Father Innocent Onuh (pronounced “a-new”), chaplain, is experiencing a lot of firsts while helping and supporting patients and staff at UPMC St. Margaret. He is the first priest the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has dedicated exclusively to the hospital, and this is his first official assignment for the Diocese. Previously, he volunteered as a chaplain at UPMC Passavant, and came to UPMC St. Margaret in August.
A native of Nigeria, Father Onuh said he was called to the ministry through the influence of living with his older brother, who is a priest.
“I saw it as the will of God,” said Onuh. “He chose me.”
Father Onuh has been living in the Unites States on and off since 2012 and arrived in the Pittsburgh area in 2017. He left Nigeria to experience life outside his native country and says that a major cultural difference is that people in Nigeria are more communal and have more of an extended family.
At the start of each day at UPMC St. Margaret, Father Onuh receives the Catholic patient list, with a goal to visit all the newly admitted patients. Attending to those in the ICU first, he then moves to the other floors. With consent from the patients or family members, Father Onuh provides the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for anyone with an illness greater than the common cold. He also hears confessions and administers Holy Communion. Father Onuh often sees 12 to 15 patients a day and tries to anoint eight to 10.
Although he is a Catholic priest, Father Onuh provides support to all, including staff, as a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.
“I am here for everyone who needs me,” said Onuh. “We will never turn anyone away.”
Working in a hospital helps provide him a great deal of perspective.
“It makes me humble and has changed my perception about life,” explained Onuh. “I believe in helping people and sharing people’s stories. I am always concerned about people’s situations. It gives me joy and satisfaction within myself to provide comfort and support.”
Father Onuh is at UPMC St. Margaret every day except Fridays. Patients in need of spiritual care can contact Volunteer Services or the front desk 412-784-4000.