Jurell Sison: Searching For Purpose

By Brenden Hancock, John Carroll University

When you walk into his apartment, it becomes evident the kind of man that he is. An acoustic guitar hanging on the wall, modern paintings scattered throughout, a handful of candles and a triathlon bike leaning up against the dresser; there is a casual yet distinguished feel that fills the space. He enjoys tea, not coffee, and one would never mistake him for the contrary. But take a closer look and you will find more than what reveals itself on the surface about this young man.

Jurell MurphyJurell Sison, now 24, of Cleveland, OH, is a first generation Filipino-American whose long and arduous journey has landed him back at John Carroll University, finishing up his master’s degree in Theology and Religious Studies. While working as a Graduate Assistant and Resident Minister on campus, he is also applying to Ph.D programs in Systematic Theology, and running an organization he founded called “The Living Person.”

“I’ve always been a pretty creative person,”Jurell says, which he credits his grandmother for instilling in him. Throughout much of high school he enrolled in numerous art classes, including architecture, and dreamed of it one day being his career. Although he eventually deemed the path “unrealistic,” his love for the arts and the metaphysical have never left his heart, illustrated by the various ornaments that decorate his apartment, including three marbled stones atop his coffee table that read, “Love,” “Harmony,” and “Hope” and more poetry books than one could read in a handful of summers.

Still destined to impact the world in a positive way, without having to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt, Jurell entered the seminary to see if the priesthood was perhaps his true calling.

Jurell’s relationship with God gained momentum after attending a number of retreats following his senior year of high school. His time spent on these mental getaways told him a lot about himself and instilled in him new values, values he now felt he could express without the fear of being judged by others. It was these trips as well that Jurell credits, “made me into the man I am today.”

Thanks to the love of his life, Bridget Dolan, Jurell’s time spent in the seminary was short lived. “I wanted to get married,” Jurell says, “It just wasn’t my calling.” Now happily engaged, the two had been classmates since grade school, and actually “dated” for a brief weekend in the seventhgrade, but it wasn’t until Jurell was in the seminary that they decided to give it another go, this time without their parents driving them to dates.

Though Jurell’s life in the seminary was behind him, his love for God and ministry was not. He transferred to John Carroll, where Bridget was a student. He majored in English Literature, while still minoring in Religious Studies. If he became a teacher, he said, he could still get married and spread God’s word.

Jurell is the kind of person who is always looking to improve, not only himself, but the people around him. He realizes that within each of us there is something great, and he wants people to realize that.

While still in graduate school, Jurell started an organization called “The Living Person.” Inspired by Fr. H. Paul Kim, a resident priest at John Carroll, who, in 2011, put together a team of students to run the Cleveland Marathon. Many of the runners who competed had never run a marathon before, not even a half-marathon, but they were motivated to show what the human person could do. Jurell was driven by what he had seen and wanted to make his own organization that stood to similar ideals.

As Jurell describes it, The Living Person, is “a community striving to better themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.” Though very much a faith-based community, anyone can join. Jurell finds that a more wholistic approach, improving both body and mind, is the most effective way of challenging people to be the “best-version-of-themselves.”

Though which PhD program Jurell will attend next fall is still uncertain, one thing is for sure, that he will continue to have a positive influence on the lives of many people if he continues to do the work that he does.

For more information on Jurell or The Living Person, see jurellsison.com and facebook.com/thelivingperson.

Programming for Teachers and Ministers: “Take What You Need”

I thought this simple piece of paper was brilliant for two reasons: (1) it was a passive program that allowed people to stop and think about–even if just for a few seconds–what they need in their lives and (2) it was great advertising for both John Carroll Campus Ministry and for The Living Person.

The original inspiration (from a facebook post)

I made a few “improvements.” The first thing I did was to add our logo at the top of the page. I also took some time to design a the contact portion featuring the facebook and twitter logos. This was also inspired by a tweet by CLE Clothing Co.  (Inspiration is everywhere! See picture below).  The most important addition was the contact info on the back of each tab. This took a some extra time but it well worth it especially if it has the possibility of reaching and inspiring more people through our social media pages.The rest as you can see was simply copied from the original project. It is a simple yet brilliant idea that has the potential of inspiring anyone who walks past.

The final product.

One of my co-workers, Mary Jane, posted about how it took her five minutes to decide whether she needed ‘patience’ or ‘strength’ for her day and as I began to think, I realized that this simple piece of paper, if people engage in it, brings us to examine who we are, where we are, and what we’re doing. These are some of the most important questions–not simply of the day–but of life. If this flyer moves a person to stop and reflect then we have indeed done our job and in the end the important thing isn’t which tab someone has pulled but that the person stopped their lives to think about…

who they are, where we are, and what they are doing.



Cut and paste… literally.
contact info on each tab
Front and back
Reflection by the drinking fountain
CLE Clothing Co. inspiration for our TLP facebook and twitter contact stubs

A New Cloud of Witnesses: A Review of John Allen

On October 5th, 2012, John Allen (Vatican correspondent for CNN and ABC) visited John Carroll University for a special conference: New Cloud of Witnesses: The Laity 50 Years After Vatican II.

John Allen, Vatican correspondent for CNN and ABC

He began with a powerful challenge to the audience: “We must begin to think globally or think dysfunctionally, those are our only options.” His presentation began with a challenge to see beyond our reality of Catholicism and concluded with some shocking statistics that would never allow us to forget about the global church again. This post will simply address a few of his ideas from the presentation.

Allen claimed that there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and only 67 million Catholics in America. Therefore, 6% of the world’s Catholics are American and the rest of them (94%) are “not like us. We tend to complain that the Church is not adapting to our American culture, yet we make up a very insignificant percentage of Catholic’s around the world.  Allen suggests that catering to every American need would be an injustice, “It’s just not who we are.” He provided another example, pointing out that the common Catholic American feels that Church is shrinking; yet, globally, the Church is experiencing “mammoth growth.” He claims that is it natural for Americans to feel this way especially with so many schools and parishes closing. This however is the exact behavior he concerned about. If we fail to think about the church as global, we will begin to see things dysfunctionally.

With the global church on the rise, experiencing unprecedented growth, Allen began to speak of the church’s impending issues. While the priest shortage is a common dilemma in the United States, it is an escalating issue in places such as Africa, Latin America, and even the Philippines. While it is easy rouse excitement in stages of “rapid growth,” it is even easier to forget about the problems it may cause. He uses the priest shortage as a primary example as the issue is significantly worse in third world countries. While the United States has a ratio of 1 priest to every 1,300 people, the sub-Sahara has a ratio of 1:5,500 and even worse, Latin America at 1:7,800. The question then remains: How do we administer sacraments effectively with such a shortage of priests? The problem becomes even more complex with countries such as the Philippines, which has over 7,000 islands. Will priests have to take boats to each individual island for people to experience the Holy Sacraments?

What struck me most was his statistic that 2/3 of the Catholic priests where in the global north and 2/3 of the Catholic population are in the global south. We are complaining about the shortage of priests yet it is our own culture that has the majority of them. He predicted that the number of priests in the global north will soon be an injustice to the global south. If we are truly a Church that “belongs to each other,” shouldn’t we send priests to Latin America?

While these are all questions that do not necessarily have an answer, they are questions that we must wrestle with as we keep the global church in mind. The church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is indeed our Church—and we need to start thinking about the church as a whole. Focusing solely on the issues in front of us gives us only a fraction of our story. We must begin to think globally—anything less is selfish and an injustice to who we are as the Catholic Church.