A Tribute to Late Arc-bishop Emeritius Michael Kpakala Francis, a Great Preacher, Teacher, Humanitarian and Advocate of Social Justice
Good by Bishop, you did well on earth. Now that God has called you from labor to rest, I say good bye or as the Mano people say, ko lapee aye or ko to aye, meaning we shall meet in the morning or tomorrow.
It is not how long a man or woman lives, but how well he or she lives. You lived very well. For example, your work in promoting education in rural Liberia, particularly in Nimba County, my county, was a great contribution to meeting the manpower needs of Liberia. The high school started by you, the St. Mary’s High School produced men and women who have made their marks in Liberia and abroad, including but not limited to, His Honor Francis Saye Korkpor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia; the Late George Bolo, the first Director-General of the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation; Dr. Saye Parwon, a well-known medical doctor who has served the Liberian Government in a number of medical positions, the Catholic Church as head of its health program and now works with the World Health Organization; Prof. James Kaye, a well-known Liberian Demographer; Dr. Joseph Z. D. Korto, former chief education officer of Nimba County and former Minister of Education; Hon. Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae, Governance Commission, the first known Liberian scholar who authored a book on Decentralization of the Liberian Government; Siapha Kamara, a well-known NGO guru in Ghana; medical doctors, Nau Domah, Kou Nehway Gbokolo; Dr. Kalifa Bility, a world class public health and educational expert, who has worked in South Africa, Botswana, and United States in several academic and other positions and now serves the Liberian Government as
Deputy Minister of Education for Research and Planning; Mrs. Rebecca Johnson Moore, a well-respected expert on HIV/AIDS awareness; Hon. Christiana Dagadu, Superintendent of Nimba County; His Honor James Zota, Resident Circuit Judge of the First Judicial Circuit, Montserrado County; Mrs. Yah Guasi, head of the Catholic Health Secretariat; Cornelius Doe Sarplah, a well-known civil engineer and a consultant in his field; James Bunadin, a computer expert working with the United Nations in Rome Italy; James Bartuah, former head of the UN-Habit Program in Liberia; David Logan, Coordinator of the Global Fund Program in Liberia for HIV, Malaria and TB; Augustus Guanue, an award winning electrical engineer and head of the rural energy program in Liberia, Gonwokay Myers, Country Representative of the World Food Program in Sierra Leone, Atty. Adolphus Karnuah, County Attorney of Grand Gedeh County, Hon. Kehleboe Gongloe, former Assistant Minister of Labor and a well-known mathematician and statistician who has taught at many institutions of higher learning in Liberia, Hon. Edith Gongloe Weh, a well-known Liberian journalist and former Superintendent of Nimba county, amongst others.
Your contribution to girls’ education was outstanding and will always be remembered. You went all over Nimba County fetching for girls to give them education. Not only did you establish the Queen of Peace Convent in Saniquellie, you recruited and admitted girls on the convent from poor families who could never have dreamed of being in a boarding school. You did so by finding scholarships for them from sources in Liberia and abroad. How could have Kou-Gbokolo, a daughter of a poor peasant farmer, for example, become a medical doctor without your financial and moral support? This is, virtually, the same story with Grace Carson Quoiyee, the first girl to graduate from St. Mary’s High School and one of the few female mathematicians that Liberia has produced and many other girls who were educated at St. Mary’s High School in Sanniquellie, Nimba County. You did not allow any girl to drop out of high school for lack of tuition. Two of the female superintendents of Nimba County, Edith Gongloe Weh and Christiana Dagadu, are products of St. Mary’s High School and Queen of Peace Convent. This is to your credit. This is why most of the Alumni of St. Mary’s High School will always better remember you as
Father Francis. You were truly a father to the children of St. Mary’s High School. When they call you father, they are reminded of the past, when you recruited them from their villages and gave them such quality of education that their natural fathers could not afford to give them. When the children of St. Mary’s High School call you Father Francis, they are reminded of the virtues of honesty, hard work and excellence, self-lessness, humility, kindness, nationalism and patriotism, amongst others. It is these virtues that have helped all St. Mary’s High School graduates to excel in whatever they do. Good bye Father Francis, we, your children, will miss you very much.
Your work for social justice and human rights can only be compared to the Great Albert Porte. You were a fearless critic of bad governance, inequality and injustice in Liberia. For your work in defense of the poor and politically disadvantaged, you were not loved by past Presidents of Liberia, from Tubman to Taylor. I remember that in 1984, when visiting you at your office, you showed me a letter that Chairman Samuel Doe had written you banning you from coming to his office, for the fearless manner in which you spoke to him, whenever you met him, individually or as a member of the Liberian Council of Churches. I believe that the only President of Liberian President who remained your friend until your passing is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Is it because you were functionally dead during her regime? Unfortunately, the world will never know. Your outspokenness on critical issues of human rights abuse, injustice, inequality and bad governance through your speeches, writings, especially your pastoral letters helped to create awareness in the Catholic Church and the Liberian society. But go well because, by the quality of your advocacy, you multiplied yourself through the impact of your work on many young people and they will carry on from where you stopped.
Arch-Bishop, you were a true man of God, for what manner of man departs the world on the morning of the day of Pentecost. This, I believe, was a message from the Holy Father to the Liberian people, that you were His true servant.
Now for myself and the Gongloe family, I want to thank you for what you did for me and my family. You wanted me to be a priest. The Brothers of St. Louis wanted me to join their order. Because of your sermons, I preferred the priesthood and I was ready for it. My father agreed, but my mother did not agree
because she wanted me to bring forth grandchildren for her, being her first child. But just the thought that you felt that I could be a priest helped me to be more disciplined in my social conduct while at St. Mary’s. And so there was no girlfriend business on my agenda until I finished the University of Liberia. This was very helpful to me as I was not distracted and remained focused on developing my mind in order to be what I am today. Thank you Arch-Bishop.
Arch-Bishop, as a loving, fearless and courageous father, you stood up for me, when I was arrested, detained and severely tortured on the direct orders of President Charles Taylor for standing up for Liberian journalists and the poor. But for the steps you took along with Shiekh Kafumba Konneh leading efforts by the Inter-Religious Council, member of the mass media and other civil society actors in collaboration with the International Community, I could not have been alive today. You spoke and stood up for many others also, including those whom you did not know personally. There was nothing too big, too expensive or too risky for you to do for anyone, whom you knew, stood in need. This was truly Christ-like. For Christ told us that on the last day he will judge us for what we did for the least of his brothers, during our lifetime.
Arch-Bishop, the school that you established greatly helped me and two of my siblings, Edith Gongloe Weh and Kehleboe Gongloe. Whatever we have achieved and whatever we may achieve in the future is to your credit. I believe many families in Nimba County and other parts of Liberia stand in great debt of gratitude to you for the initiatives you took for the education of their children.
Arch-bishop Michael Kpakala Francis, father, teacher, humanitarian, advocate of peace, human rights, social justice, the rule of law, and good governance, you were truly a great man and a treasured gift to Liberia. Good bye Bishop! Go Well! You fought a good fight! Now it is time for you to rest. May your soul and the souls of all faithful departed rest in perfect peace and may light perpetual shine upon your soul.