MY LIFE IN LIBERIA - BROTHER ED FOKEN, CSC

by Brother Ed Foken

In Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa

1971 - 1984

Monrovia, Liberia in West Africa is a special place. I went there in 1971 and stayed until 1984. One of the unique things that most people experience in Monrovia is the unique smell of good Liberian food. The cooking of the people many times was accomplished with wood fires. The many times that I returned to Monrovia, the first thing that I recognized was the smell of some good Liberian food.

When I first went to Liberia I was 29 years old. I found the Liberian people to be very friendly. My first job in Liberia was teaching at St. Patrick High School. I taught Math and English literature. The students were excellent and worked hard.

They were willing to study four or more hours per day. Once they graduated, many succeeded and went on to become medical doctors, pilots, bankers, lawyers, etc.

The Liberian people had a much slower pace than Americans. They were always willing to visit. Most had stories to tell which were interesting and charming. I visited many homes and was always treated well and I learned a lot about their traditions. Most Liberians know English, but on a day-to-day basis spoke colloquial English. They spoke "pigeon English" and at times dropped the last parts of words. Being around them gradually got one used to the Liberian way of speaking.

Brother John Zoglmann was principal of St. Patrick's High School in 1971. In 1972, John went home. I became principal. This was an exciting and interesting opportunity. Brothers who were in Liberia in 1972 were: William Healy, Robert Salzman, Anthony McGalla, Tom Dillman, and Jerome Aschenbrenner. 

I was able to establish a scholarship fund for Liberians. We were able to give two hundred of the four hundred students full or partial scholarships. Because of this money and St. Patrick's traditions it became the best high school in the country. Our students traditionally scored the highest on the national exam and succeeded well in life. Many were trained as doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.

BROTHERS & PRIESTS
1960 - 1993
  1. Bro. Martin Able

  2. Bro. Donald Allen

  3. Bro. Jerome Aschbenner

  4. Bro. Paul Clark

  5. Bro. Edward Daley

  6. Bro. Thomas Dilman

  7. Bro. Foulgence Doherty

  8. Bro. Francisco Drury

  9. Bro. Edward Foken

  10. Bro. Vincent Gross

  11. Bro. William Healy

  12. Bro. James Kozak

  13. Fr. Charles Mahoney

  14. Bro. Austin Maley

  15. Bro. Edwin Mattingly

  16. Bro. Anthony McGalla

  17. Bro. David Naples

  18. Bro. James Newberry

  19. Bro. Chester Rachael

  20. Fr. Lou Rink

  21. Bro. Robert Salzmant

  22. Bro. Theophan Schmitt

  23. Bro. Donald Steffes

  24. Bro. Dennis Wangeret

  25. Bro. John Zolgleman

As principal I learned a lot. I helped organize the Liberian Principals' Association which upgraded standards. Many students wanted to get into St. Patrick's High School. We gave exam. Many missionaries pleaded for special students. After we corrected the exams (at times 1000 boys would apply), we accepted 70 for the 7th grade, 30 for the 8th grade, and 10 for the 9th grade. After posting the exam I would leave town for a week to get away from all of the pressure.

Being principal taught me a lot. I was lucky to have a great vice-principal during my six-year term. Stephen Thomas, a Liberian, knew the ins  and outs of Liberian society. He was great in many ways. Stephen later became principal of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School in Monrovia. He was principal from 1980 - 1995.

As principal I worked with two Bishops, Michael Francis and Bishop Francis Carroll. Both were interesting, hard-working men.

In the spring of 1979 I returned to America and was at the Sangre Retreat Program in New Mexico. It was great. In 1980 I taught at St. Ed's High School in Lakewood. I returned to Liberia in July of 1980. Bishop Michael Francis offered me the opportunity to be Superintendent of Catholic Schools in Liberia. I enjoyed this job very much. It allowed me to travel all over Liberia. I secured supplies for the schools - Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, etc. with "UNESCO." Items ordered were paper, binders, pens, Xerox materials, etc. I once ordered for 96 schools and had a $300,000 order. UNESCO was fantastic. These supplies greatly helped the Liberians. I was Superintendent for 4 years. I traveled around helping the schools improve and getting them what they needed. In the spring of 1984 I decided to leave Liberia. I left because my car had been shot up and there were roadblocks everywhere.

My experience in Liberia was tremendous. The people are very prayerful and good people. For recreation one could swim, play tennis, read, and visit others. The beaches were fantastic. I developed as a person and consider myself lucky to have been in Liberia. The Liberians are great people. After 1980 they had poor leaders in Doe and Thompson. Many Liberians were victims of the coup and eventually left the country. 

Since 1962 the following Brothers and Priests of the Holy Cross have left an impression with the Liberians: Brothers Theophane Scmitt, CSC, Donald Allen, CSC, Chester Rachel, CSC, Austin Maley, CSC, Vincent Groz, CSC, Francisco Drury, CSC, Martin Abel, CSC, Jerome Aschbrenner, CSC, James Kozak, CSC, Dennis Wan Gernert, CSC, Edward Foken, CSC, Robert Salzman, CSC, Anthony McGalla, CSC, Fulgence Dohrty, CSC, William Healy, CSC, Edward_ Daily, CSC, David Naples, CSC, Donard Steffes, CSC, John Zoglmann, CSC, Paul Clark, CSC, Father Charles Mahoney, CSC, Father Louis Rink, CSC, Thomas Dillman, CSC, James Newberry, CSC, and Edwin Mattingly, CSC.

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