A mass for Francisco Sionil Jose in a chapel with a thread to his life

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THE Abbey Church of Our Lady of Montserrat in Mendiola, Manila came to existence as an Abbey in 1924, the same year that the late National Artist Francisco Sionil Jose was born. The Church serves as the college chapel of the Colegio de San Beda, where Jose’s daughter Brigida “Jette” Jose Bergkamp used to teach.

On January 14, at the Abbey Church of Our Lady of Montserrat, the Jose family offered a mass commemorating the ninth day of F. Sionil Jose’s death last January 6 and the 40th day of Jette’s passing.

F. Sionil Jose and his wife Maria Teresa “Tessie” Jovellanos married in 1949. Their children include Jette, Evelina Cichy, Antonio, Eddie, Eugene, Alex, and Nikko, as well as 11 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

At the mass, the Jose children said their mother wished to thank all their friends, from here and abroad, who offered prayers for their father. “Our mother wants you to remember our father and how much he loved this country.”

They added that their father died without finishing his last novel, “Esperanza.”

The mass was officiated by Rev. Tarcisio Ma. H. Narciso OSB, chairman of the Board of Trustees of San Beda University.

Fr. Narciso was the seventh abbot of the Abbey from 2001 to 2013. He served as principal of San Beda High School and rector of San Beda College Alabang.

“Let us pray that Sir Frank and Jette may now live happily,” Fr. Narciso said.

He mentioned that “Frank and Tessie were married for 70 years” and that their love was not weakened, adding that the two addressed each other as “Honey” or “Babe” and would hold hands going to church.

Fr. Narciso also said that Frank and Tessie encouraged their children to love books and encouraged them to write. “They exposed their children to different neighborhoods like Tondo. Frank told his children to give back to their country.”

The Zoom mass was attended by many of Jose’s friends, including writers, entrepreneurs, artists, university professors, and members of the diplomatic and publishing community.

Perhaps, in summing up the life of F. Sionil Jose, Fr. Narciso recited the theme song, “Fill the world with love” from the film “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” about a teacher who loved his students so much.

…In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise

At the moment of my life when the world is new

And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me

To be brave and strong and true

And to fill the world with love my whole life through

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset

At the moment of my life when the night is due

And the question I shall ask only God can answer

Was I brave and strong and true?

Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?