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Phone call home
A letter from James Foley, Arts ’96, to Marquette.

Marquette University has always been a friend to me. The kind who challenges you to do more and be better and ultimately shapes who you become.

With Marquette, I went on some volunteer trips to South Dakota and Mississippi and learned I was a sheltered kid and the world had real problems. I came to know young people who wanted to give their hearts for others. Later I volunteered in a Milwaukee junior high school up the street from the university and was inspired to become an inner-city teacher. But Marquette was perhaps never a bigger friend to me than when I was imprisoned as a journalist.

Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.

I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.

Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well.

One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”

I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”

“Jimmy, where are you?”

“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you. How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.

“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”

“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”

“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t.

“They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked.

“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.

The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.

“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.

I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head  my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.

My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did. 

This article written by James Foley appeared in the fall 2011 issue of Marquette Magazine following his first capture earlier that year. Foley was killed in August 2014 following a second capture in 2012. Additional resources on Foley, including the university’s response and information about a James Foley Scholarship, is available online.


Comment by Melanie Nankivell at Nov 03 2011 02:04 am
This just exemplifies that God is always with us, no matter what...........also shows us the power of prayer!!! Praise God!
Comment by Judy Dincher Nur '59 at Nov 07 2011 05:48 am
Jim Foley is an inspiration. A wonderful example of the MU spirit.
Comment by Brendan Murphy MU '96 at Aug 19 2014 09:46 pm
You are an inspiration to all of us. Thank you for showing us what it means to #curapersonalas
Comment by CS at Aug 19 2014 10:49 pm
What an inspiring article! I pray that he maintained this strong faith through his final ordeal.

Eternal Rest Grant unto him Lord. May he rest in Peace. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
Comment by Jeff at Aug 19 2014 11:42 pm
Rest in peace, brother James.
Comment by Nunash at Aug 20 2014 05:03 am
RIP James. Peace to your soul, you are free...
Comment by Gina at Aug 20 2014 08:32 am
Oh Jim... prayers and love to you as you enjoy the Beatific Vision. So many prayers for the family who mourns their loss of your physical presence.

May Our Lady, who knew this suffering so well, take special care over their hearts. <3
Comment by Gabe Porta at Aug 20 2014 09:12 am
What a great man and a great story. May God comfort his family and friends during this difficult time. May they know he is rejoicing with the Lord. RIP brother.
Comment by Father Norbert at Aug 20 2014 09:13 am
May the Lord in whom he believed grant to Jim undending joy & glory. God is NOT cruel as terrorists are. Jim knew my paternal relative Tom Hanrahan. Good people both.
Comment by pat hurtuk at Aug 20 2014 09:32 am
another very very powerful story of the Holy Rosary. Thank you Blessed Mother!
Comment by Fr. Douglas Crawford at Aug 20 2014 10:21 am
Requiescat in pace, James.
Comment by Brandon Rosner at Aug 20 2014 10:46 am
Thanks for your courage in uncovering and reporting truth. You will be missed.
Comment by Stefan at Aug 20 2014 10:56 am
I feel sorry for James becoming a victim of senseless cruelty.
Why do these people not understand the value of journalism as a way to allow a view on different opinions.
Killing a journalist is the senseless attempt to kill the truth..
Doing this can not be justified with any religion, it is a crime against humanity.
Comment by Roger C.Thibault at Aug 20 2014 11:40 am
My prayers are with you Jim. Folks, pray the rosary!

Roger Thibault
Comment by bj at Aug 20 2014 12:18 pm
... surely now at peace at home in heaven.... may your family be given special graces and strength....
Comment by Peter A. Fallucca; Lib Arts 81, Grad 88 at Aug 20 2014 12:27 pm
I saw the parents of Jim Foley just speak of their son's horrific and brutal death. I was brought to tears, but I took solace of his story and who he was as a person, professional and what he stood for and how strong his faith and trust in God was.

James Foley truly lived up to the Marquette Credo
"Faith, Knowledge and Justice" and "Be the Difference"
Comment by IH ' 81 at Aug 20 2014 12:30 pm
May our world turn to prayer as Jim did , for the ultimate solution to all this senseless violence and cruelty . May he rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father .
Comment by Patrick at Aug 20 2014 01:04 pm
Peace be with you brother in Christ. You are a witness to God's great love He has for us. There are those who are filled with so much hate that they become like demons. Only Love and Goodness will win in the end. There is no room for hatred in God's Kingdom. Rest in Peace.
Comment by Christopher Grizzetti at Aug 20 2014 01:12 pm
The example of his prayer in times of extreme stress is inspiring. It gives proof to the beauty and power of prayer, and is very inspirational. May God grant him the peace and rest that he and his family surely deserve.
Comment by Mary Violasse at Aug 20 2014 01:49 pm
And the angels led him to Paradise.................
Comment by MarceWagner at Aug 20 2014 02:42 pm
My Rosary Prayers are with you and your family

Comment by racrotty at Aug 20 2014 03:01 pm
May the Queen of Heaven present these martyrs to her Son personally. May she shower graces upon a world in need of the Love of her Son, Jesus.
Comment by Tom MU'67 at Aug 20 2014 03:18 pm
Jim's life was a billboard of caring and teaching and ministering to those in need.
Now he rests in the loving arms of the angels in heaven.
His work is over!
Comment by Tom MU'67 at Aug 20 2014 03:23 pm
Jim's life was a billboard of caring and teaching and ministering to those in need.
Now he rests in the loving arms of the angels in heaven.
His work is over!
Comment by LEE at Aug 20 2014 03:39 pm
He had way more faith than I have and I thought I had a lot!!
Comment by JCM at Aug 20 2014 03:47 pm
Under Mary's mantle, he is embraced by Merciful Love. From there, Jim, pray for us.
Comment by Laurie Ann at Aug 20 2014 04:25 pm
Jim did what so few of us do, saw the world at its' darkest & kept the light within himself bright. Although I never knew you, who you were is transparent & pure. I hope that heaven lives up to its' promise & keeps you smiling your beautiful smile.

My condolences to your family, friends & loved ones. And, to everyone whom you touched with your words & your pictures.
Comment by KPD at Aug 20 2014 05:03 pm
James Foley remains a remarkable force for good, despite his passing from this earth. No horror can defeat the good that he brought to this world. HIs life is an inspiration to me. I hope that I can come close to living the righteous life that he lived. Rest in Peace, James Foley
Comment by Ari Harrison at Aug 20 2014 05:12 pm
RIP James Foley. You graduated a full four years after I did from Marquette. You definitely lived the creed of Marquette. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to know you, but through your deeds and acts post college, you were the best example of what a Marquette graduate should be in life. Thank you for all that you did, and for being that beacon of hope and inspiration to all of us. My thoughts and prayer are with you and your family. Godspeed sir. Godspeed.
Comment by Penny at Aug 20 2014 06:03 pm
Jim, you surely allowed your light from within shine in one of the darkest place here on Earth. Thank you for your courage in your faith. May you enter heaven in the wings of angels, mention us to their Queen, the Blessed Mother. I hold your family in prayer
Comment by Ann nurs '92, Grad '96 at Aug 20 2014 06:04 pm
I am truly touched by his faith and spirit. He is with God now looking down at all of us. God bless his family.
Comment by Millie Joson at Aug 20 2014 06:14 pm
James Foley is a candidate for beatification for the strength he showed oncaptivity and his imtense reliance on GOD. He defended and brought to the world the plights and sufferinga of simple, innocent people.

People should start praying to James Foley for help on their worries. Who knows, James might or will assist us on all our supplicarions to God, through him.

He is surely cradled on God's lap.
Comment by Moira Cross at Aug 20 2014 06:20 pm
He didn't choose t die in this way, but he knew the risks and the terrible consequences if he was captured a second time. His early Catholic upbringing stood him in good stead and Our Lady's Rosary would have been the source of his spiritual strength and guide. Our Lord granted him he supreme gift of Martyrdom and he died the same death as St Thomas More and other heroic Martyrs and his death will mean Eternal Life for James in the company of all the Angels and Saints where he will await union one day with his beloved family and friends.
Comment by lisa at Aug 20 2014 07:15 pm
god works in mysterious ways Jesus's disciples had to go through a lot to have Gods love shine through. I pray that God comes soon and helps us.
Comment by VA at Aug 20 2014 07:59 pm
May God hold you in the palm of his hand
Comment by Louise at Aug 20 2014 08:03 pm
RIP James Foley.
Comment by Leah Turner at Aug 20 2014 08:09 pm
God Bless his parents, family and friends. I'm sorry for your loss.
Comment by Marty N at Aug 20 2014 09:11 pm
Thank you, dear God, for strong men of faith. May Jim's witness and prayers raise up more people of faith and courage. May the souls of the departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen
Comment by Linda White at Aug 20 2014 09:12 pm
I am touched by his faith, and his incredible calling. I will pray for his mother knowing that she has lost a great love in her life. Until they meet again someday. RIP James Foley. The heavens were rejoicing in your goodness, purity and beauty of spirit.
Comment by Carol Rempfer at Aug 20 2014 09:13 pm
What a beautiful testimony of faith, may it encourage and strengthen each who read it. May God give the comfort only He can give to Jim Foley's family, friends and alumni.
Comment by Mary Rapp at Aug 20 2014 09:41 pm
May God have mercy on Jim's soul. This article magnifies the power of prayer...especially prayer offered through Our Blessed bring into troubled hearts a peace beyond all understanding. Jim was able to rely on his faith to draw strength and hope for the future. Certainly he reflected upon the future beyond this life and these reflections surely fortified him throughout his ordeal. Americans are grieved by the loss of this gentle soul. May God receive him into Paradise and clothe him in garments of grace upon grace. May God the Father, Jesus our Saviour and the Holy Spirit comfort Jim's family in this time of grief. I pray that they would be bound closer to Our Lord in this time of tragedy than they ever imagined was possible. When you lean on Our Lord and trust in His guidance, even times of the deepest darkness become spiritual epiphanies drawing us further into the mystery of His love.
Comment by Andrew at Aug 20 2014 09:54 pm
Dare I say. He has died a Martyr of the faith. God bless him.
He is in Heaven. Amen.
Comment by Renee Boerschig Harden, BSN, '73 at Aug 20 2014 10:55 pm
To Jim's loved ones, my son is a few yrs younger, but all 3 are Jeuit Eduvcated. Learning Jim was a fellow Marquette Alumni saddened me even more. My prayers are that The Holy Spirit, The Great Comforter surrounds all who are dealing with his death, & to Kim's parents who enduring a parents' worst nightmare. God Bless you all. Dr/Mrs J Harden, Houston Tx.
Comment by Cathy Ohler at Aug 20 2014 11:29 pm
May God bless his family and draw them near to Him, as they go through this tragedy. I pray that they know that he was in his Mother's arms, as Mary carried him Home.
Comment by Mikey at Aug 20 2014 11:31 pm
Jim. You fought a good fight. Thank you for showing us the true meaning of being a Christian. Pray for us as we fight against the evils of this wicked world. You are a true hero. God bless you my friend.
Comment by Ruby Hiu at Aug 20 2014 11:44 pm are now in a much, much better place. You are a faithful son of God. God bless your soul. You are such an inspiration to all of us...your deep faith in the Lord and your courage and bravery. You will be greatly missed by your family and friends but at the same time rejoices, knowing you will be in heaven soon.
Comment by lillian at Aug 21 2014 12:58 am
you are the light of the world, you give light to everyone. rest in peace.
Comment by Jeannette Fernandez at Aug 21 2014 03:58 am
RIP my dear friend. You are the epitome of courage and determination. My condolences to your family.
Comment by Peter K. Murphy at Aug 21 2014 04:07 am
Jim's courage in the face of death, at the hands of barbarians, will ever remain a testimonial to his strong Faith. He truly died a Martyr's death - just as the early Christians or the recently canonized Korean martyrs. We must all pray and work for peace among those worshiping the Lord in no matter what form.
Comment by Cristine Verica at Aug 21 2014 04:28 am
May Eternal Rest and Peace be yours. I will continue to pray for you and your family. You were blessed with the gift of faith. Thanks and praise be to God for that.
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