|FR. STEIN..My River Jordan|
By Joey Escobar Class’74, Benefactor
About 5 years ago, my wife Vicky joined this religious pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Israel and adjoining ME countries. She proudly showed me her pictures aboard a local boat in the Sea of Galilee and in the banks of the Dead Sea. She talked about eating tilapia while in the Sea of Galilee… they called this fish “Jesus food”…at $30 a meal (tourist price of course!). While she asked me join her on this pilgrimage, I politely declined... ‘being the sinner that I am’. I wished her a great and meaningful visit to the birthplace of Christianity. It was to be the trip of a lifetime for her.
For a long time, I often wondered what the difference was between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. And what about the River Jordan? How are these bodies of water related?
Then a friend recently emailed me an article which answered many of my questions. In a compressed version, it reads like this:
A Tale of Two Seas
The Dead Sea is really a lake, not a sea. It’s so high in salt content that the human body can float easily. You can almost lie down and read a book! The salt in the Dead Sea is as high as 35% - almost 10 times the normal ocean water. And all that saltiness has meant that there is no life at all in the Dead Sea. No fish. No vegetation. No sea animals. Nothing lives in the Dead sea.
Now, what has this got to do with Fr.Thomas B. Steinbugler, or as we fondly call him Fr. Stein or Fr. Tom?
Fr. Stein, as we all know, is the principal architect of the Ateneo Scholarship Program. Since its official inception in 1968 (‘though the program was started years before that), he has been responsible for much of our Ateneo education. Through his tireless work, generosity and vision, Ateneo gave many of us the chance and opportunity to study at this beloved bastion of educational excellence. He believed in us. Took chances with us. He prayed with us. Served the country and the Lord with us. He was a big part of our success and witnessed our trials and tribulations as well. He has loved us unconditionally, serving so long and so selflessly as our personal priest, confidant and benefactor.
Many more exemplary educators assumed the roles of Fr. Stein at OAA after his term ended. We are just as grateful to them for their generosity.
But Fr. Stein’s vision is the source of many of our successes and has touched our lives in more ways than we can ever thank him.
HE IS MY RIVER JORDAN.
Now, where do we fit in this story, fellow scholars and now benefactors?
WE ARE THE SEA OF GALILEE.
We are fortunate enough to get assistance, knowledge, love and respect from our school and benefactors. But we didn’t just take these gifts.
We gave them forward - To our scholars. To the very bright but less endowed in life…. like us when we were younger, dreaming of a better life ahead for ourselves and for our family. The assistance, knowledge, love and respect we received…we passed it on. We became the outlets of these blessings now that we are able. We did not let them evaporate … as they would have in the Dead Sea.
AND OUR SCHOLARS?
They are the fishes that swim in our Sea of life….full of life, dreams, hope, potential, energy. As much they are thankful for the blessings we give them, they also give us meaning and purpose to our human life. They enrich us in return.
We opened our taps…and opened our floodgates to happiness.
I was there during the Benefactors and Scholars Gathering March 16. I picked up Fr. Stein from the Jesuit Residence at 230pm to escort him to the venue. I just arrived from LAX at 2am that day and didn’t sleep much. But I would not miss this chance to share these special moments with him and to see my scholar Trisha Garcia graduate with an ME degree cum laude.
I was stoked and honored to be Fr. Stein’s ‘alalay’ for the event, grateful that he survived his accident almost ½ year before. I actually took him to the restaurant where the incident happened. Together with Ms. Jolly Morata of OAA, we had lunch there several days before the accident occurred. She also requested me to assist Fr. Stein during the event. I was only too glad to oblige.
Fr, Stein was accorded another scholarship endowment by his grateful scholars during the event. The same was done for Fr. Nemy Que, our modern day River Jordan. A fitting tribute to both ... no doubt. Yet Fr. Stein, while extremely grateful, seemed mildly uncomfortable with all the accolades and “parangals” he was getting that night. His humble self and being “a man for others” was in full display. To lighten him up, I would crack some jokes and he would laugh in return. It was a most precious moment for me.
Then it was time to go back to the JR for his much needed rest, skipping dinner with the scholars. I escorted him to the car and bid him goodbye, promising to see him again before I leave for the USA.
Fr. Stein made me who I am. He taught me how to give. To share. To experience life. To have many outlets. He showed me how to be a Sea of Galilee.
He did the same to many of you. And All for the greater glory of God.
AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM.
He is OUR RIVER JORDAN.
THANK YOU OAA.
THANK YOU FR. STEIN!