CHEEKTOWAGA — In October, St. John Gualbert Parish and Diocesan Shrine welcomed Father Paul Ladda as their new parochial vicar. He took his position just months after his 25th anniversary of priesthood.
Father Ladda was born and raised in Maswa, Tanzania in the African Great Lakes region of eastern Africa. He was first introduced to the faith while attending a Catholic elementary school. It was there that he began serving as an altar boy and attending youth picnics with his priest.
During his childhood, he learned a lot about Catholicism through his grandmother Christina Chile. She would say, "You don't eat without prayer, you don't sleep without prayer, you don't do anything without prayer." His grandmother had such an impact on Father Ladda that he recognizes her as a significant driving force in his life of faith.
After high school, he enrolled in the Kibosho Major Seminary in Moshi, Tanzania which sits in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. There he studied philosophy and furthered his love of the Catholic faith. Following his ordination in 1993, he became the Chaplain of Hospitals for the Diocese of Shinyanga, Tanzania, at the age of 33. This position allowed him to comfort people at the most difficult times in their lives. Father Ladda then became the pastor of St. Francis Xaviery Gula Parish in Maswa, Tanzania for 11 years before coming to the States in 2007.
Father Ladda first began to consider life in America when he went to visit a fellow priest from Tanzania serving in Palm Beach, Florida. This friend encouraged him to pursue an education in the United States. Father Ladda was acquainted with a few of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa, from his homeland, serving at D'Youville College. He contacted them, applied for admission and was accepted into their undergraduate program. When he asked the bishop of Shinyanga for permission to move to the United States, he was told the diocese still needed him. A year later, the bishop visited and asked him if he was still interested in moving. Father Ladda now had his blessing to pursue an education in the United States. Luckily D'Youville kept his application on file, and he was given the opportunity to enroll.
During his time at D'Youville, Father Ladda caught pneumonia because he was not used to winter weather. He was forced to go back to his hometown for months due to this illness, but that did not stop him from returning to finish his bachelors degree in Sociology. Upon completing his undergraduate degree, he moved on to get his master's in International Business. After graduate school, he served in the Diocese of Savanah, Ga., where he became a grand knight in the Knights of Columbus and worked with the poor.
Father Ladda will serve out the rest of his vocation at St. John Gualbert, and he plans on retiring back to his homeland. He looks back on his life of faith with a great sense of accomplishment; he's proud of his spiritual and academic success. Father Ladda looks forward to this final chapter in his spiritual life.