“The True, The Good, and the Beautiful” in FSSP Nigeria – Interview with Fr. Van Der Putten

Amidst our own personal and national hardships, we can easily forget our fellow FSSP parishioners in other parts of the world. Don’t miss the latest interview with Fr. Angelo Van der Putten, the head of the FSSP’s Nigerian mission Nne Enyemaka in Umuaka. Father gives a candid and somewhat sobering assessment of the mission’s latest successes but also intense challenges in a nation troubled by corruption and violence. The entire interview can be read on our Mission Tradition site. –ed.   

Mission Tradition: Father, thank you for making time to speak with me. What’s the latest news from your apostolate?

Father Van der Putten: The most exciting news is from our school. As you know, we started a school in September. We rented a building for the girls’ school because we don’t have anything built yet, and we engaged some Sisters from the Franciscans of the Immaculate to teach. For the boys, we added on a room to one of the big buildings here in the parish compound, and we have several men with degrees teaching.

We recently purchased about two and a half acres of land to expand our facilities. To purchase land here is quite an extraordinary feat because it’s owned by about 20 different people who don’t have any survey markers or anything. They’ll just look at a tree and say, “That was my tree, so the property line goes there.” And then they argue about it.

So it has taken us over six months to get this piece of land. But we bought it for the Sisters so that we can build them a convent, and then a girls’ school. That’s the project we’re working on now. We’ve just about finished putting an eight-foot cement wall all the way around it. It’s about 1,000 feet of walling, and we bought razor wire to go on the top of it because we want to protect the Sisters from any possible harm. We hope to have the convent itself built before October. That’s going to be our “summer project.”


MT: That’s great news. What’s the economic situation in Nigeria?

Father VdP:  The economic crisis in this country is beyond imagination. The biggest problem is inflation. Six months ago a bag of cement cost 3,500 naira. Today it costs 11,500 naira. That’s triple the price. The price of food has also doubled recently. And yet a federal employee’s monthly salary is 50,000 naira. He can buy four bags of cement in a month, but that’s all he can buy. He can’t eat because a bag of rice costs 55,000 naira. It’s totally insane.

When I got here 10 years ago, the naira traded at 168 to the dollar. Today, it’s 1,550 to the dollar. For me, it’s not such a hardship because we survive off the dollars that Americans send us. But the local people barely survive. The price of food doubles, the price of cement triples. They’re not even living from hand to mouth anymore because their salaries simply don’t cover the basics. I don’t know how they live. It’s astounding to me how people are even surviving. I know that many people eat very plainly, with lots of cassava and such. But even that food has doubled in price.

The local currency is crashing. Something has to give, but nobody knows what can give because the government is so indescribably corrupt. They don’t care anything about the people. The corruption will not stop, the stealing will just not stop.

Read more on the Mission Tradition website.

March 5, 2024