Sierra Leonean Priest Finds Solace in Writing after Stroke, Becomes Celebrated Author

Fr. Gabriel Luseni shows a certificate he was awarded for his contribution towards the promotion of education in Sierra Leone. Credit: ACI Africa

One glance at Fr. Gabriel Luseni’s room and you can tell that he loves books. With an extension of a tiny washroom and a corridor leading away from it, the room on the ground floor of the residence of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) in Sierra Leone’s Catholic Diocese of Bo is decorated with pictures of Africa’s top authors hanging on the walls. 

There are newspapers neatly tucked in boxes, and books, including those that Fr. Gabriel has authored, also tidily arranged on shelves. The Spiritan Priest also follows news on the tiny television in the middle of the room, and gets inspiration to write books and articles that he sends to media houses for publishing.

For over a decade, Fr. Gabriel’s movement has been limited to the use of a wheelchair, having suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. He spends most days in his room where he celebrates Holy Mass privately, conducts spiritual retreats for his confreres, and chats for hours with those seeking his advice.

It is also in this room that he has worked on his biggest projects, including books that have arched his name on the list of Sierra Leone’s most celebrated authors.

Fr. Gabriel’s latest book, “The Hurricane: The Story of Corruption and Accountability in Sierra Leone” has earned him recognition for his contribution towards the promotion of education in the West African country.


His other books that make the use of essays, poems, short stories, and other forms of literature, give a moving account of Sierra Leone’s darkest days of civil war and disease that ravished the country. 

The books further take readers through the country’s healing journey of blood, sweat and tears and speak to power on corruption, bad governance, and other ills that bedevil Sierra Leone.

With his left side paralyzed, Fr. Gabriel types manuscripts for his work on the computer using his right hand, and seeks help in other stages for publishing.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Gabriel admits that he never imagined himself as a writer, especially in his years of public ministry before he fell ill.

He recalls being spirited as he trekked through the hills of Nigeria’s Maiduguri and Yola Catholic Dioceses where he had been commissioned for primary evangelization of locals, saying, “I was very energetic when I did my public ministry. I did some writing before and even started a magazine in our Congregation, but I never thought I could be an author.”

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Fr. Gabriel ministered in Nigeria for 11 years and proceeded to serve as Dean of Studies at the Spiritan Institute of Philosophy in Ghana after obtaining a Masters in Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. 

He later became Rector of the Spiritan Seminary and Institute of Philosophy at Ejisu in Ghana. After 11 years in Ghana, he was elected Provincial Superior of the West African Province (WAP).

It was after conducting a meeting in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), during his second term, that Fr. Gabriel suffered a stroke that put an end to a huge chunk of his public ministry, and led him to writing.

“It was in 2007 that I suffered this stroke. We had finished the meeting, waiting to come back to West Africa, and the night before we left, I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. This means that there was a blood clot in my head. They gave me some treatment and brought me back to Ghana. Some 12 years now and I am still with this stroke condition,” the Spiritan Priest says, adding that it was in 2010 that he came back home to Sierra Leone and became a resident at the Spiritan House in Bo.

Recounting how the stroke has affected his life during the October 28 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Gabriel who has been a Catholic Priest for 34 years said, “My movement is very much limited. I was hypertensive when I got the stroke. I move around here with a stick and use a wheelchair when I have to go out for important meetings in the Cathedral. But I stopped doing public ministry. I celebrate a personal Mass here with someone assisting me at the table.”


He added, “Sitting down, looking at television was no longer enough for me given that I had been a very vibrant man, attending meetings all over the world as Superior of my Congregation. I started reading books, and from reading, I asked myself how I could continue contributing to the Church.”

Having worked as a lecturer in university, with deep knowledge about the Church, Fr. Gabriel started writing poems, reflections and short stories, before he wrote his first book, “Lion Mountain: A Story of Love, Conflict, Forgiveness and Reconciliation”.

Hugging the horizon on your way from Bo city to Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, are scenic mountains that take the shape of lions. There is a story of visitors who came up with the name “Lion Mountain” when they heard thunder while approaching the mountains and thought it was lions roaring. Translated, ‘Lion Mountain’ is ‘Sierra Leone’, hence the name of the west African country.

Fr. Gabriel’s debut book published locally in 2014 is the story of a boy who wishes to know what happened to Sierra Leone, having been away during the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002, reportedly leaving over 50,000 people dead, and immeasurable destruction. 

Fr. Gabriel told ACI Africa that he never experienced the war and so, he assumes the mythical figure of the little boy who asks another character, ‘The Man of Great Age’ what transpired while he was away.

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The 54-page book is a narration about Sierra Leone, making a generous use of poems and reflections. It is a book for peace and conflict resolution and is recommended for social workers, university students, leaders and “anyone interested in the history of Sierra Leone.”

Fr. Gabriel’s second book, ‘Weep Not Mama Salone’, also locally published in 2015 is a cry of Sierra Leoneans who have left the country and are still leaving for various reasons. Those leaving, the Catholic Priest says, face many dangers on the way, having to go through a desert, the Mediterranean Sea, before they reach their destinations.

The third book, the ‘Oracles and Dreams of Bintumaniland: An African Divine Comedy’ is the story of an African teenager married off to a man twice her age and experiences childlessness for years. She manages to conceive after visiting the ‘god of fertility’, and promising to give her child away to serve at the shrine. It is only after giving birth that the woman realizes that she made a promise she could not keep.

The book is both a cultural and religious story, the author says, and explains, “It makes you think of Abraham who was called to be God’s friend and was later required to make a huge sacrifice. It is also of a person in a midlife crisis, someone desperate for a way out. It is divine comedy and the comedy is making a promise you know you know you can’t keep.”

Published in 2016, the book addresses the challenges of the girl child in Sierra Leone, of young people being married off at a tender age. “Now, there is a law that seeks to protect young girls. Before, a girl child would be given to a marriage partner at birth. They did not have an opportunity to go to school. But things are looking up now. In fact, we can already see the fruits of this empowerment since in the last national examinations, the first two positions were scooped by girls.”

In ‘Come Follow Me: An African Model of Priestly, Religious Formation’, Fr. Gabriel suggests “human formation” into “a good human being” of Seminarians and others in Religious Life. Published locally in 2018, the book is based on the traditional idea of formation and is based on the research that Fr. Gabriel conducted 13 years ago while he taught in the Seminary. 

The Catholic Priest suggests that the family gets involved in the Religious formation of their child through various ways of accompaniment. “It’s not like you are losing your child to the Church. Be there with them. Involve them in family activities and let them give their contributions as far as their Religious congregations permit.”

Fr. Gabriel also advises families not to put financial strain on their children in formation, saying, “Asking them to always give you money will affect their formation. This is why you find some Priests misappropriating Church resources because they are forced to support their families.”

The Priest’s latest book, “The Hurricane: The Story of Corruption and Accountability in Sierra Leone”, was published in 2021 by the Sierra Leonean Writers Series and can be bought from Amazon at USD20.

Launched in April this year, the 109-page book is divided into nine chapters and a postscript and is designed to highlight the issues of corruption, accountability, and the failure of the state leadership in Sierra Leone.

Fr. Gabriel decries the rootedness of graft in Sierra Leone, saying, “Corruption is endemic in this country; from a newborn child to a dying man. Parents pay for their children to pass exams. An old man, lying on his death bed parts with some money to get medicine.”

In chapter nine, for instance, Fr. Gabriel suggests the cultivation of “a national moral conscience through a civic re-education for all Sierra Leoneans” as the permanent solution to the challenge of corruption and the lack of accountability in Sierra Leone.

In the October 28 interview with ACI Africa, the Catholic Priest who had developed an interest in Sierra Leone’s socio-political life in his writing admits he has not made up his mind on what he intends to write about next.

What he knows, he says, is that he intends to collect his poems that are “all-over the place” and to make them into a book.

In his message to Sierra Leoneans as the country edges close to the general elections slated for June next year, Fr. Gabriel says, “Let’s have a peaceful, fair and democratic election. We should not forget that we are brothers and sisters united in various ways including inter-tribal marriages.” 

“Let politics not separate us. Spouses should not be punished because they voted for a different political party,” the Spiritan Priest says.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.