The Catholic began its evangelizing mission in Southern Nigeria in 1885. Fr. Lejeune was Prefect of the mission until 1905 when Fr. Joseph Shanahan was appointed to take over the leadership of the mission. With the handover of the leadership of mission to him, the territory passed over from French foundation to the hands of the Irish missionaries. The mission, the Prefecture of Southern Nigeria, was divided into two Vicariates in 1920. The Onitsha Vicariate which consisted of the districts of Onitsha, Owerri and Calabar, was entrusted to Fr. Joseph Shanahan. He was, then, appointed Apostolic Vicar of the Vicariate and ordained a Bishop at the Chapel of Maynooth College on June 6, 1920, his 49th birthday. That same year the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny who had been working in the Vicariate could no longer continue because of dwindling vocation resulting from the First World War in which France was deeply involved. They returned to France in full agreement with the Apostolic Vicar. The sisters had only one convent in Calabar at that point. As a part of his effort to source missionaries to help in the mission, Bishop Shanahan founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary at Killeshandra, Ireland, in 1924. He wanted them to handle the training of young woman and to help the missionaries in handling issues that concern women. The first group of five
Holy Rosary Sisters arrived at Onitsha in 1928. The sisters settled first at Emekuku.
Fr. Charles Heerey was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of the Vicariate of Southern Nigeria with the right of succession on January 25, 1927. He took over the affairs of the Vicariate in 1928. St. Joseph's Hospital, Adazi, was initially built as an outstation clinic attached to Emekuku Hospital under the management of the Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. Eventually the Sisters came to reside in Adazi in 1938. St. Andrew's Adazi has been a parish since 1924. St. Joseph's Hospital and Maternity was established to take care of the health of the people in the area. The Hospital under the care of the Holy Rosary Sisters was registered with one hundred and one (101) beds in1939. It soon grew to one hundred and thirty-three (133) and, then, one hundred and eighty-eight (188).
In the same year, 1938, it was found necessary to establish the School of Midwifery to train local women to join them in ministering to sick people and, especially, to pregnant women. Later Arch Bishop Heerey went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, in France. While he was praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, he had an inspiration to establish a local religious congregation to take over the work of the Holy Rosary Missionary Sisters. He started off on the project on his return, following the example of Sr. Mary Walker, the Founder of Hand Maid Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus in Calabar. The society he started is that of the Most Pure Heart of Mary (Immaculate Heart Sisters) with the center at Ihiala. The first two sisters of the new congregation professed at Urualla on January 6, 1946. The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary played a very important role in the formation of the indigenous religious congregation. St. Joseph's Hospital, the School of Midwifery and the Covent at Adazi were eventually handed over to the Immaculate Heart Sisters.
The school of Midwifery was first approved as grade two Midwife Training School, after the inspection conducted on November 19, 1946. In 1963 another inspection saw it upgraded to Grade one status. The next inspection took place on April 10, 1999. That conferred on the school a permanent approval as a training school for Midwives. The latest accreditation which took place under Fr. Felix Efobi, in September 2018, elevated the school to status of College of Nursing sciences, with the power to award OND and HND certificates in Nursing and Midwifery.
Administrative Changes in the Institution:
The Immaculate Heart Sisters ran St. Joseph's Hospital Complex until 1984, when Bishop A. K Obiefuna appointed Rev. Fr. Peter Obiefune the first priest administrator of the hospital. Late Archbishop A. K. Obiefune rescinded the appointment within one year on account of the moral pressure mounted on him by the sisters. The problem that led to the appointment of the first priest administrator continued which made Bishop S. A. Okafor to appoint Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Anagor, himself a Medical Doctor, to head the institution, from 2003. All the while, the Immaculate Heart Sisters continued to run the School of Midwifery. The headship of the school transitioned a lay person in April 2010, in the person of Mrs. Francisca Atakulu. Since then, the school has made a steady improvement in terms of the academic performance of the students.
Governor Peter Obi and St. Joseph's Hospital Complex:
The hospital remained small, in terms of structures, until February 2012 when the then Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, decided to invest in Mission Hospitals and Schools. From that time major transformations began to take place in the hospital. The person piloting the affairs of the institution was Rev. Fr. Charles Ibekwe (2006 to 2012). Rev. Augustine Obiora Okeke assisted him on part-time basis from 2010 to 2011. Fr. Obiora's primary assignment was at St. Michael's Parish Akwaeze. In 2011 Fr. Theodore Ekwem became a full-time Assistant to Fr. Charles Ibekwe. He continued to assist Fr. Felix Efobi when he took over the administration of the institution in 2012 until he was appointed the Manager of Bubendorf Boys Secondary School. It was from late part of Fr. Charles Ibekwe's administration that major transformations began to take place in the hospital, in terms of physical structures. Rev Fr. Felix Efobi took over the leadership of the institution from Fr. Charles in October, 2012 and ran it until October 7, 2018. On account of the size of the hospital and the enormous responsibility involved in the constructions taking place and administering the institution, a Co-Manager was added to him in 2014, in the Person of Fr. Christian Ononiba. They finished the structures and employed more Senior Doctors, Specialist and Consultants to bolster the name and image of the hospital. Fr. Joseph Nweke was appointed full-time Chaplain in 2012. He took over from Fr. John Uchebo who had been Chaplain from 2006.
Aided by funds from Governor Peter Obi, Fr. Felix Efobi and Fr. Christian Ononiba also set up the Joe Nwilo Heart Center. The project name as result of the Governor's encounter with Dr. Joe Nwilo, an indegene of Anambra state, who is making a name as Consultant Cardiologist in the United State. Governor Obi asked him if he would like to bring his expertise to his home state. On indicating interest Obi offered to build and equip a center for him in the state to enable him to do so. The project was carried out at St. Joseph's Hospital. Joe Nwilo Heart Center is a major attraction to our hospital. The trio (Fathers Charles, Felix and Christian) also began the walling of the hospital premises. At the end of Fr. Efobi's administration people were wondering what should be the right designation for St. Joseph's Hospital, a Specialist or Teaching Hospital. Clearly, simply Hospital no longer seems fit. I leave the judgment of the success of the efforts of the previous administrators to history. But, they clearly did a lot to build up the image of the hospital that we have today. The current administrator of St. Joseph's Hospital is Fr. Jerome N. Okafor.
Jerome N. Okafor (Fr.) Administrator
(For and on behalf of the Board, Staff, Students and Administration of St. Joseph's Hospital Adazi-Nnukwu)
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