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Pope names Boston area Nigerian priest a monsignor


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A priest of the Nigerian diocese of Orlu who has been working in various ministries in the United States and most recently serving as Chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital was named a monsignor by the pope. The honor for Father Felix Ojimba was announced at Rome on Sept. 17, 2005.

Currently in residence at the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Msgr. Ojimba has been serving as one of several Catholic chaplains at MGH since October 1996.

Born in eastern Nigeria on Nov. 20, 1947, Father Felix was ordained on April 28, 1973. His bishop asked him to come to the United States where he undertook studies at the Catholic University of America receiving a Masters degree in education administration and in educational psychology. He continued studies at the State University of New York in Buffalo where he was awarded the Certificate of Advanced Educational Specialization and a doctorate in education and public policy.

He returned home to Nigeria where he was named rector of the cathedral and superintendent of schools for his diocese. He oversaw the building of two Catholic high schools, one each for girls and boys. The bishop sent him to western Nigerian where he taught at the Catholic Institute at Port Harcourt before he was granted a sabbatical which he took in Buffalo working in parishes and hospitals and serving the Nigerian communities in western New York.

He came to the Boston Archdiocese in 1996 to serve on the team of chaplains at MGH and assists on weekends at St. Angela Merici Parish in Boston’s Mattapan section.

As busy as he has been with his education, priestly assignments and weekend assistance in parishes, he has also made presentations to groups as varied as doctors and nurses at MGH on Cultural Bioethics and on cultural diversity in Catholicism to seventh and eight grade students at St. Bartholomew Parish in Needham, where one of his fellow chaplains, Father Philip McGaugh, now serves as pastor.

He seems especially animated when speaking about two other projects of which he has been a founding member: Uli Development, Inc. which was founded to assist Nigerian imigrants coming to the United States; and Daniel Orjiako Fund, Inc., the former headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y. and the later locally in Milton.

The Orjiako fund has a number of components; some educational, others associated with healthcare, and still others with nutrition programs. Educationally the fund supports programs that seek to give a much better foundation in math and sciences enabling students to continue on to higher education where scholarships are awarded to qualified candidates in humanities for four years; in engineering for five years and in medicine for six years. “The goal is to help others as well as self to break the chain of poverty,” he said. The fund wants to start with 30 students and then move to 60, 90 and so on. Msgr. Ojimba warned that it takes “time and patience.”

A particularly vexing problem is the rapid spread of AIDS-HIV across sub-Saharan Africa. He emphasized the need for compassionate healthcare because there is an enormous social stigma attached to AIDS, and containing and treating the disease demands creative ways to get people into clinics and hospitals for treatment and education. The young high school and college students are especially difficult to reach and often clinics must advertise treatment of other diseases — measles, malaria, tuberculosis, typhus — so that there is a “cover” for seeking treatment of HIV-AIDS.

The World Health Organization has assisted in another treatment project for Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a skin cancer that is spreading through Nigeria and other African nations.

A number of other issues also have to be addressed in treatment programs: the incredible bureaucracy of the government, the regrettable corruption that is sometimes rampant in developing nations, and cultural divides that grow among and between tribes and religious groups.

While the list of problems seems long, Msgr. Ojimba is hope-filled, upbeat and positive in his outlook for his homeland. He will probably be returning to Nigeria in the spring of 2006 but not before two happy events occur: a celebration at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for his being named a monsignor, and a fund raiser for his foundations on March 4, 2006 at Lombardo’s in Randolph. The secretary of the foundation, Mr. Ben Kleiber can be reached at 617-333-446 or 800-617-3310 for information about how to help.

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