For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
Joel Jijo, a 22-year-old youth, was motivated by this very verse. On May 29, 2021, Joel and his friends went boating in Canyon Lake, San Antonio. One of his friends had fallen out of the boat, and Joel jumped in to save him. Joel did not make it back to the vessel. Joel was the son of Jijo and Laila Puthenpura. Joel was very active and loved by all in his parish in Houston.
The news of his drowning has been difficult for his family, friends, and community to accept. While working as a software engineer in a multinational company, Joel was an active member of Anointing Fire Catholic Youth Ministries. He proclaimed Christ to many people across the globe. Every memory of Joel was consistent with his smile. In all he did, he selflessly lived the message of John 15:13. His spiritual maturity made him a favorite amongst all, as a son, friend, and brother. He was a beacon of the light of Christ for all he met.
Joel lived in holiness. His mother recalled that Joel would go to confession multiple times a week while also keeping the Eucharist as the center of each day. He is remembered by many as a saint who thirsted for the salvation of souls. A week before his death, Joel shared a video based on the scripture. In this video, he reminded us that "God has a plan for us." This video was an inspiration for many people to trust in God once again while facing the pandemic. Even in pain and suffering, he spread the love of Christ, openly acknowledging the plan of God.
Ainish Philip, the Global Youth Coordinator for Anointing Fire Catholic Ministries, recalls that Joel's thoughts consistently revolved around God. Having spoken a few days before his death, they discussed the importance of the salvation of souls. On his way back home, Joel told a friend his two wishes. His first wish was to bring his friends back to Christ. Joel had prayed fervently for this wish, often making sacrifices to do so. He slept on the floor, fasted, and offered prayers to see his friends become holy. His second wish was to become a saint.
Joel's mind always focused on the Lord. On his final journey, he discussed with his friends the importance of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. They had all made an oath to partake in Exodus 90, a rigorous fast, together. Did he know when he got into the boat that it would be the end? Like God's plan, it is unknown and beyond coincidence. Those who were close to him agree that though it was early, the Lord took him at the right time. We mourn in our hearts, but we also rejoice knowing that our beloved is interceding for us with the heavenly father.
Currently, many people are working towards the Catholic Church's recognition of Joel Jijo as a saint. Please join us in prayer as we continue to prepare for his sainthood.