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 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.