OCIMA: What’s in a Name?

OCIMA is the Overseas & Continental Independent Mercy Association — a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Backwards, OCIMA is AMICO, which is the last name of the organization’s founder, Father Nick Amico. Amico also means “friend” in Italian. And friend Father Nick has been to many in Guatemala and Ecuador, personally and through OCIMA.

To introduce you to OCIMA, we thought you might like to hear how Father Nick first went to Ecuador, and as a result, started up this nonprofit organization. From 1964 through 1988, Father Nick was a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. His mantra to his students was “do something with your education to help those less fortunate”. He started to think that perhaps he himself wasn’t doing enough to help those less fortunate, and in the early 1970’s, Father Nick contacted several Bishops around the world to offer himself up for service. He was getting ready to commit to a location in Asia, when Monsignor Cándido Rada, then Bishop of Guaranda, Equador, happened to be traveling through Chicago. He had received Father Nick’s correspondence and was interested. He contacted Father Nick, and arranged to meet for coffee at Union Station in Chicago. They met, hit it off, and in the summer of 1972, Father Nick was in Ecuador. He had asked the Bishop for some goals while he was in Ecuador, but the Bishop simply told him to “help in whatever way you can”. This was perfect for Fr. Nick – he didn’t really like boundaries. But it was also a bit of a challenge because Father Nick expected a lot of himself. So, Father Nick spent several summers in Equador and it didn’t take long for the people of Equador to capture Father Nick’s heart. Among other things, Father Nick helped to reform the mountain schools for the indigenous children and found opportunities to help children with disabilities. In one instance, he was able to arrange for corrective surgery for a young 10-year old boy with a hump back.

Father Nick’s friends, students and associates learned about what he was doing and started to give him money. As time passed and donations increased, Father Nick established OCIMA in 1978. Father Nick later served as a missionary priest in Guatemala in 1984 and 1985. As a result, Father Nick expanded his work into Guatemala. But this is a story for another day.

Father Nick passed away in March of 2009. He entrusted OCIMA to a group of friends who knew him well and promised to run OCIMA in accordance with his original vision. OCIMA continues to operate in Guatemala and Ecuador. 99%+ of all donations go directly to projects in Ecuador and Guatemala.

This is the first of seven articles written for the weekly bulletin at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church. For those who do not know OCIMA or its founder, Father Nick, these articles may be helpful in getting to know the organization.