Fr. Anthony Alimnonu, C.S.Sp
Fr. Anthony becomes the Director of his Order’s hospital in Nigeria
As the return of the swallows to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano on Saint Joseph’s Day (March 19th) signals the traditional start of spring for southern California, so too, the annual visit of Fr. Anthony Alimnonu, C.S.Sp. tells the parishioners of Saint Anselm that summer is here. Since 2005 is has been it has been our pleasure to welcome Fr. Anthony as he has pursued completion of his doctoral work. Even as he finished his studies in March 2013, and prepared to return for a new assignment to his religious order in Nigeria – the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, popularly known as Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, he knew that the pastor of St. Anselm and the diocese had made continued visits to Brooklyn possible by assisting Fr. Anthony to acquire permanent resident status. Each summer Fr. Anthony is happy to return to Brooklyn and to the parish of Saint Anselm.
On August 9th, at the 11 AM Mass, concelebrated with Msgr. Maloney and Msgr. Phillips, St. Anselm parishioners had the opportunity to congratulate Fr. Anthony and to share his joy on the occasion of his 17th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood.
In Father Anthony’s own words:
TRANSITION TO A NEW APPOINTMENT AFTER MY STUDIES
This is my ninth year at St. Anselm. I guess not many would recall/reckon that I began coming to St. Anselm Parish as a graduate student from Rome – Italy since the summer of 2005. I finished my doctoral studies in March 2013. With my studies over, I was ready to return to my Religious Order – Congregation of the Holy Ghost, popularly known as Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers – for a new challenge in the form of a new assignment. While getting ready to leave Rome permanently for a new appointment, I knew I would still be returning to St. Anselm. The pastor and the diocese had put in place a framework for this regular return by facilitating my acquiring a permanent resident status. It feels really good to share in the American dream, to be part of the American society.
I left the parish on the 30th of September 2013 and had a stopover in Rome Italy for a meeting with the Superior General of my Congregation. I left Rome finally for Nigeria after this meeting. I was warmly welcomed by my home Province as well as members of my family. At a meeting with the Provincial Superior, he communicated my new appointment. Since I was trained in psychology and had worked as a Formator in the International Theological Seminary of my Order in Nigeria prior to being sent for studies in Rome, there was a general expectation that I would be sent back to this seminary as a fulltime professor and Formator. The Provincial Superior and his Council however felt that I would serve the Province better as the director of a hospital being constructed by the Province. My main job was to see to the formal opening of this project and to set it on a solid footing. When in full operation, the Province expects that I would help in setting up a psychology/ counselling center within the hospital complex. This is the aspect that relates directly to my area of studies and specialization. Apart from these, I was also expected to be ready to help out in the Seminary on a part-time basis.
The above is the general outline of my new appointment. I have no training in hospital management and administration. I simply had to rely on general principles of administration that I picked up in my studies in the social sciences. In the pursuit of my new appointment, I travelled extensively to negotiate with medical equipment groups in order to get some basic equipment for the hospital. I also had to put together a team of hospital staff (two doctors, five nurses, a laboratory technician, a receptionist, cleaners and a radiographer). We have a modest diagnostic laboratory, a small X-ray machine, small ultra sound and ECG machines and fairly equipped theatre for small surgical interventions. We cannot undertake serious/complex operations or cases. Such cases would need to be referred to Government hospitals and medical centers. These medical centers apart from being few are also characterized by long bureaucratic processes that often discourage people from going to them. It is to hospitals such as ours that people depend on. Our location in the rural area contributes to bringing healthcare services to the grassroots level.
The hospital was formally opened on the 24th of March 2014. It is a twenty bedded facility located within a wider multipurpose community – a retirement home for elderly confreres and a retreat center. The hospital provides for the health needs of these retired confreres as well as the wider rural population. We have recorded a couple of baby deliveries as well as in-patient admissions.
Our greatest challenges are medical and laboratory equipment. Last week I visited a doctor’s office here in the US and our hospital does not have even a tenth of what I saw in this office. I am not talking about a hospital but just a doctor’s office! I guess it has dawned on my province that hospital is a capital-intensive project. My presence around the Provincial house these days could set the Provincial bursar in a panic mode. As some of you might know, Nigeria is a contradiction – it is a country that is too rich to be poor but too poor to be rich. Bad and inept governance has left generality of the citizens living below poverty level in spite of the huge natural resources the country is blessed with. Nigeria makes huge income from the sale of petroleum but public funds are looted with impunity, leaving little or nothing for health and social services. Under this scenario, a number of people turn to the missions and NGOs for help. As a mission hospital, we are expected to operate with the mindset of charity. At the moment, the hospital depends heavily on the Provincial administration for funding since it is yet to stand on its feet.
Since my departure, I did not do much in terms of teaching in the Seminary. My busy schedule did not allow me to do so. I had to call off this part of my assignment after missing out on a number of lecture appointments. However I look forward to getting significantly involved in this area in the coming session. Fr. Anthony Alimnonu, C.S.Sp