INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – Some of her creations are simple and delicious, like the delicious chocolate chip cookies she’s been making since she was 13.
Others are more elaborate and decadent, like the wedding cakes she creates or the snickerdoodle cookies that she fills with creme caramel inside.
And all of Lani Pascual’s creations are part of her recipe for adding extra portions of joy, faith and love to the world – a generously scented approach to life that’s known as “Bake It Forward.”
Although Pascual did not create the concept of Bake It Forward, the 47-year-old mother-of-two adopted it as a way to spread and share God’s love with others through the gift of products from bakery.
This includes the 50 gingerbread house kits that she and two friends made last Christmas for families in need of a little zest for life.
Pascual also donated the proceeds from her home bakery, The Stacked Cookie, to help a 13-year-old girl diagnosed with terminal cancer. The girl used the money to buy supplies to make bracelets which she sold as a fundraiser for the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
And when parents at Our Lady of the Greenwood School in Greenwood, Indiana order cookies from Pascual for their child to share with their classmates on their birthday, Pascual tells parents to donate to the school instead of paying for it.
“I tell people that God gave me the recipes, so they’re supposed to do His good job,” said Pascual, a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood ward. “I really try to use them to do good things.”
Afterwards, she added with a smile, “It’s funny where God takes you. “
After all, his original plan was to try to help and heal people as a doctor, not as a baker.
Growing up, Pascual had the kind of intelligence that gave hope to his mother, who was originally from the Philippines, and his father, who comes from a family with roots in this country.
“I was like all the kids in an Asian family who are good at math and science: ‘You should be a doctor,’” she recalls with a smile.
She became a pre-med student at Jesuit Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. – a pre-med student who loved to bake chocolate chip cookies and share them with her teachers.
A teacher saw how much Pascual enjoyed baking and sharing her cookies that she encouraged her to consider a career in baking.
Pascual also began to have doubts about her future as a doctor when she began filling out her medical school applications, and anything she could write about why she practiced this. profession was: “I love to help people. “
Instead, she earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan. There, she spent her free time writing recipes in a journal she received as a college graduation gift – from the teacher who encouraged her to become a baker.
She also made a lot of pastries including fresh wheat bread to save money. The mouthwatering smell of homemade bread was just one of the reasons that attracted another student named Andrew Rusiniak, living in the same dormitory, to her.
The ingredients and directions for a new life followed. The couple married in 2002. Pascual became a researcher and professor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, while Rusiniak began working as a researcher at Eli Lilly & Co.
The first of their two children, Jonah, was born in 2009 – a birth that also stoked Pascual’s longtime passion.
“Jonah is autistic,” she said The Criterion, Journal of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “I decided that of all the kids I had to teach, it should be him. I decided that I had to give up my teaching career. I felt that God was calling me to do something else. I had always baked and thought I could.
Her new plan blended in a surprisingly smooth way with part of her family history.
This is the story of his paternal grandmother, Ambrosia Delosantos.
“His name means ‘food of God, of the saints’,” said Pascual, whose own name translates to “Heavenly Easter”.
“My grandmother was also a teacher in the Philippines. My grandfather was a farmer recruited to leave the Philippines and come to Hawaii in 1946 to work in the pineapple and sugar cane fields, ”she said.
“In Hawaii, my grandmother helped support the family with a bakery in her home. She was known for a lot of service with her bakery. She helped families in need. When you start to cook, you learn that there are a lot of people in need.
Pascual loves this bond with his grandmother. She likes that they share the Bake It Forward approach.
A special ingredient passed down through generations of her family brings it all together for Pascual – an ingredient that perfumes her life in such a rich and satisfying way that she becomes moved to talk about it. She once shared it with her sons Jonah, now 12, and Samuel, 8.
“There is something very beautiful about the Catholic faith,” she said as tears came to her eyes. “This is the tradition of love that was given to me by my grandparents and my parents, and I want to pass it on to my children. I like that my children are in Catholic school and that they want to help me in what I do.
She then shares another story of the influence of family in her life.
“My mother’s parents also shaped my Catholic faith and ideals,” she said. “My mother’s father, Fernando Nang-is, was the first in his village to welcome and accept Spanish Catholic missionaries. He was a municipal councilor in his tribe. After his conversion, my grandfather built the first school in his village.
For Pascual, faith and family have always been closely linked. His faith leads him to believe that we are all part of the same family.
“The reason we’re here is to be there for each other,” she said. “When you think of the life of Jesus, he is the one who is there for everyone. He was there for us in life and death. This is the biggest lesson. The best thing we can do is be there for each other.
– – –
Shaughnessy is associate editor of The criterion, Journal of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.