- by Mount Saint Mary College
Sr. Judith self portrait

As hundreds of Mount grads crossed the Commencement stage, one was recognized for her achievements as she watched from nearly 7,000 miles away. 

Sr. Maria Judith Okwudiri Okoroafor, of the Order of Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Nigeria, graduated via livestream after completing her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology online. It was a journey she began nearly 14 years ago. 

After coming to the United States in 2008 for religious experience, Sr. Judith used the opportunity to attend classes at the Mount from Fall 2009 to Spring 2012. 

“It was not planned for me to graduate from MSMC,” she explained. “So, I came back to Nigeria and I never thought of coming back to complete the degree.”

It wasn’t until 2020 that the General Superior of her religious order, Sr. Gertrude L. Ihenach, and her council asked Sr. Judith to go back to the USA and finish her degree. However, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic halted the process. After speaking with the Registrar’s Office, Sr. Judith was allowed to complete her course work online.

“It was like a battle to complete this degree online in Nigeria,” she said. “There was no electricity and unstable internet networks. I got low grades in some of my first online semester exams due to a poor network system and my lack of online school skills.”

In her day-to-day life, Sr. Judith always made time for her studies. She would spend her days attending community prayers, morning Mass, cooking, taking care of laundry, and cleaning. But, she added, “This final semester was so challenging that I did my prayers privately. My Zoom classes overlapped with my community prayers and morning Mass was not every day. I couldn’t wake up on time because of midnight classes and studies.”

Throughout it all, Sr. Judith’s faith helped her to accept whatever difficulties she faced. She persevered, increasing her study times and improving her grades. “I thank God Almighty who has given me the strength, knowledge, and wisdom to complete this degree with Honors in Psychology,” she said.

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