During the August 1, 2017 (Tuesday) Opening Exercises for Academic Year 2017-2018, the value of Catholic educational institutions in a changing world was stressed, in both the homily during the Misa de Apertura and the Discurso de Apertura, both held in the Santísimo Rosario Parish.
The coveted presence of the Holy Spirit
In his homily, Most Rev. Roberto C. Mallari, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, and the Chair of the Episcopal Commission for Catechesis and Catholic Education of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, reminded the community that “if our educational attainment makes untouchable, it is not a gift from God.
“Before we can fill our minds with knowledge from the sciences and arts, it is significant to first be filled with the Holy Spirit’s presence. It is the Holy Spirit that allows us to create magnanimous change in humanity through education,” said Bishop Mallari.
The Thomasian bishop stressed that knowledge and skills were not the sole aims of Catholic education, but more so the inculcation of the values of docility and humility and the yearning to be filled with God’s presence.
The misuse of gifts
“If knowledge and education make us divided, make us proud, make us indifferent with one another, then knowledge is not the fruit of the Spirit. If our skills and educational attainment make us untouchable, then it is not of God. If our educational institution builds high walls that differentiate the rich and poor, learned and unlearned, fortunate and unfortunate instead of building bridges, then we lose sight and forget who we are and what we are,” warned Bishop Mallari.
He called on the community to practice communion and be there for one another, to live out truly the nature of Catholic educational institutions.
Of old and new treasures
Reflecting on the first year of implementation of the Senior High School curriculum in the University, Assoc. Prof. Pilar I. Romero, PhD, the inaugural Principal, highlighted that managing the country’s largest private senior high school (at 7,947 students as of press time), is a story of how old and new treasures” come together.
“I make use of treasures old and new to accompany us in our journey towards excellence and virtue. New treasures come in the form of unexplored talents of administrators, teachers and learners who when they were brought out and harnessed, bore fruits of excellence…in the form of approaches that veer away from what Pope Francis would call mere technicism and would instead emphasize virtue as the highest form of excellence. Old treasures come in the form of the University’s time-tested commitment to truth, to charity, faith, hope and love, which we in the SHS, devoutly promote by the testimony of our words and life. Old treasures come into the form of my years of experience as teacher, administrator and most especially as servant of the Church,” Romero said.
The Senior High School’s size, Romero said, “allows the university to offer thousands of learners their academic training as well as formation in values, thus increasing its circle of influence. These learners, steeped in the values the university staunchly advocates will, with fervent hope, become advocates for social transformation anchored in the Gospel. At the more practical level, our size kept the university afloat amidst the turbulent waters of the K-12 transition. Our faculty members are able to continue with their vocation to mentor the young and share with them the wisdom gained through years of scholarship because the Senior High School has 102 grade 12 sections and 88 grade 11 sections, enough to absorb tenured faculty members who are without teaching load.”
The size of the Senior High School also opened doors for innovations to be made, including in its management. With Grade 12 students now distributed in the different buildings where their prospective tertiary degree programs are housed, the Strand Chairs are empowered through what Romero called as “Distributed Leadership,” in which the strands, under the chairs, are semi-autonomous. In this way, the Strand Chairs are empowered and trusted to make decisions on the academic welfare of the students and facilitate the communication between the strand they handle—which is housed in a different building—and the mother unit, which remains in the Blessed Buenaventura G. Paredes, O.P. Building.
Romero stressed that a challenge facing the Church today is not moral relativism, but moral individualism, in which young people profess their faith but act in a contrary manner. This phenomenon is made worse, however, by the youth’s lack of realization that the disconnect between their professed beliefs and actions exists. Faced with this new reality, Romero called on her fellow educators to remain true to the Catholic teachings and help form the next generation, using old and new treasures as best as they can.