In what is now his first public homily as 97th Rector of the University of Santo Tomas, the Very Rev. fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., PhD spoke of hope as he welcomed over 12,000 new Thomasians in a virtual Mass to start the Freshmen Week.

Of hope and the certainty of God
The August 24, 2020 Mass that took place at the Santísimo Rosario Parish was held at a time when the National Capital Region is still grappling with the pandemic, which the Rector acknowledged as one of the most challenging events of modern history. To this, the Rector said that “The saying ‘It is only when we go through hell that we are able to find God’ becomes ultimately true. In the words of one writer, the fiercest agonies have the shortest reign, and I agree with him.”

“Despite the situation, we find joy in the simplest of things: in prayer, in everyday conversation, in the thought that we are alive and well and still able to learn and make things possible, in the truth that God sees everything, and that He will never forsake us.”

The Rector also took the opportunity to recognize the valiant efforts of people who are role models in this pandemic: “Iit is also in these trying times that we see the finest qualities in humanity, like perseverance or resiliency. I hope we get the blessings and the positive side of things.”

Of things missed and gained
Taking inspiration from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the former Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy acknowledged that the quarantine restrictions have made people “truly miss a lot. Activities…such as commuting to school everyday, eating your snacks in the canteen, going to the mall with your classmates to watch movies, group hugs, high fives, and beso-beso” have all ceased due to the need to prioritize health and safety.

Underscoring the importance of human interaction, the new Rector said: “Bilang mga tao, nais nating maka-daupang-palad ang ating kapwa sapagkat nararamdaman natin kaagad ang init ng pagtanggap ng ating kapwa sa atin kapag sila ay ating nakakamayan, nayayakap at nakakasalamuha. And how we miss those days when we were able to interact personally with our neighbors, and we have probably taken all these simple joys for granted because we have been used to doing them everyday.”

Of the role of the family
Speaking to both the freshmen and their families who were also watching the livestream, fr. Ang shared his reflections on the important role that the family plays: “We know that being close to them during these uncertain times gives us comfort and hope that we may be going through tough times, but what really matters is the knowledge that we can actually get by when we are together.”

A virtual welcome
The Mass served as an opportunity for the Rector to impart his blessing to the freshmen, who were represented by Regina Rya Fe R. Peralta of the Faculty of Pharmacy in petitioning the Rector.

The Rector expressed these words of assurance to the new students: “the road ahead may be a bit rough, and the current situation might take some time to getting used to, but it also presents numerous opportunities to discover and successfully navigate new and exciting learning experiences.

“So freshmen, run, walk, go, and try to achieve your dreams. To all the freshmen, I wish you all the best. We pray for your safety, and once more, welcome to the University of Santo Tomas,” the Rector added.

More than 12,000 freshmen enrolled this Academic Year 2020-2021 in the University’s different faculties, colleges, institutes, and schools. Due to continued restrictions on face-to-face classes, the University decided to adopt the Enriched Virtual Mode, where distance education comes in both online and offline forms.

The new breed of Thomasians will have their virtual Freshmen Orientation activities during the entire week, with orientation videos, talk shows, and a virtual UST campus tour powered by Minecraft spread over the next five days.