The UST Graduate School program on Social Pastoral Communication under the Theology Cluster held on May 11, 2021, the second memorial lecture in honor of Rev. Fr. Franz-Josef Eilers, S.V.D., Ph.D., founder of the said program.
The virtual event was organized in partnership with the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Office of Social Communication (FABC-OSC) and Office of Education and Faith Formation (FABC-OEFF). Among those who attended were representatives from the Church hierarchy in Vatican and in Asia, various members of the UST academic community, students and friends of Fr. Eilers and also students who are under the said academic program at present.
After a slideshow presentation featuring the photos and videos of Fr. Eilers to commemorate his birthday, UST Graduate School Dean Prof. Michael Anthony C. Vasco, Ph.D., recalled how Fr. Eilers paved the way for the establishment of the Social-Pastoral Communication Program in UST.
“In the early years of the Program, negotiations, mediations and even pastoral care were given by him in the time when it was most needed, especially in its early years of formation. Thus explains why the program continues to grow up to the present time,” recalled Dean Vasco.
Bishop of San Jose Nueva Ecija and Chairman of FABC Office of Social Communication Most Rev. Roberto C. Mallari thanked the organizers and participants of the webinar. In his welcome remarks, he cited Fr. Eilers’ significant contributions to FABC especially in the field of social communications. He also shared how Fr. Eilers helped him personally and through his books. Affirming his unique role in the Church in Asia, Bishop Mallari remarked that “Fr. Eilers is one of the fathers, if not the father of social communication in Asia.” He also added that in this time of the pandemic, [means of] social communications can be of much help to the ministry of the Church and establish connections across the globe.
Pointing out three important achievements of Inter Mirifica, the Pontifical Council for Culture Secretary and Titular Bishop of Drivastum Most Rev. Paul Tighe cited how Fr. Eilers was able to reflect these in his ministry. First, he was able to highlight the importance of communications in the life of the Church. Second, he was able to build “a network of communicators” in Asia through guidance and interaction aside from having an office on social communications in FABC. Lastly, he was able to integrate “social” with “communication” through building personal relationships among his peers and colleagues. “Despite all the expertise and knowledge, it was his heart that he put into his work that brings so much result,” he added.
In his talk, Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias enumerated the significant accomplishments and roles assumed by Fr Eilers in line with his ministry on Social Communication. He pointed out that Fr. Eilers did not only focus on the technical side of media communications stand point but also on its social, intercultural and relationship-building implications.
Furthermore, in his talks and books written, Fr. Eilers presented many challenges and opportunities that were prophetic of the landscape of communications today. It was in this regard that Cardinal Gracias reminded the participants to be aware of the issues concerning communication as reflected also on Pope Francis’ 55th World Day of Communication message, “Come and See.” He also noted that access to information is problematic in many countries and it leads to manipulation of truth. In the face of these challenges, Cardinal Gracias emphasized the need to advance the Gospel values, re-echoing also the message of Fr. Eilers himself.
During the open forum, some of the participants, especially those who were close to the heart of Fr. Eilers, shared some of their insights on the talk and their personal encounter with him. The webinar has not only been an educational opportunity to the participants but also served as a “reunion” of Fr. Eilers’ ‘ friends and former students, who, gathered to honor him on his birthday.