Back to School At Liberia Mission

St. Anthony Students Lining Up for Their First Lesson

St. Anthony Students Lining Up for Their First Lesson

A new school year has begun at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School! 

We are also welcoming back our residential students to Liberia Mission. They returned on Sunday, September 2, accompanied by their parents or guardians. With them, they brought various items, such as clothes, bowls, and soap. Bringing these items teaches them responsibility and appreciation for what they receive while also helping to contribute to Liberia Mission's communal life. Although these students may lament the end of their summer break, everybody was happy to be back--in their “super suits” no less! ("Super suit" is the nickname the students gave to the hospital scrub uniform that they wear while at the mission.)  

The first days of the week were filled with orientations and handbook reviews. Our Director, John Raymond Alpha, informed the residential students student that they will participate in activities such as Bible dramas and spelling bees this year, in addition to their agriculture time when they work on our farm and in our piggery. This will teach them a diverse set of valuable life skills. 

Two St. Anthony students ready for their first day!

Two St. Anthony students ready for their first day!

Our New Bathroom!

Our New Bathroom!

As all the students return, we tell God thank you for all the improvements our high school students made to the Mission over the summer. They built our new school bathroom, improved our piggery and farm, and even painted the school! The new bathroom is especially exciting for everyone. This will mean we have the necessary sanitation and wash rooms needed for our 450+ student body.  It is a wonderful facility that was envisioned by one of our B.W.I. students, Jacob. Jacob studied drafting and used those skills to design the bathrooms. Thanks to the hard work of many--and generosity of our donors--our students will now have clean, new bathrooms on campus.  Thank you!

We are grateful for our teachers who work very hard to provide excellent curriculum throughout the school year. 

We are grateful for our teachers who work very hard to provide excellent curriculum throughout the school year. 

Our teachers and school administration are also back in action, working harder than ever to help St. Anthony of Padua remain one of the best schools in the country.  Through weeks of training sessions and curriculum preparations, they too are working hard to break the cycle of poverty for youth in Liberia by being agents of quality, Catholic education.

On Friday, September 7, Fr. Yao, pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, came to celebrate Holy Mass for the first school Mass of the year.  There was a vibrant moment of Liberian style praise and worship singing before Fr. Yao arrived. The atmosphere was electric! In his homily, Fr. Yao preached to the students about the importance of doing well in school by looking ahead toward the future and leaving behind the shortcomings of our past actions. We are very grateful to Fr. Yao and Fr. Charles for the Spiritual Providence they bring us, despite their busy schedules!

Student bringing offerings during St. Anthony's first Mass of the year.

Student bringing offerings during St. Anthony's first Mass of the year.

It is yet another new beginning at Liberia Mission.  We are celebrating our 15th anniversary in November; as we contemplate the joys, sufferings, accomplishments, and setbacks of the past fifteen years, we can only give thanks to God.  Secondly, we thank our benefactors who have faithfully contributed to the prosperity of Liberia and its youth. If we all continue together with Jesus, there is no doubt we will celebrate countless anniversaries to come.  Thank you and God bless!

Liberia Mission's Summer Work Program

Students digging for irrigation on LMI grounds. 

Students digging for irrigation on LMI grounds. 

The Summer Work Program at Liberia Mission is an annual employment opportunity for some of our sponsored high school students.  We have different projects every summer which we hire students to do, giving them income and job experience while helping us beautify the campus. The money that the students earn helps them to purchase books and school supplies for the upcoming academic year.  They also learn valuable, practical work skills in the process. All of the funding for the projects comes from the generosity of our sponsors.

Students working on our cucumber crop. 

Students working on our cucumber crop. 

The students began the program this year with a general clean-up of the property.  They organized piles of old tin roofing and did a LOT of brushing (Liberian term for cutting the grass).  From there, some of the students began to clear and cultivate the land for planting new crops. Our goal is to drastically reduce money spent on produce at the local market by supplying our own fruits and vegetables through the agriculture program.  By God's grace, we will cut costs while also teaching the students valuable farming skills.

The St. Isidore Piggery, another vocational training program that teaches the students how to raise pigs and bring them to market, has also received some major renovations. The roof has been repaired and extended, giving better, much-needed protection to the pigs during the heavy downpours experienced in the Liberian rainy season. The walls have also been repaired with cement, scrubbed, and painted, so that the piggery upholds the standard of cleanliness that it is well known for.

This is St. Isadore's Piggery before its rennovations. 

This is St. Isadore's Piggery before its rennovations. 

Our capital work project this summer is the construction of new bathrooms for St. Anthony of Padua School.  We have 450 students, 20 school workers and only 4 toilets. The current bathroom was built when we only had an elementary school. It has 2 toilets for the girls, 1 for the boys, and 1 for the teachers.  

One of our students at Booker Washington Institute drafted the plans for the new facility. The girls’ bathroom will have 7 toilets and 5 sinks; the boys’ bathroom will have 4 urinals, 3 toilets, and 5 sinks.  There will also be running water throughout! The teachers will remain in the old bathroom, allowing the students to take full advantage of the new facilities.

Our student Jacob is seen here drawing up blueprints for our bathroom construction project. He is studying drafting at Booker Washington Institute and gains practical experience through our summer work program. 

Our student Jacob is seen here drawing up blueprints for our bathroom construction project. He is studying drafting at Booker Washington Institute and gains practical experience through our summer work program. 

We are still in the foundation-digging phase, but we are moving along at a swift pace. The rain has been constant and heavy this July, and we have not been able to receive truckloads of river sand to mix with cement because the rivers are too high. We have not let this stop us, though! The students have been digging sand from our very own soccer field just so the work can go forward. Please pray that the rain lets up enough for us to receive the materials we need and to be able to work at a pace that will get the job done in time.

Students working on the bathroom foundation.

Students working on the bathroom foundation.

All of these projects and renovations would not be possible without the gifts of our donors. YOU make our vocational program possible and are directly impacting the lives of our student workers. We are so grateful. If you would like to support our summer work program, you can make a gift and note that it is for our work program in the "Gift Note" box. Thank you to each person who shares in our lives and makes the work of LMI a reality everyday.

2018 Graduation


Graduation ceremonies in Liberia are joyous, celebratory occasions.  Those at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School are no exception. Whether it be the graduation of kindergarteners or ninth-graders, the day is highlighted by inspirational speeches, special awards, and well-rehearsed songs that give thanks to God. The day is bright from the attendees colorful African lapas, the traditional clothes worn for celebrations.

Families and staff came together wearing colorful lapas, tradition African celebration wear, to honor the work os St. Anthony's students.

Families and staff came together wearing colorful lapas, tradition African celebration wear, to honor the work os St. Anthony's students.

Use the tools and knowledge you have acquired for a better future for Liberia.
— Father Charles Boyce

It was standing-room-only in a packed St. Michael the Archangel Chapel as many happy parents and family members came out in support of their children.  Staying true to our motto—“GOD-EDUCATION-WORK”—we began the day with Holy Mass, celebrated by our friend and spiritual benefactor, Father Charles Boyce, from Immaculate Conception Parish (the parish that we belong to).  Father inspired us during his homily as he urged the graduates to use the tools and knowledge they have acquired for a better future for Liberia.

Father Charles Boyce giving an inspiring homily to the graduates.

Father Charles Boyce giving an inspiring homily to the graduates.

After Mass we began the graduation program.  The principal, Mr. Joseph Kulah, welcomed all to the occasion before introducing Mr. Kweh Menyen, Vice Principal for Instruction.  Mr. Menyen gave a detailed report of the students’ academic performance at St. Anthony showing that our school performs at the highest level.  

Following Mr. Menyen was a solo vocal performance by one of the female students. All present were touched by her effort and the song’s lyrics, sung to God: “You are too good to us.” After the song came Mr. Mark Karley, Vice Principal for Student Affairs, who gave a behavioral assessment of the student body.  Various awards were given out for good behavior, and the top achiever was even given a one-year, full scholarship to St. Anthony’s! Following the awards was a skit performed by students from the eight-grade class. The overall message of the skit preached the values of honesty and transparency when interacting with friends and colleagues—an important message for Liberia!  

Discern exactly what kind of Liberia you want and work for it.
— Josephine Francise, Liberian Senatorial Candidate

Former Representative and current Senatorial Candidate, Mrs. Josephine Francise, was this year’s guest speaker.  During her time in the Liberian House of Representatives, she worked alongside President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and was an advocate for, among other things, education, agricultural development, and women’s rights.  Her speech focused on urging the students to discern exactly what kind of Liberia they wanted and were willing to work for. She was a very charismatic speaker and surely left a lasting impression on the student body.  

After the guest speaker, it was finally time to hand out the graduation certificates!  Mr. Kulah, Fr. Charles, and our beloved director, Mr. John Raymond Alpha, all took turns in shaking the hands of both the kindergarteners and ninth-graders alike.  Many happy parents looked on as their children received acknowledgment for an academic job well done!

St. Anthony students pose with their certificate and flower bouquets in our chapel.

St. Anthony students pose with their certificate and flower bouquets in our chapel.

The teachers themselves then proceeded out from the back of the chapel while singing jubilantly.  Although they received a hearty round of applause from all in attendance, they did this more as a show of their own thanks to the school and of their passion for teaching- we have awesome teachers!

Nothing that just took place would have been possible without the generosity and hard work of Franciscan Works and its donors and sponsors.
— Alpha Raymond, Director of Liberia Mission

Finally, in closing, Mr. Alpha addressed all those in attendance. He began by sincerely thanking Franciscan Works, noting that nothing that just took place would have been possible without the generosity and hard work of the organization and its donors and sponsors. He then went on to encourage the students, saying it would be extremely regrettable if the students did not share with their countrymen (and humanity in general) the knowledge and values they had acquired while attending St. Anthony’s.  He noted that we give the greatest glory to God when serving our fellow brothers and sisters.

Students pose with family outside the chapel following the service.

Students pose with family outside the chapel following the service.

All in all, it was a day that marked success: success for the students, for Liberia Mission, and, most especially, for the Gospel message.  As the students and their families departed for various graduation parties, the teachers and school administration convened one more time to shake each other’s hands and congratulate each other on a job well done.  They would then leave for their one month vacation, a well-deserved break that would re-energize and prepare them for the upcoming school year, when the hard work would begin again!

Why Education Matters


"If the children are deprived from education, then they are bound to remain poor for the whole of their life." -Kailash Satyarthi

In developing countries like Liberia, the challenges facing growth and well being are daunting. For our community, need always seems to outpace resources and the crippling effects of Ebola continue to impact the country across multiple sectors. 

In light of so many areas of need, why have we focused on providing holistic education over the past 15 years? Because education is critical for national development and stability. It is the foundation for any society and the rebuilding efforts following Liberia's civil war and the Ebola outbreak rest in part on the ability of the Liberian people to strengthen its educational infrastructure.

Nelson Mandela once famously said that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Here are reasons why:

  • Each year of education reduces the risk of conflict by 20%. Source
  • Increased access to education decreases the risk for child labor. Source
  • One year of additional schooling increases a person's potential income by 10%. Source
  • A child is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5 if their mother can read. Source
  • "If all mothers completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds." Source

Despite the potential transforming nature of education, many countries, including Liberia, struggle to keep their children in school. For example, in Liberia: 

  • 82% of the poorest students ages 6-11 do not attend school. Source
  • Less than 50% of the total population can read and write. Source
  • 16.6% of children ages 5-14 in Liberia are laborers instead of students. (Cost barriers to education increase a child's risk of becoming one of these laborers.) Source

While Liberia's Ministry of Education continues to expand the education system nationwide, we work on a grassroots level to provide access to education for over 500 youth.

As we approach our 15th birthday, we continue to welcome in more students, all receiving tuition subsidies and scholarships. We look forward to continue providing support and access to rich education for our students for years to come, and invite you to be partners with us as we stand up for a child's right to stay in school. 

-Elena Bettis, Franciscan Works' Director of Operations & Communications

Donate to support our students' education here. 

Easter Update

God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.
— Desmond Tutu

Studies at Liberia Mission

  • The students at St. Anthony of Padua School are in their 4th marking period (a marking period is like a quarter in the U.S.) and are doing well.

  • Our 9th graders are studying hard for their West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) exam, which they must pass to get into high school. The teaching team at St. Anthony’s organized extra study classes that students have the option to attend. They have developed mock tests so the students get used to the format and content of standardized tests.

  • Our high school seniors have finished their internships and are now preparing presentations about their internship experience that they will give to their fellow seniors and teachers. They are also preparing for the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), which they need to pass in order to graduate.


A Welcoming Note

“Jesus, send us Priests. Jesus, send us holy Priests. Jesus, send us many holy Priests.” This prayer is one taught to us years ago by Sr. Maria Newkirk. She has been called home since then, but the mantra still echoes today as we welcome new priests into our life on Liberia Mission.  We are happy to announce that Bishop Ziegler, Archbishop of Monrovia, has assigned a new priest to the mission, Fr. Louis Yao Awoudja, a member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD Missionaries) from the Ghana province. Last Sunday, we celebrated a welcoming Mass for Fr. Yao and a thanksgiving Mass for Fr. Gabriel's service over the past three years. We are grateful to the Archbishop for his continued shepherding of Liberia Mission and for sending us priests. We say thanks, farewell, and God speed to Fr. Gabriel Sawyer and welcome to Fr. Yao!

We are also pleased to announce that Quinn Eide has joined the board of Franciscan Works. Quinn and his wife Lauren live in Chicago. Welcome Quinn!


Looking Through the Numbers

Last year’s financials were challenging, but we have other numbers that speak to the spiritual health of our Mission last year as well. We are happy to report that in 2017:

  • 23 students were baptized.
  • 35 students received First Communion.
  • 40 students received the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. 
  • 3000 hours of community service were voluntarily completed by our students.

Prayer Requests

Please pray along with us for Fr. Don Halpin, our dear board member, who had back surgery a couple of weeks ago. We pray for Mike Shanahan, a wonderful benefactor, who is now with the Lord. May Mike’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Pray along with us for a college student who is joining us for a mission trip to LMI this summer. We pray for Fr. Gabriel as he goes to his new assignment and for Fr. Yao as he begins his ministry at Liberia Mission.