Day #4 of our focus on Alumni! Today’s alum is the lovely Isabelle Wijangco, Class of ’04.
“Going to school takes on a meaning far beyond arithmetic and diagramming sentences when a student feels loved. I know I am loved every minute of every day. I know this not simply because Father Pat would look down at his watch at the end of every homily, exclaim the time, and all of the us sitting in the cathedral knew it was our turn to exclaim, “And you are loved!” And I know this not simply because Sr. Raphael remembers every student’s name from every class and every year. I know I am loved because I grew up at Ss. Simon and Jude. As consequence, I grew up with the nuns and priests, teachers, and staff as role models for living a life of faith in God, for cultivating kindness in our hearts, and for having love as the foundation for understanding the world. Learning to see the world through a lens of friendship, compassion, and discipleship at such a young age cannot be replaced.
My family has remarked many times how grateful we are to be part of SSJ. Now that I am a little older, I can see how those lessons about loving others that were taught to us since kindergarten make SSJ graduates the leaders who will go on to build communities of empathy. This is because students at SSJ are taught that living a life of faith is not a passive process. It is an active choice. It is about holding the hand of the person next to you in the Our Father no matter who he or she may be, just as Mrs. Manos taught us in first grade. It is about schools where you don’t need to look a certain way to have friends, just as my classmate wrote in our 8th grade yearbook. I remember an older graduate from SSJ telling me that her high school teacher said that he could always tell which students had come from SSJ because they made sure they became friends with everyone. These simple lessons on living a life in unity with others stay with us.
As a graduate of SSJ, I understand that as I go through the world today, I am never alone. Not simply am I part of the SSJ family. I am part of the world itself. God is the potter, and we are the clay, and the clarity that comes with understanding this has never let me down. To have learned so early on that I am loved and guided at all times has made all the difference in how I feel fulfilled and whole on a daily basis. And SSJ gave me the words to pray for this guidance. Whether in moments of calm or stress, I can close my eyes and breathe in Father O’Grady’s prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” To my whole Ss. Simon and Jude family, for the many prayers said together and for the daily love shown to all students, thank you.”