In contrast to decades of a jam-packed Santísimo Parish Church with Thomasians donning their multi-colored academic gowns, the spacious interior housed a handful of people, with the usual attendees tuning in from their homes. Giving a preview of how most educational delivery will be done until December, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was fully streamed online for the first time on August 12, 2020, with the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Very Rev. fr. Napoleon B. Sipalay, Jr., O.P., MBA, serving as Presider and Preacher.
The Spirit that continues to guide
In reflecting on how to journey during uncertain times, fr. Sipalay recalled the experiences of the Apostles: “From Pentecost, the Spirit was the guidance of the Apostles. The first Christian community was Spirit-guided. The Spirit was the source of courage, and the Christian courage came not only during comfortable times, but but also the bad times.”
Acknowledging the recent government regulations to help arrest the spread of COVID-19 in the metropolis, fr. Sipalay said that “the restrictions of movement, social contact, and [the resulting] isolation were a great challenge to us all. We were like the Apostles before the appearance of Jesus: in locked doors, experiencing fears, anxieties, waiting for the new normal. But with the Risen Christ, with interdependence, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, they found new courage to navigate the new challenges we are facing.”
Further, fr. Sipalay said that this same Spirit that “we receive in Baptism and Confirmation, the mission we receive in the Church, in the world, are more than a human mission. It calls us to respond depending on the grace we receive from Lord and the guidance of the Spirit. The challenge is to see everything in the light of the Spirit.”
What to do with the gift
Even in turbulent times such as the pandemic, the Board of Trustees Chairman said that we still receive gifts, but reminded that “the gift given is not for the glory of the one who received it, but for the good of the whole Church. The gifts that came from God should only be used for God’s service.”
In a special way, he acknowledged the efforts of all those who helped craft and implement the way to continue in the new normal. “We thank our administrators who took the lead to navigate us to the new normal [so] that we are able to craft the way to move forward. It is here that the many gifts, [though] different from one another, [provided] the synergy for what we have now: the Enriched Virtual Mode.”
The oneness of experience
The Prior Provincial highlighted the fact that all are united in experiencing the struggles brought about by the pandemic, which “we face as a community guided by the Holy Spirit.” On this note, he emphasized that “we need to give a word of hope to everyone, that this is possible [and] we can do this together,” despite the realities of fear, anxiety, and of “self-defeating comments that are not healthy.”
It is in the context of challenges experienced that fr. Sipalay, quoting an speaker on coping with challenges, expressed hope for Thomasians to develop the “Adversity Quotient,” which impels those who have it to “reach the goal…and never stop” until one is done. “We join UST in bringing hope to all those involved to bring education to our students, welfare to all those who make things possible, and may this synergy…bring the word of hope to the challenge of our time.”
Concelebrating with fr. Sipalay are new University Rector fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., PhD and Vice-Rector fr. Isaias D. Tiongco, O.P., JCD.
COVID-19 and its continued surge in the National Capital Region prompted educational institutions to deliver educational services remotely at least for the next few months. In UST, this will be done via the Enhanced Virtual Mode, which will include both synchronous and asynchronous online courses delivered by faculty members, who may work in teams, invite experts from the industry and alumni, as well as representatives from the communities UST has partnered with.