Diane Foley, Mother of ISIS-Slain Journalist James Foley, on Overcoming Darkness

By | September 1, 2019


I’m humbled and honored to be here
before all of you I’m just like you have a daughter a sister a mother like so
many of you and I was blessed I am blessed to have had five very beautiful
children in a career as a family nurse practitioner but I’m here today to bear
witness to the light of Christ amid the dark captivity and horrific
execution of our son Jim in August of 2014 in John 8:12 Jesus says I am the
light of the world whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have
the light of Life I’m here to testify to the reality of the light of Christ in my
life to me that light is the hope faith and love of Christ within each one of us
a candle helps is a important image to me because I viewed the light of Christ
as that valiant fragile flame that burns brightly within us even if we don’t
notice it I was born in New Hampshire grew up there and was blessed with a
faith in God from my earliest years both my parents were Christian my daddy
Unitarian my mom Roman Catholic my father did not want me baptized until I
was of an age to choose which religion I wanted to follow now my lack of baptism
really bothered my mother but it actually made me very interested in God
my mother’s deep faith intrigued me generally my younger sister Rita went to
Unitarian services with dad while I joined my mom
yes I was drawn to God and his profound stillness and particularly drawn to his
mother Mary after school I remember stopping by our church to pray in front
of a statue of the Blessed Virgin I was really unsure what drew me but I knew I
felt safe and loved I chose to become a Roman Catholic at the age of 14 and
received the sacraments of Baptism Confirmation and Holy Eucharist all in
one day two years later my dad died of cancer his death spurred me to study
nursing and continue to continue to draw me to God I high school I went to the
University of New Hampshire and I was blessed there by the presence of our
beloved chaplain of Father Vincent lawless who had a deformed hand I was
told that he was nearly denied ordination due to his deformity but once
ordained he truly gave glory to God I was fed spiritually by his sermons and
evening folk masses throughout my college years I seriously started to
consider religious life the Peace Corps all sorts of things but I lacked the
courage or the encouragement and at the same time I met my husband John and grew
in relationship with him John pursued me and we spent more and
more time together studying going to Mass just conversing for hours and
dreaming together Father Vincent lawless married us in August of 1971 he died
less than a year later in front of the altar at church but I’ll never forget
him his deep faith and goodness fan that tiny flame of faith I had within me
after our wedding John I could not afford a honeymoon so we put
our wedding gifts in a u-haul attached to our secondhand red comet and headed
west to West Des Moines my first job in Iowa was this community health nurse I
remember doing maternity and newborn counseling to unwed teenage mothers when
I knew nothing of motherhood myself at the time I really had no idea what a
life-altering blessing motherhood would be for me all I knew was I hoped we
could have a baby I did go to weekly mass but did nothing else particular to
pursue my faith but God pursued me our son Jim was the oldest of our five
children and except for the first year of colic induced sleepless nights that
many of us have endured Jim was such a joy he was a happy child curious about
the world and people he loved to be read to he loved Bible stories history and
fantasy he had quite an imagination loving to pretend to be all the heroes I
read to him about we lived in Texas during his preschool years and I can
still see him in our backyard with his Coonskin cap pretending to be Davy
Crockett at the Alamo he and his closest brother Michael had so many adventures
together one distinctive thing about Jim was his big heart and ready smile for
everyone as the little boy he had a kindness about him which you know I I
really took for granted he was easygoing made friends very
easily Jim grew up in the Catholic Church
serving as an altar boy but he wasn’t particularly religious perhaps he was a
lot like your sons and daughters he was fun-loving hard-working
and well-liked and like many teens he gave us quite a few gray hairs he loved
to explore was very curious about people and other cultures in 1978 I was drawn
to go on a cruise Co weekend retreat versio is a weekend course in
Christianity which originated in Spain but is now worldwide precio was such a
moving experience of God’s closeness I became hungrier to know God that we can
help me to feel God’s unconditional love for me I remember being drawn to more
frequent Mass and the reading of Scripture Mass became a place of refuge
and sacred stillness where my mind and soul was truly fed with the Word of God
and the Eucharist it was a safe place where God nurtured me and further fanned
that light of Christ within me I rather enjoyed moving around the country as my
husband went to medical school internship and then joined the Army
Medical Corps I enjoyed the diverse and interesting people I met and grew in
faith but my husband wanted to come back to New Hampshire to a tiny lakeside
community of Wolfeboro after his years in the Army I went along with the plan
but inside I really resisted I didn’t want to go to such a remote place it
didn’t even have a movie theater and though doubtful I remember asking God to
help me find him even there well God answered my prayers and abundance at
that point we had three young sons and I wanted them to know about God in their
lives so I was challenged to attempt to prepare our parish children for a First
Holy Communion I know I learned so much more than they
said I just began to realize how God yearns to feed us to care for us how he
continually offers his strength and hope or our journey at that time in our small
state of New Hampshire we had a powerful office of renewal led
by a very charismatic priest father mark became a dear friend to me becoming my
spiritual director for years and godfather to our fifth child and only
daughter Katie I had the privilege of serving on Accra CEO team and being fed
by an informal weekly prayer group that devout women in my prayer group taught
me so patiently and lovingly about God’s goodness and compassion week after week
as we reflected on the upcoming Sunday readings together those thirteen years
spent in Wolfeboro were truly filled with God nurturing me and strengthening
me for the future while I thoroughly enjoyed being a mother and growing in my
faith my husband John was working non-stop
he was the only internal medicine physician in this tiny town that
mushroomed to summer population of over 35,000 people while I enjoyed taking our
kids to the lake for picnics and swimming John was working day and night
and we started to grow apart Marriage Encounter weekend retreat for marriages
allowed a beef a brief respite but gradually we withdrew more and more into
our separate lives John was working all the time and I was busy with our five
children in 1993 John suddenly announced he wanted to move south to a bigger city
a medical center and I was left in Wolfeboro to care for our home and
family while he began commuting south to work John became very
angry with me on the rare times he was home and I really didn’t know what was
going on inside of him we went to marriage and count
marriage counseling rather to no avail our marriage was disintegrating and I
was clueless I couldn’t figure out why we finally went on a retro buy weekend a
Catholic weekend for troubled marriages or surely ours was becoming troubled we
actually went twice retro vibe with its deep with its daily communication and
weekly follow-up sessions gradually and miraculously began to heal our marriage
such an unexpected time of healing our dialogues became the Rosary had also
become my constant companion when I was lonely anxious or afraid it accompanied
me on walks or drives it just helped me to relax and trust in the Lord
I learned the Divine Mercy chaplet on a pilgrimage to measure Gloria in 1994 the
more I prayed the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet the more I felt God’s hope
and his light I began to feel a visceral strengthening within me just a deeper
and deeper assurance that God was with me thus our merciful God was preparing
me day by day and step by step – ever so ever so gently inviting me to come
closer sit for a while be refreshed many days as a young mother of five Matthew
11:28 spoke to me Jesus say come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I
will give you rest and what bigger problems
velop the 23rd psalm assured me that God was with me leading me beside quiet
waters refreshing my soul and guiding me along the right paths for his name’s
sake little did I know how much I would need
him in my darkest Valley that dark valley began in Lent of 2011 when our
oldest son Jim was kidnapped while working as an independent conflict
journalist in Libya we were in shock we immediately fled to our adoration
Chapel to pray sunbird somber tone of the Lenten scriptures embraced me and
strengthened my awareness of a deep connection through prayer to Jim
even though he’s thousands of miles away in Tripoli I spent hours and hours in
prayer before candles often symbolizing my hope in Christ and that made me feel
very close to Jim his Libyan captivity only lasted 44 days but at that time we
were plunged into deep panic and fear for Jim’s life our church community
rallied around us I remember the huge way that their
prayer and that of so many others lifted our spirits and gave us hope I remember
when I’m one of my dear friends sister Mary Rose telling me that she had heard
the Lord tell her that Jim would return home when he was freed interiorly
what an incredible joy and deep gratitude we felt at that hum come home
coming in May of 2011 Jim returned home with a much deeper
faith he had prayed the Rosary throughout his captivity and had been
given scripture verses by another Christian prisoner passed through cracks
in an adjoining south he told us how close to us he had felt
through prayer what a deep confirmation of the power of
prayer and God’s mercy but Jim also returned with the deeper resolve to
continue his work of giving voice to the voiceless when I tried to urge him not
to go back to the conflict zone he would say mom I have found my passion I like
to think that some of the seeds of faith were planted in his childhood but his
faith and sense of social justice was surely strengthened at Marquette
University the Jesuit college he chose to attend at Marquette he was challenged
to make a difference to be a man for others Jim Hadley had lived a very
middle-class life and it was really at Marquette that he was first exposed to
real poverty in the inner-city schools of Milwaukee where he was encouraged to
tutor then after graduation he taught in the inner city of Phoenix Arizona
through Teach for America little did I know but while he was in graduate school
he taught English to unwed mothers in Holyoke Mass and later when in Chicago
he cooked a cooked he taught rather at the Cook County boot camp
he seemed drawn to serve Jim was a voracious reader and an interested
writer so it really wasn’t surprising that he chose to become a journalist
he’d always been a good listener he was always interested in everyone’s story so
we were initially very encouraged that he found a career that combined his
interest in people with capturing their stories he had been working in Syria
since March of 2012 when he was captured again on Thanksgiving Day he vanished we
did not know whether he was dead for the next ten months from the
beginning this kidnapping was totally different there was no trace of Jim and
we never heard his voice again my personal way of the Cross had begun my
innocent good hearted Jim taken at gunpoint sold and health captive for
being a journalist we were incredulous that he’d been
captured again we were terrified at his disappearance no one knew who had
captured him or where he was we were grateful women FBI came to visit and a
media outlet funded funded a security team but the months went by with no sign
of Jim so I finally felt I needed to quit my job as a nurse practitioner and
try my best to help so I began a series of many trips to
Washington DC to the State Department to the FBI to ambassador’s also to New York
to the UN just begging for help anyone who would listen and I was repeatedly
told that Jim was their highest priority you know I kind of felt like the
persistent Widow in Luke 18:1 2/8 reminding FBI state officials
ambassadors that Jim was still missing my trips made me feel useful and prayer
kept me hopeful but by September of 2013 Jim had still not been found but as a
mom I had a certainty that he was alive and I kept praying that he would be
strengthened by God through our persistent prayers I recalled the words
of a up to him be not afraid which was sung at church throughout
Jim’s childhood I was just hoping he would remember that God was with him
amid this trial lot more candles and prayers by September by that
September I was invited to do the Spiritual Exercises of st. Ignatius it
was odd because I had first heard about those exercises many years before when
Jim was a toddler in Chicago I remember bringing little Jim to a meeting with
the priest about the exercises and him telling me it was not the right time now
39 years later it was the perfect time the weekly st. Ignatius prayer
experience and this spiritual direction truly sustained me during that time
those exercises encouraged me to learn to sit quietly again the lit candle
reminded me of God’s continual presence challenging me to listen and be still
with God finally in October of 2013 two former Isis prisoners called to let us
know that Jim was alive he was alive in an Aleppo prison they told us exactly
where he was Oh News gave us hope and then at the end of
November we received our first email from Jim’s captors his perfect answers
to the three proof-of-life questions that only he could have answers
convinced us that these captors had and were holding our beloved Jim they
demanded a hundred thousand euros or all proposal and prisoners in exchange for
him which of course was impossible for us but at least we had found him Jim was
alive the released hostages tell us that the deep joy that those proof of life
questions gave Jim he knew we found him but then 30 days later the
emails abruptly stopped was odd because that December our youngest and only
daughter Katie became engaged she would not set a date for her wedding because
she wanted to wait for Jim’s return so on one hand I was desperately trying to
find help to free Jim and then on the other helping our little girl plan her
wedding Tara on one side and joy on the other I was lifted up by the love
and understanding of our Katie her joy gave me relief and hope she was one of
many angels God sent me as the European hostages I should say that Jim was we
found out later Jim was held with 18 other hostages and as the European
hostages were gradually released in 2014 they each reached out to us to reassure
us that Jim was alive and he was strong I had a chance to go to Spain to meet
two of the hostages who had returned and to Paris to consult at the French
hostage crisis center all of my desperate attempts to find help for Jim
these hostages tell us what a source of hope Jim had been for them all was
encouraging them that they were not forgotten they told the stories of them
giving lectures to each other to pass the time even making a risk game out of
an old cardboard and date in olive seeds and try to exercise together I thank God
for putting him in the midst of such good men their phone calls and kindness
lightened our cross a bit and gave us hope that June 2 might be released they
also spoke about Jim’s devotion to prayer using the five Muslim
calls to prayer as his routine and how it helped him to remain hopeful you know
I found a mass app when I was traveling I drew strength from being able to find
a church wherever I was and go and pray and attend Mass what a solace that was
because so often when I was traveling I was alone and it was such a solace to
know that I really wasn’t I also used to be daily Bible readings kept me very
hopeful by May of 2014 we found out that Jim was being held with three other
Americans so we came together in Washington to meet each other and to ask
the government for help I hadn’t gotten anywhere alone so we thought we’ll come
together we finally got into the White House and we really thought we were
heard and all too late in June of 2014 we realized we were on our own to get
Jim out so we sought legal advice and started to raise pledges for the ransom
demand also in June the last European hostage was released Daniel was a 25
year old Danish photographer who had spent the last year of captivity with
Jim’s last year in captivity with him and he kindly memorized a letter from
Jim to all of us those were his last words to us Jim spoke about how kind and
generous Jim had been to him throughout his captivity and how he had consoled
him Daniel said Jim was pure goodness perhaps too good
Jim’s letter through Daniel was such an answer to prayer though because I knew
for sure that God was being so close to Jimmy I knew he couldn’t be that good
without God that summer I went to Paris the second
time to ask for advice for the then released French hostages I was so
encouraged by their support and the leads I obtained in France and Denmark
until my husband John called me to say that we had received an email another
email from Jim’s captives captors threatening to kill him but I was in
denial and hopeful that at least the captors were in touch I foolishly
thought that if we offered the captors the money pledged by our generous
friends they would release Jim I totally underestimated the hatred of Jim’s
captors the witness of these returning Western hostages is portrayed very
poignant Lee in the documentary Jim the James Foley story that was a film that
one of Jim’s friends insisted on doing it was through long conversations with
the men who would share Jim’s last year on earth that I came to understand a bit
about how God had sustained him throughout the darkness of his
imprisonment torture and starvation I’m so grateful for those men who shared
that time with him when I returned home in mid July I was exhausted from travel
and fear I remember I remember going to our adoration Chapel and just falling on
my knees and totally surrendering Jim to God I did not want to give up my will
for Jim to come home to us I really didn’t I had resisted but I finally knew
it was time I had to surrender him I didn’t know what else to do
I struggled to let Jim go but I knew I had to entrust him to God you know I
felt a lingering fear that God might have a different plan for Jim than I but
I also felt astray range peace that God would take care of
him I was reassured in prayer that God would in fact set him free
well two weeks later Jim was brutally and publicly murdered for being an
American journalist and a Christian though we had been warned I was in shock
total disbelief you know as the reality sunk in I felt a surge of anger I was
angry at Isis at our government and all those who had refused their help I felt
such a horrible bitterness rising within me I struggled to catch my breath to
accept what had happened to Jim Lord this is not what I meant when I
surrendered to him not at all how could this be I staggered under the weight of
this loss sorry I really didn’t know if I could go on but I remember praying so
hard not to become bitter and praying for the grace to be forgiving and to be
merciful well that was when the legions of angels descended on us first our four
beloved children and family flew home then friends and colleagues came laden
with food and warm hugs flowers plants thousands of cards from all over the
world poured in our post lady would live us leave us buckets of mail for the next
year we received a 50 pound hand-carved wooden cross from Texas multiple
hand-painted portraits of Jim hundreds of mass cards and rosaries so many
beautiful children’s drawings books filled with hope all this love helped me
to feel God’s presence again MSc piece I felt when I surrendered Jim
returned I knew then I’m sorry for sure that God had free Jim and the only way
possible he could no longer be starved or tortured or beaten
he was truly free you know the Stations of the Cross have shown me how good God
and His goodness Stoops to model for us how to endure our sufferings and walk in
faith Jesus was whipped and scourge crowned with thorns like our Jim who was
starved and tortured throughout his captivity but also like us when we feel
throbbing pain of loss or illness Jesus carries the heavy cross of our
sinfulness like each of us trying to shoulder what happens to us in life like
family’s suffering in refugee camps starved and robbed of their homes or
loved ones Jesus meets his ever faithful mother Mary’s example of trust and God
has helped me because she continued to walk in faith even though she did me not
have understood like me why her son had to suffer in this way but she trusted
she walked in faith which is what I’m called to do God sustained her and used
her to model for all of us how do we do or our days of stark suffering that
touch all of us in some ways even Jesus in his humanity needed Simon’s help in
the fifth station like Jim needed our help needed our prayer like our
suffering of brothers and sisters need all of us the 6th and 8th station
revealed the mercy of others witnessing Christ’s suffering like Jim experiencing
the Bercy of being held with such good men like us when we’re generous to those
suffering around us you know the Lord even models failure for us which most of
us have experienced by falling under the weight of the cross not once but three
times just like Jim when he was first kidnapped or like me when all my efforts
to help Jim failed like all of us when we try really hard but still come up
short you know when we feel tempted to give up to just bear the image of the
Lord following under the weight of our sins can also reveal the way we fail to
love I’ve been selfish or arrogant then Jesus models the stripping away of his
clothing his dignity his reputation like Jim when he was stripped away of
everything and treated like an animal like any of us when we’re stripped of
our family or health job or our home and finally Christ is crucified and dies for
us like Jim Jesus was finally freed from his ordeal by death during these two
years of Jim’s captivity and murder there have been moments of despair but
my faith in God’s presence with Jim and in our myths has given me a deep abiding
hope I believe Jesus submitted to all his earthly suffering to give us a
powerful example of how to walk in faith and hope amid the worst of circumstances
to assure us that he is powerfully present in a very personal way if we but
ask and notice it continues to be a struggle for me to slow down long enough
to pray to quiet myself to notice the beauty
around me as sister Grace so beautifully mentioned you know the just the glory of
God around the sunshine outside the beauty of the people sitting with us at
the table all signs of God’s abiding love in the midst of our lives you know
we have a choice when we suffer we can choose to grow bitter or we can choose
God’s loving mercy to teach us how to forgive forgiveness is a process but the
choice is always ours do we continue the cycle of vengeance
violence and hatred or do we pray for the grace to resist bitterness as seek
mercy and forgiveness Jesus quoted isaiah 61:1 2:9 when he said he came to
heal the brokenhearted to proclaim Liberty to captives and recovery of
sight to the blind Jim’s life challenges me as an American to care about the
hundreds of other Americans who are held captive around the world today and to
care about the courageous journalists who bring us world news and to want to
inspire all of us to be people of moral courage and compassion Jim would have
wanted something positive to result from his death I do not want him to have
suffered and died in vain and that is why we established the James Foley
legacy foundation to inspire moral courage one person at a time
I believe moral courage is the light of Christ within each of us that light that
lights our paths that empowers us with compassion and commitment to others and
gives us to curb the courage to do what is loving and christ-like in a
world that often wants to do the opposite our Lord is counting on each of
us to protect and nurture that love of Christ within ourselves to make it
vibrant in our families in our community Jesus lights the way he’s the lamp to
our feet if we but dare to follow he challenges me every day and I’m sure he
challenges each of you to fan that flame of faith and hope within each of us and
to carry his light into the world god bless you all
thank you for listening thank you you

5 thoughts on “Diane Foley, Mother of ISIS-Slain Journalist James Foley, on Overcoming Darkness

  1. al meggs Post author

    God bless you!
    I have proof that true Catholics go straight to heaven
    I realize now late in my life that we are truly blessed in the only true religion
    I’m working towards returning to our traditional Catholic faith
    I owe all this to my parents and now my sister whom I loved so much and still do
    For most of us remain silent to avoid being ridiculed maligned and despised
    The mysteries have all disappeared and I praise you for you’re courage in doing this presentation
    To realize the moment we have our last breath and immediately another world opens
    We know then there is no death for true Catholics!
    What a wonderful realization to know this life was just a test for our true existence!

    Reply
  2. al meggs Post author

    There is no doubt you will be with your son again!
    I know this for a fact!
    Your apostolic ROMAN catholic traditional two thousand year old faith has saved your entire family!
    Never ever fear death again!

    Reply
  3. Leonie Azelie Post author

    wow! A very powerful message. God bless you!

    Reply
  4. eileen perez Post author

    Mrs. Foley, Your son brought so much joy and laughter to my life. We dated for a few months until he could no longer keep coming to NYC every weekend. He was a most amazing man who I met with his friend who had worked for UNICEF back in 2001 (Ari?) Jim and I later connected again via email and we had hoped to see each other one day. I have never forgotten Jim and recently I spoke about him in Palo Alto CA at an annual remembrance vigil organized by the Kara Organization for grief, loss, and traumatic deaths. Thank you Mrs. Foley. I adored Jim.

    Reply

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