“JPIC Scholarship Committee Fellowship/Despedida for Fr. Joel”, by JPIC Scholarship Committee/ Jean Chavez

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In the spirit of celebrating friendship through a shared mission of touching the lives of others through skills training and education, the SSAP-JPIC Scholarship Committee yearly holds an informal get-together of pot-luck lunch lovingly prepared by its members. Held last March 13 at the residence of Carlos and Mariza del Rosario, the gathering was special as it marked the despedida for Father Joel Sulse, OFM, who will be on a three year study leave in Rome to pursue Spiritual Theology.

Father Joel’s ties with the Scholarship Committee date back to his pre-Diaconate days over ten years ago. As parish priest and spiritual adviser, Father Joel was a fixture in some of the scholars’ monthly meetings teaching the Ten Commandments and its application to daily life, highlighted by an Inter-Active Mass to deepen appreciation of the Eucharistic celebration. Also, he gave meaningful insights on Advent, the Lenten season and Easter to allow the scholars to grow more in faith and love.

Also present during the lunch despedida were the SSAP Mother Butler Mission Guilds’ Small Altar Linens Ministry members. Father Joel installed the group two years ago to undertake the care and maintenance through proper laundering/ironing weekly of over a hundred delicately sewn and embroidered small altar linens used during the masses in and outside the parish. The party was not complete without the Socio-Pastoral workers, the Scholarship Committee’s desk front liners who oversee/monitor the scholars’ progress and needs, who likewise joined the fun.

Everyone was welcomed and acknowledged for their sumptuous pot-luck contribution. Though most guests knew each other, or see each other in church and parish affairs, each member was asked to introduce herself. It was an effective way of being on a first name basis with acquaintances amidst animated conversation.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. The mélange of fresh lilac hydrangeas and dainty chartreuse and white peonies, colorful berries, tiny green leaves, baby’s breath, etc. clustered in vase and basket centerpieces atop round tables covered with linens of the same color theme, elegantly laid out glasses and plates, shining silverware, candle lights flickering and exuding warmth and joy, delicious array of dishes and tempting desserts, the setting set the mood for a touching story to unfold. A new leaf in his book of life was turned, and Father Joel felt humbled by the honor accorded to him.

He thanked everyone for their love and support in shaping his life as a pastor. Just as he will remember his parishioners in his daily supplications, Father Joel asked for prayers as he immerses himself to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language, Italian, in his quest to deepen his Franciscan Spirituality to better serve his congregation.

Two pots of long-stemmed white and purple phalaepnopsis sprays and small, round cakes with lilac icing were brought out to commemorate the birthdays of JPIC Scholarship Committee members Menchu Bautista and Sister Marisa Lichauco amidst applause and singing. As the candles were blown signifying cheers to more good years ahead, we thanked our hostess Mariza for her graciousness and hospitality. It was an afternoon of camaraderie and goodwill. Yes, to break bread… to share food… to come to the table… is an offering, a gift of oneness and gratitude.

Pleas for Educational Fund Assistance
The SSAP Foundation allocates a yearly budget of P 1.5 million for the JPIC Scholarship Committee, making Santuario de San Antonio perhaps the only parish with a scholarship program of this scope. Inasmuch as the Committee would like to give all out support for the college education of cash-strapped students, the rising cost of finishing a four-year course would limit the number of students from marginalized families who could benefit from the program. Pushing short term ten month vocational/technical courses have become the more beneficial approach to immediate employment to augment a family’s meager resources.

However, the JPIC Scholarship Committee cannot close its doors to deserving students aspiring for a college degree. Inadequate income, job termination, illness, etc. of the family’s breadwinner are drawbacks which can be surmounted, thanks to donors who have responded to letters of appeal to support struggling college students. Much is expected from those who have more to give. We appeal to our parishioners from the neighboring villages to go over the background of each college student and help them finish their last year in college.

The PJIC Scholarship Committee, as a matter of policy, does not acept full college scholarships because of the huge tuition expense involved in four-year course. But, time and again, rules were bent to accommodate qualified and deserving students.

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