By Jessica Easthope
Father Anthony Alimnonu was given an American flag on the day he became a citizen. It’s small but it means the world to him.
Last month, Father Anthony, the parochial vicar at St. Anselm’s Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was sworn in as a United States citizen: an achievement decades in the making.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I heaved a sigh of relief. I was very happy when I received that letter inviting me for swearing in. I was jumping up and down in my room like a kid.”
Growing up in Nigeria, Father Alimnonu was on track to become a priest at an early age. His mission took him around the globe and 15 years ago, he arrived at St. Anselm’s. He spent every summer serving at the church until one day, he realized it had become his home.
“I’ve always had the desire to become an American citizen,” said Father Alimnonu. “It goes back years since the first contact I had with this country. It made a good impression on me.”
The bonds he built at St. Anselm’s helped him along the way. One parishioner at the church, Gretta Rafferty, has been with Father Alimnonu at every interview and appointment. Gretta was there on his big day supporting him because she remembers when she became a citizen after coming here from Ireland in 1960’s.
Father Alimnonu says living in a country that was built on religious freedom is a privilege. It’s his American dream come true.
“This country was founded on religious freedom,” he said. “How lucky we are to worship freely in our country.”