to all of us, and we thank them for sharing it with us.
The community of St. John Vianney is able to thrive in large part because of the support we receive from donors. The generous financial contributions made by donors allow for families like the Samoas to enroll their children in our school while we welcome their parents into our community with open hearts. If you feel compelled to further the St. John Vianney Catholic School mission with your own donation we invite you to click on the link below.