Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Yellow Paperclip Meets Fr. Stein, a Jesuit Friend

Fr. Thomas B. Steinbugler, S.J. is a dear friend from many years back. After a wonderful prayerful and paperclippy Holy Week, I dropped by this Easter Sunday to give Fr. Stein a copy of my book as I had promised.

ur friendship started sometime around 1998 or 1999 in my sophomore year when I went to confession at the Gonzaga Chapel in the Ateneo. I don't remember what I had said, but it must have been significant enough for the kind Jesuit priest to slip me his calling card through the confessional box and invite me to breakfast the next day. I remember being pleasantly surprised. He read my mind (How will I know who you are...?) and reassuringly said: "I'll be the only old Caucasian fellow there."

Fr. Stein and I had breakfast at Pancake House along Katipunan Avenue the next morning. We shared sausages and pancakes, and thoughts about life. I can recall him saying that all Jesuits wish it were like the good ole days when they could have regular one-on-one talks with students, when they could build friendships with all of us. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. We took a tricycle back to campus. I remember the feeling of happy disbelief: Wow, did I really just have breakfast and share life stories with a priest? We became email buddies after that, with a healthy exchange of questions and stories about God, relationships, books and love. But eventually, we lost touch...

Until I tracked him down more than five years later (it was on my To-Do-List) and paid him a surprise visit in November 2004, just weeks after I found out about winning the PBBY-Salanga Prize. He is now with the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI) house in the Sonolux Building in Ateneo. I was the more surpised when he remembered me and our email conversations! After telling him my happy news, he gave me a practical, one-liner piece of advice: KEEP WRITING. He also told me to come back into his life every couple of years. I will.

As strange (or pretentious) as it sounds, I really think The Yellow Paperclip is meant to connect and reconnect people from different worlds. One of my mom's best friends, Tita Vicky Faicol, had worked with Fr. Stein at EAPI for many years. Tita Vicky's six-year-old nephew, Elijah, reads my story almost every night and named the Paperclip "Lorenzo". When I told him about the PBBY-Salanga Award, Fr. Stein asked if the prize is named after a certain Freddie Salanga. The late Alfrredo N. Salanga turns out to be an activist and archenemy of many American priests during his time in the Ateneo. How strange and cool is all this?!

Fr. Stein, I look forward to seeing you again soon. I hope you enjoyed the story. Thank you for your friendship throughout the years. I promise to keep in touch.


carl said...

yeah.. no doubt about his being one of the best people ever to dwell on this planet...thanks for having me view his picture, i didn't have the chance to have a picture of him..nevertheless, his words and smiles are kept in my heart...

CloudWoman said...

Hi Carl! You can contact Fr. Stein at :) I'm sure he'd be delighted to hear from you, yet another long-lost friend!