Faith, family, love, and joy.
These are the things that have guided Francesca Ty Abellera’s life and forged a life-long connection to the community at St. Thomas More in Lynnwood.
Francesca’s two children currently attend St. Thomas More School and have received tuition assistance from the Fulcrum Foundation. “I really appreciate the Fulcrum Foundation,” Francesca said. “I didn’t know programs like this existed for schools. When you think about education, you want the best. I wanted a mix of academics, family, and faith formation. And that’s what I found here.”
The Abellera history with the St. Thomas More community began with Francesca’s parents.
“My family emigrated here from the Philippines in 1980,” Francesca explained. “My aunt, who we ended up living with, was a parishioner at St. Thomas More and we would go to church with her.”
The community at St. Thomas welcomed Francesca’s family with open arms. “When you come to a new country as an immigrant, you don’t always have a lot of resources and we were trying to build our lives. Our community at St. Thomas would bring us groceries and check in on us, they included us in church ministry.”
The connection to St. Thomas More’s community was so strong, that Francesca’s family continued to go to church there even after they moved to Shoreline and Francesca began attending St. Luke School. Francesca’s parents started a prayer group at St. Thomas’ on Friday nights and held immigration classes for new immigrant families in the community.
“I didn’t appreciate it when I was little, but now I can see the huge impact those classes made for families,” Francesca said.
Then, in 2007, Francesca’s parents came up with an incredible idea: an intercultural festival honoring the diverse cultures in the St. Thomas More community.
“My parents wanted to celebrate the diversity of our community,” Francesca said. “This was an idea borne of love and joy.”
Now, 15 years later, the intercultural festival has grown into an enormous celebration of cultural pride, with table displays, dances and performances, and more than 30 vendors. Francesca organized the 2022 festival, which came with its own challenges coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We really weren’t sure the festival was going to happen this year,” Francesca said. “We only had a couple of months to throw everything together. But we made it happen and we had over 600 attendees!”
The festival has had an incredible impact on the school and parish community. “The festival is about truly embracing our cultures and also embracing our community—which extends beyond the walls of the school and the parish,” Francesca said.
“It’s really about being together,” she continued. “Where sometimes we see a lot of division, this festival allows people to come together as a community. We are helping our children and our youth to appreciate diversity and appreciate being together. When people come to the festival, they see all the beautiful cultures, dances, displays, and histories. And they see what we all contribute to our community.”
Francesca is already excited about next year’s intercultural festival at St. Thomas More and the chance to bring her community together. “I think the [Catholic school] community becomes your extended family,” she said. “That’s what pulls me back to this community. The families, the administration, the teachers—they really care about the school and they’re so invested in every child’s education. It makes a huge difference.”