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.

Holy Week

Holy Week copy.png
Ever wonder how our students will celebrate Holy Week on Liberia Mission? Check it out!

(Photos Are From Last Year's Celebration)

March 23: Our students will participate in a Lenten retreat with Stations of the Cross, Holy Mass and confession.


March 25: Students will participate in a Palm Sunday procession. 

Palm Sunday.png

March 27: Students will participate in Chrism Mass with oil consecration at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

March 28: Catechumens will complete an evaluation at St. Anthony's.

March 29: Students will wash one another's feet at a Maundy Thursday Service at St. Michael the Archangel Chapel. 


March 30: Students will observe Good Friday by attending a Way of the Cross service at St. Francis Xavier parish. 


March 31: Students will participate in a vigil on Holy Saturday at St. Michael the Archangel Chapel.


April 1: Students will celebrate Easter with an Easter procession, by attending the Lord's Resurrection Mass at St. Francis Xavier, having an Easter egg hunt and enjoying donuts and soft drinks. 

Please join us in praying for our students as we prepare for Holy Week!

A Summer Update from the Mission

Our Summer Work program is coming to a close.


The roofs of the school, church, boy’s dorm and girl’s dorm have been replaced. The school is freshly painted inside and out. Our students were paid an hourly wage, learned carpentry, masonry, roofing, painting, and project management. The Summer Work Program is a double win: the mission’s infrastructure is maintained while the students learn skills that will serve them the rest of their lives. Thank you for helping us fund this effort.

Liberia Mission Staff Updates

Brittany Skolnick has returned to America. She has been a volunteer at the mission for the past year working as our Finance Officer. Brittany has done a great job and we are very grateful for her selfless service to the poorest of the poor. Thank you Brittany!!

Kristen and Lucas Caudle

Kristen and Lucas Caudle

Kristen Caudle has accepted the offer to replace Brittany as our Finance Officer. Kristen brings with her tremendous knowledge in managing non-profits. We are very grateful to have her managing the finances of the Mission. 



Back to School Updates

Booker T. Washington Institute (BWI)


Four years ago we began sending our high school students to BWI. During our first year, 3 students from the mission were enrolled. BWI’s program is a 4 year program. Incoming students have graduated from 9th grade and have passed the WAEC (West Africa Education Council) aptitude test. The program is intensive with students covering the same academic curriculum as the other secondary schools plus the trade curriculum. All the other secondary schools in the country are 3 year programs (grade 10,11,12). BWI includes a 4th year, which includes academic study and a 4 month internship program.

Our first 2 students to finish the BWI program will graduate soon. Paul and George have spent the last 4 years learning their trades. Congratulations to them!

Currently, registration for our BWI students is occurring. We have 10 new freshmen entering BWI from our mission program. This will bring the number of mission students at BWI to 50!

The Motto of Liberia Mission Painting In A Classroom: "God, Education, Work"

The Motto of Liberia Mission Painting In A Classroom: "God, Education, Work"

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School

Registration at our school is in full swing. Our school provides quality Catholic education for the poorest of the poor. We offer 150 scholarships and the balance of the students’ pay 40% of their total tuition cost. Your contributions subsidize the schools operation. Last year we had over 450 students. The class sizes average at 41. We are trying to bring class size down, but that means we either need to increase tuition (which will put quality education out of the reach of the poor) or find Community Student Sponsors. To learn more about the community sponsorship program, visit this page. Please share with anyone you know who may be interested in becoming a community sponsor!

Summer Work Project

Every summer, Liberia Mission raises funds to provide students with ongoing vocational education during the break. The students are hired by the mission to carry out a project the school needs done for the new year. This year, we raised money so our students could repaint our school.

Through a generous grant from the Shanahan Foundation and from gifts made by donors through GoFundMe and Missio.org, we raise the funds required for supplies and student salaries. Thank you to every person who generously gave! We have photos of the project underway and complete below.


As you can see from the image, we used an oil paint on the lower third of the classroom walls to allow for cleaning of that part of the wall. This area is what primarily gets dirty from hands, feet, pen/pencil marks, etc. We also used water paint on the upper part of the wall. We are so grateful to everyone for making this project possible!

Remembering Mary Ann

This is the two year anniversary of Mary Ann's passing. Mary Ann served as the Director of Liberia Mission and is still loved and missed daily. Joe Sehnert, our Board President, here reflects on her remarkable life:

Remembering our beloved Mary Ann Gemma O'Driscoll. It is difficult to believe that Mary Ann has been gone for two years. It seems like much, much longer. We know that she is with Jesus, who was the joy of her life. Anyone who spent time around Mary Ann can recall the songs, humming and tin whistling that praised Jesus and demonstrated where her heart and mind were all the times. But the emptiness she left behind is still palpable in Africa, Ireland, the U.S.. and in the hearts of anyone who met her.

She gave herself to the Great Commission. It sounds so noble and difficult to accomplish, but Mary Ann made it seem natural and easy to follow Jesus' command to take His Good News to the ends of the earth. Jesus filled her with His Holy Spirit to such a degree that she spilled grace all over anyone who she came in contact with.

In many ways Mary Ann was tough as nails, but in all things centered in Christ, vigilant and steadfast. She gave herself freely, openly, and constantly to The Holy Spirit. In the minds of many she is a martyr of charity. She embodiedcaritas, as a lover of neighbors.

Mary Ann Gemma's life is proof positive that there are people in our day who still give without measure, who walk in the faith and live in the light of Christ. She is gone, but her example and her life give us hope. To the young men and women of Liberia she left a path to follow. One of giving and seeing the face of Christ in others while always offering a helping hand.

To the Irish, she gave an example of a faith not dead to consumerism, materialism and individualism, but a faith like those of her kin: St. Patrick, Gobnaught, Brigit, Brendan and so many other of old. Mary Ann Gemma was not of old and not a sentimentalist or a romantic, but a pragmatic follower of the faith and what it calls us to.

To us Americans, Mary Ann Gemma was a challenger who often called us from our lofty thoughts of self to bring us down to see the face of Christ in the poorest of the poor.

To Mary Ann Gemma's family, we offer our sincerest appreciation for sharing her life with us. We extend our condolences once more and we pray for her soul and for you.

Let me end with a prayer that Mary Ann Gemma said daily after our Angelus:

May the Divine assistance remain always with us. 

And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.

A final note: I just got back from the Convocation of Catholic Leaders held in Florida. The whole 5 day conference was based on Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Evangelic Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel. Mary Ann Gemma lived as a Missionary Disciple, which is what the Pope is calling us all to do. May her joy and fire for living the Gospel be an example to us all. To learn more, I recommend reading this article.


Joe Sehnert

Board President