Donors, friends pledge support
The Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia, Most Reverend Lewis Jerome Ziegler, and authorities of the Stella Maris Polytechnic University on December 20 broke ground for the construction of the Bishop Michael Kpakala Francis Memorial Center for Human Rights, Justice and Peace on Bomi/Monrovia highway.
According to the vision bearer of the Human Rights, Justice and Peace Center initiative, Sister Mary Laurene Browne, OSF, the project will cost US$450,000.
Sister Laurene, who is also president of Stella Maris Polytechnic University, reminded the gathering that the Bishop Michael K. Francis Human Rights, Justice and Peace Center is the first building project initiated in the relocation process of the university to the new site in Bomi County.
The purpose of the center, she said, is to keep the memory of the late Archbishop alive as Liberians are quick to forget about significant contributions of distinguished and prominent people.
Sister Laurene also described the late Archbishop Francis as “the voice of the voiceless in Liberia,” adding that even former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described Bishop Francis as “the conscience of the Liberian society.”
Sister Laurene spoke of the determination, love and fortitude of Archbishop Francis which, she said, led to the establishment of the Stella Maris Polytechnic University in Monrovia. President Browne pointed out that the late
Bishop Francis saw education for the present generation of Liberians in a different way and the current university in the Bishop’s vision serves as an institution that will give skills to young people that will transform their lives in a sustained way. At the moment the university has five colleges and when the new institution is completed at the new site, it will be six, the new one and named as the Michael K. Francis College of Liberal Arts.
Sister Laurene stated that the new college will not only provide knowledge for those who want to know about the history of the Catholic Church in Liberia but will also cater to the need of inter religious learning in the years to come.
She disclosed that the center will contain a museum and research library and the use of the museum will be for research not for students of Catholic institutions only, but educational and research institutions throughout Liberia.
“We are indeed convinced that from this vantage point, Archbishop Francis is praying and watching over us and we believe that it will be reflected in our daily lives,” Sister Laurene declared.
She called on Liberians to consider their financial and material contributions not small or big but should consider them as gestures for the overall construction of the human rights center in memory of the late Bishop Michael K. Francis.
She extended thanks and appreciation to all the invited guests, government officials, friends and partners for honoring their invitations and making financial and material pledges and contributions.
In a brief statement, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper disclosed that he and family’s relationship with Catholic educational institutions dates back many years.
Cllr. Cooper pointed out that his parents sent all his brothers and sisters to Catholic schools. He pledged his support to the construction and completion of the Bishop Francis Human rights, Justice and Peace Center in Bomi County.
Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor in a letter read on his behalf by Attorney Darryl Ambrose Nmah, recounted the many encounters with Bishop Francis in Sanniquellie, Nimba County as a school teacher at Saint Mary’s Catholic Elementary School.
Chief Justice Korkpor added that those years cannot easily run out of his memories, and pledged to support the project up to its completion.
Dr. Olu Q. Menjay, President of the Liberia Baptist and Missionary and Educational Convention, said he and the late Bishop Francis had very useful, productive and rewarding relationship, beginning at the St. Mary Catholic School in Sanniquellie, Nimba County.
Dr. Menjay pledged to make financial and material contribution up to the completion of the Bishop Michael K. Francis Memorial Human rights, Justice and Peace Center at Benson Town in Bomi County.
“I must also state that the institution is situated close to Ricks Institute, of which he is the principal. “We believe that our students will come here to make research and study at the expected new library,” Dr. Menjay said. He pledged substantial amount on behalf of the Baptist Convention and Ricks Institute.
University of Liberia President, Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks described the Bishop Michael K. Francis Memorial Human Rights, Justice and Peace Center as a significant milestone and pledged to support the completion of the project in the years to come.
“We, as the big leader of learning in Liberia will not make pledge or promise at the moment but, our financial and material contributions will be forthcoming,” Dr. Weeks assured. For his part, the publisher of Daily Observer newspaper, Kenneth Y. Best, recalled he and his wife’s frequent visit to Archbishop Francis during his illness in Washington DC and offered prayers hoping for his recovery.
Mr. Best promised 32 wooden carvings depicting the faces of the men and women of Liberia’s sixteen major tribes, to be displayed in the institution’s museum. He also promised to provide to the new library one copy of the Daily Observer newspaper every day.
Meanwhile, during the ground-breaking program, several Catholic and non- Catholic institutions made financial and material pledges as initial contributions toward the construction of the Michael Kpakala Francis Memorial Human Rights, Justice and Peace Center in Bomi County.