The Association of Catholic Universities of the Philippines (ACUP) held its National Conference from February 23 to 25, 2023, at Saint Louis University in Baguio City. With the theme, “Embracing the Spirit of Synodality: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” the conference coincided with ACUP’s 50th year of establishment and had the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Most Rev. Charles John Brown, D.D., as the keynote speaker.
The conference theme was a response to Pope Francis’ invitation to dialogue about shaping the future of our planet through an educational process aimed at developing a new universal solidarity and a more welcoming society.
“I think we need to challenge ourselves to think about creating innovative ways to bring more young people from [socio-economic] sectors D and E into Catholic universities in an effort to inclusivize our university ecology […] to give them a place at the table, and to include them in our synodal process,” said the Apostolic Nuncio.
Rooting this idea in the context of higher education, the Undersecretary of Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education Prof. Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi, discussed “Contextualizing Synodality: Mission of The Catholic Universities towards the Formation of Educational Alliance in Global Compact.”
“Our hope is that our Catholic education can provide more, to be more culturally creative, more tuned to society, more open and inclusive, capable of patient listening, constructive dialogue, and better, mutual understanding,” emphasized Alibrandi.
In turn, the Adamson University Center for Research and Development Director Rev. Fr. Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, C.M., highlighted applications of synodality in the local context during his lecture on “Localizing Synodality: Mission of the Catholic Universities in the Philippines towards Humanization in Education through Research.”
“True education for our times should be social, dialogical, and synodal. Its process is conversational, privileging the specific location and voices of each student, especially the most vulnerable. In short, education can only be done in the spirit of synodality, of patient listening, constructive dialogue and open understanding,” shared Fr. Pilario.
As an emerging area of study, research on synodality was presented in the segment “Sailing Across the Regions: Perspectives and Practices from ACUP Member Universities on Synodality” by University of the Assumption Director for Research and Planning Dr. Arnel Sicat and Saint Louis University Religious Department faculty member Dr. Rico Jacoba.
Panel discussions on multidisciplinary topics were held on the first day, such as, “Advancing Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Equal and Equitable Standing for Women in Education” with St. Paul University Quezon City Vice President for Academics Dr. Helen Rigor, Holy Trinity University Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Loreta Homo, and University of the Immaculate Conception researcher Ms. Kristine Mae Adlaon; “A Church in Synergy: The Dynamics of the Youth and Family in a Synodal Church” with Angeles University Foundation Assistant Director for Christian Praxis Mr. Brent Braganza and Holy Name University Center for Religious Education and Mission academic staff Prof. Josefina Cemine; and “Weaving Culture and Religion, Its Implications for a Listening Church” with Holy Angel University Officer-in-Charge – President Mr. Leopoldo Valdes, Jr., and Xavier University Executive Assistant to the President Ms. Libby Josephine Abesamis, DPA.
For Day 2, Commission on Higher Education Office of Student Development and Services Director IV Dr. Edna Imelda Legazpi, Catholic Educational Association of Caceres and Libmanan President Rev. Fr. Wilmer Joseph Tria, and Philippine Association of Practitioners of Student Affairs and Services (PAPSAS, Inc.) National President Dr. Renelyn B. Salcedo discussed “National Initiatives in the Humanization of Education: A Philippine Setting.”
In another session, Climate Change Commissioner Atty. Rachel Anne Herrera and Worldwide Fund for Nature Philippines – Education for Sustainable Development Unit Environmental Education Officer, Ms. Ruthie Maye Padilla tackled “Multi-Sectoral Initiatives on the Care of our Common Home and Environment.”
As with the past ACUP National Conferences, a community engagement activity happened on Day 2 with the Sablan women of Barangay Banangan, Benguet. This came after the panel discussion titled “Journeying Together as One Community: Sustainable Practices to Care for our Common Home” with Saint Mary’s University Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Services for Men Dr. Felipe Nantes, Jr., University of San Agustin Center for Religious Studies Director Fr. Rodel Magin, O.S.A., and Notre Dame of Dadiangas University Community Development Coordinator Mr. Rabindranath Porsuelo.
Capping off the second day was the ACUP Presidents’ Forum on Synodality, which was led by the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary Rector Rev. Fr. Quirico T. Pedregosa, Jr., O.P., with the special participation of Hon. Mark Go, District Representative of Baguio and Chairperson of the Committee on Technical Education.
For Day 3, parallel sessions of workshops on Teaching, Research, Community Engagement, and Youth Empowerment were held. Included in the closing ceremonies was a memorial tribute video played for former ACUP Secretary-General (1990 to 2020) and former UST Office of Public Affairs Director Assoc. Prof. Giovanna V. Fontanilla, Ph.D., and ACUP Board Member (2017 to 2021) and former Holy Angel University President Dr. Luís María Calingo.
CBCP Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education Chairman His Excellency Most Rev. Jose Elmer I. Mangalinao, D.D., in a message read by ACUP Board Member and Adamson University President Fr. Marcelo Manimtim, C.M., shared that “As we gather for the 2023 ACUP National Conference, we respond to the call of Pope Francis to rediscover the synodal nature of our Church by our communion, participation and mission. During these days of reflections, prayers and trainings, let us allow the Holy Spirit to direct us to unearth the hidden blessings in us and in our universities. We allow ourselves to be moved so that we may be open to be in communion with God and with one another. We allow the Spirit to empower us with his gifts so that we may wholeheartedly give our participation and cooperation. And we allow Christ to permeate our entire being to be committed to carry out the mission of Christ, the mission to be blessings to one another.”
Baguio Bishop Most Rev. Victor Bendico, D.D., San Beda University Rector-President Rev. Fr. Aloysius Maranan, O.S.B., and Adamson University President Rev. Fr. Marcelo Manimtim, C.M., served as mass presiders in the Eucharistic Celebrations for days one to three. Catholic Social Media Awards 2022 Male Influencer winner Fr. Fiel Pareja served as the Master of Ceremonies for Days 1 and 2, while for Day 3 it was Saint Louis University Professor Andrew Macalma, Ph.D.
As part of the conference, a general assembly was held to elect the ACUP Board of Directors and Members for 2023 to 2025. SLU President Rev. Fr. Gilbert Sales, C.I.C.M., is the President, UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., is the Vice President, University of the Immaculate Conception President Sr. Marissa Viri, R.V.M., is the Corporate Secretary, De La Salle University President Br. Bernard Oca, FSC, is the Treasurer, and UST Office of Public Affairs Director Asst. Prof. Joreen T. Rocamora, Ph.D., is the Secretary-General. Members of the Board include Adamson University President Rev. Fr. Marcelo Manimtim, C.M., Notre Dame of Dadiangas University President Br. Manuel De Leon, F.M.S., Notre Dame of Marbel University President Br. Paterno Corpus, F.M.S., San Beda University President Rev. Fr. Aloysius Maranan, O.S.B., and University of Saint Louis – Tuguegarao President Rev. Fr. Macwayne Maniwang, C.I.C.M.
The ACUP Secretariat remains under the care of the UST Office of Public Affairs.