The conference on Medieval Philosophy that was held at the Martyrs’ Hall at the Ecclesiastical Faculties, UST on March 7 and 8, 2019 was significant in more ways than one. The conference, held in commemoration of the 475th Death Anniversary of Saint Thomas Aquinas, was the first conference organized by the Faculty of Philosophy Students’ Forum (FPSF) on the topic. It was also within this conference that the Gerardo Rocha- Universidad Santo Tomás Chile Professorial Chair in Ecclesiastical Studies and Bioethics for Academic Year 2018-2019 was awarded.
Fr. Michael Mascari, O.P., the former Socius to the Master of the Order of Preachers for the Intellectual Life and currently the Academic Dean of Aquinas Institute of Theology in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, received the award from UST Vice-Rector and Faculty of Philosophy Dean Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., and UST Secretary-General Rev. Fr. Jesús M. Miranda, Jr., O.P., Ph.D.
This was the first time that the Gerardo Rocha-UST Chile Professorial Chair in Ecclesiastical Studies was awarded in the University. The Gerardo Rocha-Universidad Santo Tomás Professorial Chair in Ecclesiastical Studies and Bioethics was endowed by Gerardo Rocha Vera in 2001 in the UST Research and Endowment Foundation, Inc. The donor was Founder-President of the UST Chile, and Co-Founder of the International Council of Universities of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which is now known as the ICUSTA.
The late Dr. Rocha, who was an honorary consul of the Philippines in Chile, had once served as Director of the Chile-Russia Chamber of Commerce. He was member of Spain’s Fraternity of Crusaders of Mary, and an active participant in international gatherings, such as the Catholic Congress on Public Life in Madrid and the Inter-Religious Encounters in Barcelona.
Meanwhile, his brainchild, the ICUSTA is an international association of Catholic institutions of higher learning that faithfully adhere to the ideals and teachings of the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas. The main purpose of the international organization is to encourage cooperation and collaboration, and international understanding among its members.
Since 1995, after its convention at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, the ICUSTA has expanded its membership to 29 institutions from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Ethiopia, France, Ireland, Italy, Mozambique, South Sudan, Spain, Taiwan, the United States of America, Zimbabwe, and the Philippines.
It has had biennial meetings that had been held in host institutions across continents. To note, two international ICUSTA meetings have been held at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila: first, in 1997, and second during the Quadricentennial celebration in 2011.