56th Annual Convention of the Psychological Association of the Philippines, Inc. – Welcome Address

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Dr. Ron Resurrection, the President of the PAP, with it its officers and members of the Board; Dr. Mar Eric Reyes, the PAP Convention Chair, and Dr. Nelly Limbadan, the PAP Co-Convention Chair, the expert speakers, and the two thousand delegates to the 56th Annual Convention of the Psychological Association of the Philippines, Inc.
good morning.


It is a distinct privilege for me as President of the Ateneo de Davao University to welcome you to your Annual Convention in Davao City with its intriguing theme:  Inclusive Psychology:  Valuing Diversity and Accommodation Among Filipinos. 

Not long ago, I was in Indonesia for a conference on peace.  One of the statements made there was, “God created us diverse.”  It was jarring to me at that time, because I had been more used to the statement, “God created us equal,” which was temptingly close to God created us the same.  The conference was dealing specifically with the topic of preventing violent extremism;  in this context, the statement “God created us diverse” had everything to do with opposing a notion that God created us Christian, and therefore I had the right as a Christian to hate, if not kill a Muslim who was not Christian.  Or, that God created us Muslim, and therefore I had the right as a Muslim to hate if not kill a Christian who was not Muslim.   Or, that God created us straight, and therefore I had the right to hate, exclude, beat up, injure, if not kill everyone who was gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning.

APTOPIX Emirates Pope

Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, after an Interreligious meeting at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. Pope Francis has asserted in the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula that religious leaders have a duty to reject all war and commit themselves to dialogue. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) ORG XMIT: FP127

Last February 5th in Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis, representing Catholics from east to west, and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar of Cairo, Ahmed Al Tayyeb, representing Muslims from east to west, jointly declared that dialogue, mutual understanding and collaboration should replace dogmatism, mutual othering, hatred, violence and war.  With this declaration they also upheld

First: “The firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace, to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence… 

Second, Freedom is the right of every person; each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action.  The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race, and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which he created human beings.

It is against this background that I find your theme not only intriguing but, if I understand it correctly, relevant and terribly urgent.

You seek to understand, develop or promote an inclusive psychology:  a psychology that values diversity and accommodation.

I presume this may be contrasted to an exclusive [or, an excluding] psychology:  a psychology that does not value diversity and does not accommodate, a  psychology that overlooks diversity, so rejects.   In some cases the rejection can be so strong, that it socially excludes, psychologically damages, physically harms, or violently wounds, if not kills, the other.  If you are not like me, I may or must “other” you, reject you, hate you, kill you.  Or in passive aggression, press you to reject, hate or kill yourself.

May this conference find greater insight into the psychology that amidst the great diversity and richness of God’s creation is open to the other whose face is differentiated by  age,  culture, ethnicity, race, disability, gender, language and sexual orientation, yet in this self re-defining openness does not lose a self-identifying, self-integrating, autonomous social core that demands the openness.

May this conference help us to understand the inner urgings towards or inner aversions against the person who is different:  a person dressed differently than I who speaks another language; a person much older than I always unhappy that things today are not what they were in the good old days; a person much younger than I finding identity and freedom in the  cyber world, always averse to the conservative, rigid, over-protective ways of the elderly; a once-youthful person now battle-scarred from military forays against people who hate him and his people, the memories of people he has fought against and  killed harmonized in his love for his parents, his elders, and his brothers, sisters, and playmates; a teacher from another tribe who shares her religion but not the way she was raised and lives.  May this conference help contribute to the emergence of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao that must deal with ethnically diverse Muslim, Lumad, Christian, traditional, conservative, educated, less-educated, sophisticated, idealistic, wise, passionate and struggling-for-life groups within the Bangsamoro,  and the emergence of a national consciousness that includes, supports and integrates the Bangsamoro as Filipino, as Ilokanos, Tagalogs, Bikolanos, Warays, Ilongos, Cebuanos or Christian Mindanaoans are Filipino, despite pockets of reaction, resentment and rejection.

Finding this inclusive psychology among Filipinos, it seems to me, maybe among the most crucial challenges in the social sciences today.  If God created us diverse, psychology cannot confine itself to sameness and the data of sameness;  it must address diversity, be fed by diversity and in diversity find its integrating insight in a humane humanity.



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Welcome Remarks: 2nd Conversations on Mindanao Histories and Culture


With the Al Qalam Institute on Muslim Identities and Dialogue in SE Asia and the Forum Ziviler Friedensdient (of Civil Service for Peace – ZFD), it is my privilege as President of the Ateneo de Davao University to welcome you to this Pakighinabi Room for the Second Conversation on Mindanao Histories and Studies.

We welcome His Excellency Hon. Mohaguer Iqbal, Minister of Basic, Higher and Technical Education of the BTA [or his representative], the representatives from the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, from HEIs or Associations of HEIs, from NGOs, and esp. the experts here gathered on Mindanao history and studies, many able to share material from their own experience.

We gather again in response to the “call for an equal and inclusive representation of the histories, cultures, and identities of Mindanao Indigenous Peoples, Filipino Muslims, as well as Filipino Christian Migrants by promoting intercultural exchange and cultural diversity” and today specifically to consider a proposed Roadmap intended to guide the process of “righting” Philippine history.  This would articulate concrete steps to “integrate Mindanao Histories and Studies in the Philippine Educational System.”  It would include the histories of the Bangsamoro, of the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, and corresponding studies in Mindanao art, literature and language originally recommended by the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission and now mandated by RA 10908.  It would promote values of openness, inclusivity, participation, cultural awareness and peace-promotion.  Its approach would adopt transdisciplinarity, countering biases and stereotypes, interfacing, and conflict sensitivity.

In coming together anew in pursuit of our goal, may we be blessed in each other’s wisdom and insight into Mindanao and may our conversations lead us to the output we envisage to improve the Philippine Educational System:  output that would help all Filipinos overcome their deficit in knowledge and appreciation of Mindanao.


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Lord, I am not worthy…


[Homily.  Luke 7:1-10. Assumption Chapel.  Sept 16, 2019.]

Yesterday we heard the beautiful parable of the prodigal son.  He squandered his birthright and his father’s wealth, but in a moment of insight, remorse, and deep humility, he decides to return to the house of his Father, not as a son anymore but as an ordinary hired worker.  But when the Father sees him yet from afar, he runs to him, embraces him, kisses, him, and even while hearing the son say he was no longer worthy to be called his son, the Father calls to restore his son fully to his birthright;  he calls for the best robe, the ring, and sandals to be placed on him;  he calls for a celebration.

Our Gospel today is also about the deep humility of a pagan centurion, a Roman official, a man of power and corresponding wealth.  He had a slave whom he loved deeply who was at the brink of death.  Presumably, all the healers available to the Roman world had failed.  He had heard of the healing power of Jesus, and thought that maybe he might be able to help heal his slave.  The centurion was not a Jew, so thought himself disqualified to approach Jesus to ask for a favor;  instead, he asked his Jewish friends to do so.

So his Jewish friends approached Jesus, conveying the centurion’s wish that he come and save his slave, stressing, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue.”  Evidently, the centurion was a good man, kind to the Jewish community, and people felt grateful and indebted to him.

Jesus acceded to their request to come and save.  After all, that was his mission:  to come and save, to come and bring life.

But hearing that Jesus was approaching his house, the Centurion was overcome with a sense of unworthiness.  He sent his friends to tell Jesus, “Lord do not trouble yourself to come.  I am not worthy that you come under my roof;  for this reason, I did not presume to go to you.  But only speak the word, and my slave will be healed.  For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”   His Jewish friends whom he had sent to call Jesus to come and heal his slave had belabored that the centurion was worthy of Jesus’s healing action.  But now, he was saying that he was not worthy even of Jesus entering his house.  Yes, he was kind to the Jewish people;  yes, he had helped them build their synagogue.  But this was not warrant to press Jesus to do as he wished.  He had authority over soldiers, but no authority over Jesus.  More profoundly, he knew of his personal unworthiness in the presence of a man of holiness, as Peter knew it when he told Jesus, “Lord, depart from me a sinner.”  Yet in deep humility, for the love he had for his slave, he pleaded, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”  It was an act of faith in Jesus which deeply impressed Jesus.  Responding to his faith, Jesus healed the slave.

The Centurion’s words, of course, are the words we use at every Mass to profess our unworthiness as the Lord approaches us individually and as a Eucharistic community to become part of our lives.  It is important that they not just be memorized words of a Eucharistic ritual, but reflect something of the humility of the Prodigal Son as we return from our sinfulness to dwell again in the home of the Father, or something of the humility of the powerful Centurion who realizes he has no sway over the power of God, even as he hoped God would have mercy on his beloved slave.  The centurion realizes it was not what he had done nor what he had built nor what he willed that was essential, but what God willed.  To that will, he was willing to bow. When we use the Centurion’s words daily, God does – despite our protestation that we are unworthy of it – enter under our roof.  God does enter into our lives.  He does repair our broken heart.  He does forgive our sin.  He does accomplish his work of reconciliation.  He does lift us up onto his Cross.  He does lift us up in new life to his Father. Because this is what he wills, and what we will as well – or what we desperately desire – when we say, “Only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”




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The Father’s Reconciliation


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Spanish, 1617 – 1682 ), The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667/1670, oil on canvas, Gift of the Avalon Foundation 1948.12.1

[Homily. 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Based on Lk 15:11-24]

The Gospel of St. Luke is illustrative in general of the mercy and compassion of the Father.  Unique to the Gospel of Luke is its thematic concern for the poor, the outcaste tax collectors, sinners, gentiles, women.  In Luke, one finds the parables of the Good Samaritan and of the Healing of the Ten Lepers.  Then there is the beautiful account of compassion of the Father in today’s account of the Prodigal Son.

When the son who had squandered his birthright finally decided to return to his father’s house not as a son anymore but as a mere hired servant, Luke relates, “But while the son was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion;  he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”  Filled with remorse, his son tells him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”  But the father, hearing the remorse of the son, responds in compassion and full forgiveness, “Quickly, bring out a robe – the best one – and put it on him;  put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  The father had waited for his son, and when he saw him, he ran to meet him.  He embraced him and kissed him.  And even as he heard his remorse, he forgave him, restoring him fully to his birthright and calling for a celebration.

One of the oft-repeated reminders of Pope Francis is that Father never tires of forgiving us, but we who tire of asking forgiveness of the Father.  Because we are prone to repeat our sins, we tire of asking forgiveness.  We are ashamed of ourselves over and over again.  But repeating sins does not diminish their evil, much less remove it.  Forgiveness does.  We cannot give ourselves forgiveness.  The father does.  Because it is the Father waiting for us to return to him, because our remorse is but the result is the Father’s work of reconciling us with himself, we live in the hope that no matter how often we must ask for forgiveness, the Father will always be there to embrace us and forgive.  No sin is greater than God’s willingness to forgive.

At the Ateneo de Davao today, based on St. Ignatius’ Meditation on the Incarnation in the Spiritual Exercises, we are considering our mission of participating in the Father’s work of reconciliation of humankind with himself, of ourselves with other human beings, and of ourselves with his creation.  I suggest a first step in participating in the Father’s work of reconciliation would be, in a moment of deep personal silence,  to ask to be forgiveness for our sin, whatever it may be, of distancing ourselves from him, of failing to find time to converse with him regularly, of failing to find time to participate in his Eucharistic meal of reconciliation, of failing to reach out to the colleague I cannot understand, of  failing to balance my work with my duties in love for my family, of not doing my share to contribute to peace in our community or in our Mindanao, of not taking time out in our hectic world to smell the flowers.

Personally experiencing the Father’s embrace of reconciliation is a first step to walking with the Jesus in establishing the Father’s Kingdom.  The Father calls for the best robe for you, the ring of your birthright, the sandals on your feet.  He calls for the slaughter of the fatted calf to feast with you in joy.  In Jesus, he says, “Come, follow me”.  It is his invitation to participate now in his work of reconciliation.



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Conversion, Communal Discernment, and Mission

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[Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., Ignatian Conversations, 11 September 2019]

Welcome to you all to this special edition of the Ignatian Conversations.  Thank you for gathering here from our Grade  School, Junior High School, Senior High School, and our higher education units.  I know that others would have liked to attend this sharing, but for the material we have to tackle, I thought a more intimate setting would be more appropriate than Martin Hall.

Our topic will touch on “conversion, communal discernment, and mission,” as is relevant to our shared process of strategic planning for ADDU.  I hope it will add to your appreciation of the plan even as you consider it for its ratification.

Our reflections will be based on:

General Congregation 36, Decree 1:  “Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice” (GC 36, Decree 1)

Fr. Arturo Sosa’s “Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, 2019-2029”

“One Ateneo, One Plan”

Copies of these documents were sent to you digitally.  I hope you have had the opportunity to go through them.

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GC 36, Decree 1: Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice

GC 36, Decree 1: “Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice” is addressed to primarily to Jesuits.

But also to their partners in mission.

“This Congregation is deeply convinced that God is calling the entire Society to a profound personal renewal” (18).

What concerned the Congregation was “…why the Exercises do not change us as deeply as we would hope.”

While this is addressed primarily to Jesuits, it applies also to those of us who make the Spiritual Exercises – or other retreats and recollections – regularly, or who engage whatever we may do by way of weekly Masses, or daily prayers to keep in contact with God.

Here we may recall the “secrets” of Gina Lopez.  When in 20ll we at Ateneo de Naga conferred on her an honorary degree for her achievements in environmental advocacy, we all thought that she would speak about the environment.

But she got up and told the students, “I have a secret that I want to share with you.  Never forget this secret!”  She said, “If you forget the secret I will tell Fr. Joel to take away your diploma!”  She then leaned into the microphone and almost whispering said:  “There is a God!  And because there is a God, no matter who you are, no matter what your profession might be, you must find your way to get in contact with this God.”

“My second secret,” she said,  “is this:  Every person needs silence in his or her life.  Because without silence, the forces in this world will tear you asunder, and you will no longer know who you are.”

Gina’s secrets may move us as we consider our topic.

GC 36 called for a profound personal renewal “in a world losing its sense of God”

We need a profound personal renewal – or conversion –  to “acquire [or re-acquire] the style of Jesus, sensitivity to his feelings, his choices.”  This comes from a grace we pray for in the Spiritual Exercises.  In the Second Week, over and over we beg for “intimacy with the Lord.”

Through this renewed relationship with God, this silence, this intimacy with the Lord, we ask:  What is God’s will for us?

Our response is inspired by the Contemplation on the Incarnation, also from the Spiritual Exercises.  In this contemplation, the exercitant is invited to contemplate the Trinity responding to the world of human beings as human beings conduct themselves in their everyday lives, many alienated from God, alienated from one another, and alienated from Creation.  This is not a contemplation that looks at the Trinity and the world “out there” and at the Incarnation as if it were finished, and as if we were mere spectators.   GC 36 suggests it is done “from the heart of the Church gazing at the Father gazing on the world…”  We gaze at the Father, gazing at us.  We are invited to gain insight into that gaze, which is not a gaze of anger, rejection, and condemnation.  It is rather a gaze of compassion and love.  It is the gaze that is of the Holy Spirit, that recalls the Son, and that “all things were made through him, and without him was made nothing that has been made.”  We are gazing at the Trinity therefore from within the world he gazes on, from within ourselves as we gaze in awe, and from within the Trinity whose gaze does not remain a mere gaze.

The Incarnation is God’s response to the world and to us beyond gazing.  Through the Incarnation, God enters into our world.  And labors in our world.  And in our lives.

In this contemplation, ““We recognize the signs of God’s work, of the great ministry of reconciliation God has begun in Christ, fulfilled in the Kingdom of justice, peace and the integrity of creation” (3).  Being God’s work of reconciliation, it is accomplished, but being God’s work in which we are invited to participate, it is a work in progress.

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The is a  pivot in GC 36:  it is not we, but God who initiates the work of reconciliation.  It is not about us, it is about God.

“Rather than ask what we should do, we seek to understand how God invites us – and so many people of good will – to share in that great work.  Alone, we find ourselves humbled and weak, sinners.  That is our experience, moving from task to task, assignment to assignment, sin to greater sin, burning ourselves out doing so many things, making the same mistake over and over.  As long as it is just about us, it is a source of despair.   But we experience joy in knowing ourselves as sinners who, in God’s mercy, are loved and invited to be “companions of Jesus and ‘co-workers with God’” (3)

There is a paradigm that GC 36 points to in the experience of the First Companions in Venice.  They had set their hearts on going to the Holy Land.  But they were prevented from going due to the topsi-turvy political situation.  So they needed to discern what God’s will for them now was:  discernment.  They did not do this alone but in their diversity as a community of friends in the Lord who was in the service of the poor:  discerning community.  It was through this discernment in community that they discovered their mission.

The call to conversion discloses a paradigm of three interlocking elements in GC 36:  discernment, discernment in community, and mission. 

Discernment, emerging from doing so many things with such great passion;  emerging from where we have been, from where we have tried and failed; emerging from where we have succeeded, yet need to understand the call of the magis;  emerging from communities.

The discerning Jesuit community close to the poor as at Venice is the home of mission, and therefore itself a mission.  Consisting of friends in the Lord, the community is “a privileged place of apostolic discernment”.  This is not only individual discernment but communal discernment.  The communities are homes therefore for spiritual conversation, homes for the reign of God, where apostolic work is encouraged by our brothers and mission is supported by the Society of Jesus.

But this has not only been the experience of the ADDU Jesuit community.  It has been the experience of the University community.


From the many things that we have done which such great energy and passion in the pursuit of our mission:  in providing excellent instruction, vibrant research, in reaching out to our communities;  from all we have done in the service of the faith,

in the service of social justice, in fighting large –scale open-pit mines, in opposing the use of illegal drugs, in rejecting illegal extra-judicial killings, in fighting for a green city, in making or own campus greening working for peace here in Mindanao,

in working for a reversal of historical injustices brought on the Bangsamoro people

in advocating the approval of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the need is yet to find God’s will.  But not alone.

Discerning Community

We recall with gratitude our experience of communal discernment in our “Shared Passion, Shared Mission” experience in Eden, when as friends in the Lord we sought God’s will.


Freely, we appropriated the Jesuit Mission:  the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and the protection and promotion of the environment.

The Eden experience allowed us to find our institutional mission:

The Ateneo de Davao excels in the formation of leaders for the Philippine Church and society, especially for Mindanao.

It excels further in the promotion of the faith that does justice, in cultural sensitivity and transformation, and in interreligious dialogue, particularly with Muslim and Lumad communities of Mindanao. 

It promotes social justice, gener equality good governance, the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution.

It engages vigorously in environmental protection, the preservation of bio-diversity, and the promotion of renewable energy.

It leads in Philippine educational reform, espeiclly fo the peoples of southern Philippines. (Aug. 13, 2011)

Today, before the Crucified Lord, we ask, “What have we done for you, what are we doing for you,  what ought we do for you.”

Even if too often we are enamored by all the things we do.  The “For you” is often left out”   The “In you” is often not there. We forget Jesus’ words:  “Without me you can do nothing”  (Jn 15:5).

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Reformulation of the Jesuit Mission

The pivot of GC 36 – it is not about us, but about God – ushered in a reformulation of the Jesuit mission,  We are called to participate in the Father’s work of reconciliation in a broken world.  We are called to walk with Jesus, resurrected yet still carrying his cross, in carrying out his Father’s work of reconciliation and bringing to humankind the “fullness of life.’ (Jn 10:10).  We are called to the love and compassion of the Spirit.

First call:  reconciliation with God.

“Reconciliation with God roots us in gratitude and opens us to joy, if we allow it.”

Pope Francis said:  “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus … With Christ, joy is constantly born anew.”

The lack of it may indicate our need for reconciliation with God.

Announcing the Good News of God’s work of reconciliation is the reason for the Society’s existence and mission.  It is arguably the inner soul of our work at ADDU.

In many different contexts, reconciliation with God is needed:

Secularization:  reconciliation of estranged humanity with God

A plural world:   reconciliation of different believers with God through inter-religious dialogue

A world where believers are abandoning the Church:  reconciliation of lost believers with a wounded Church itself in need of reconciliation with God.

The shallow understanding of the Gospel:  reconciling the shallowness of one’s reception of the Gospel with the joy of its understanding in depth

Accompanying peoples to God from the depth of their spiritual traditions.

Second Call:  reconciliation within humanity.

“We hear Christ summoning us anew to a ministry of justice and peace, serving the poor and the excluded and helping build peace”.

Daily we experience shocking forms of injustice and suffering of millions:

the displacement of peoples,  the lack of hospitality for peoples fleeing violence and war, marginalized people thrown away by society, inequality, the vulnerability of youth, the vulnerability of women, the intolerance that accompanies fundamentalism, ethnic-religious-political conflicts, violence, distorted religious convictions, war.

We experience them daily, and we are no longer shocked.

Third call:  reconciliation with creation.

GC 36 points out the fundamental connection between the environmental crisis and the social crisis.

We recall Laudato Si’s insight into the interconnectedness between overconsumption, gargantuan production machines, environmental destruction, and poverty and exclusion.

GC 36 states, “The direction of development must be altered if it is to be sustainable”

And if we are to “Heal a broken world.”

We are to “Promote a new way of producing and consuming which puts God’s creation in the center.” (29)  This involves a change in our personal and communal lifestyles and remaining close to the most vulnerable.

It is in this context that we have reformulated the Mission of the Ateneo de Davao University:

It participates in the reconciliation by the Father of humanity with Himself, of human beings with one another, and of humanity with the environment.

It strengthens faith.  It promotes humane humanity.

It engages in inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-ideological dialogue, especially in Mindanao.

It responds to the needs of the Bangsamoro, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,  as well as the needs of lumad communities. 

It promotes the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution.

It strengthens its science and technology instruction, research, and technopreneurship  in Mindanao.

It promotes cultural understanding and friendship with its Asian neighbors.

It promotes lifelong learning and the dialogue between academe and the world of work. 

It protects and promotes of the environment as “our common home.”.

It develops ADDU sui generis leaders who appropriate this mission for life.

It treasures and works with its alumni/ae.

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The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) 

The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) emerge in the spirit of GC 36

They are the result of the communal discernment of the universal Society of Jesus, and they are proposed to us as partners in mission of the Society of Jesus.

Fr. Sosa’s letter: The Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, 2019-2029 begins with an important scriptural quotation:  “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us to the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18)

“We hear the urgent summons to join the Lord.”   It doesn’t happen without us, in many cases.

But in GC 36, it is emphatically:

Not about us, but about God
Not about our work, but about God’s work
Not about our spirit, but about the Holy Spirit

The spirit of GC 36 is the Holy Spirit:

A call to conversion, impossible without the Spirit
A call to discernment, impossible without the Spirit
A call to discerning-community. impossible without the Spirit
A call to communally-discerned mission, impossible without the Spirit
A call to participation in God’s work of reconciliation, impossible without the Spirit

We now discuss “The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs)” based on Fr. General
Sosa’s “Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, 2019-2029.”

Under previous generals, because of the manifold mission of the Society of Jesus – faith, justice, cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and the environment – it was necessary for the Society’s leadership to articulate priorities.  First, it was Africa, then China, then in the intellectual apostolate, then refugees, the Roman Houses like the Gregorian University.  But the priorities did not really work.  China was the priority in this part of the world, but we were sending our people to East Timor and Cambodia.  GC 36 mandated Fr. General Sosa to address this problem.

Using the Venice paradigm, he called for discernment of the entire community of Jesuits throughout the world, in order to be able to gain insight into mission.

The output of this year of communal discernment was the four Universal Apostolic Preferences:

To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment;

To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;

To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future;

To collaborate in the care our Common Home.

They emerge as an output of:

  • Discernment
  • Discerning community
  • Communally-discerned mission

On “Preferring” in the Universal Apostolic Preferences

But allow me some remarks on “preferring” in the UAPs.

Webster defines preference as a priority.

But the “preferences” of UAPs are not to be confused with priorities.

Priorities have to do with agenda:  the choice of these over those.

Prioritization belongs to a plan, where the human planner is in control.

It belongs to the realm of human rationality.

The preferences of the UAP are not used in this sense.

They do not place walking with the poor over accompanying students who pay tuition in our schools to succeed in their preparation for life.

They are, I think, more profound than that.

Sometimes, “preference” is a weak word – close to the expression of an arbitrary choice.  One can prefer chocolate over strawberry; but the preference is not of great consequence.  One prefers a Nissan over a Toyota.  But a Suzuki would have done just as well.

But “preference” in the UAPs is a strong word, expressing a deep discerned personal desire in communion with the body of the Society of Jesus, finding mission – as soon as one allows the Spirit to lead oneself to “prefer” in this way.

This is, indeed, a bit tricky, because my spirit, my rationality, my wisdom, my defenses, my smugness and self-satisfaction tend to resist the urgings of the Spirit towards this way of “preferring.”

They are a preferring against what I unguardedly prefer, an “agere contra” [working against] in the range of possible preferences.  In unguarded moments I prefer to lead people to the wisdom of a worldliness insulated against a God and the promptings of His Spirit; I prefer to walk in the company of the wealthy, the decision-makers, the honored and admired, even should they be compromised by their inhumanity;  I prefer to be in the company of the adult, sophisticated, important people of this world who create the despair of the present;  I prefer the consumption and the wastefulness of a comfortable life.  Even as a Jesuit.  I prefer it even against the intrusions of guilt and shame.

Preferring “to show the way to God through the spiritual exercises” is not an arbitrary choice over “showing the way to God through prayer and meditation over scriptural passages.”  It is an active desire of the Jesuit leading to discernment with the community of the universal Society seeking God’s mission.

It is in this personal preferring in the communion of the SJ that one discerns the SJ mission within, not without.    What is discerned is accompanied by consolation and joy

It is not, therefore, an external, rational, appreciation of mission and its many strategic aspects that precedes my “preferring.”

But it is in my free “preferring” any of the UAPs that I am led to the “necessities” and “commitments” and “resolutions” described in each of the UAPs,

Already in Preference 1, “To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment,” the whole mission of the SJ is discerned in the Contemplation of the Incarnation through the Spiritual Exercises.  It is the same with “preferring” to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated in a mission of reconciliation and justice.”  Here, the preference explicitly mentions the mission.

Therefore, not preference between faith, justice, cultures, inter-religious dialogue, environment arbitrarily or even “rationally”, but an active preferring… desiring…with the communion of the SJ…which discerns in the Spirit the Jesuit mission within.

The preference is the manner in which an individual, a Jesuit or a partner in mission, appropriates an external mission in interiority.

It is only in this context that one “implements the preference,” which is at first glance a jarring agendum since one intuitively implements a mission.

But one does not implement an arbitrary or indifferent preference of an aspect of our mission against its other aspects.  In preferring…

One implements the exigencies of mission freely appropriated in preferring.    It is, surprisingly, not a dismaying proposition in its demands, but empowering in its freedom and joyful in its possibilities.

Finally, even as we can better appreciate the special Jesuit nuance in the “preferences” of the UAPs as expressed by Fr. Sosa, it is empty without arriving at a fresh appropriation in freedom of the Society’s profound mission of participating in the Father’s three-fold work of reconciliation.

Here, the GC 36 pivot: the initiative is not with the apostolic zeal and power of the individual Jesuit, but in the compassion of the Father who “prefers” …

  • dialogue and reconciliation with humankind through love over condemnation,
  • walking with sinners and failures and esp. Jesuits who’ve messed up and sinned,
  • walking with the old as well as with the young,
  • and laboring to restore a destroyed earth to a common home.

Here, the surprise is the awesome vocation given to each of us to be a part of this work of reconciliation, despite our unexamined preferences.

Its joy is revealed in what the Spirit leads the communion of Jesuits to prefer.

An invitation to ratify the strategic plan

It is in this spirit that we are invited to consider and ratify the strategic plan:

As a result of our own felt need for conversion.


  • To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment;
  • To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;
  • To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future;
  • To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.

Preferring our strategic plan as our communally discerned way of doing God’s will.

As our yes to our university’s concrete way today of participating in the Father’s work of reconciliation of humanity with himself, of ourselves with one another, of ourselves with creation.


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Welcome to President Halimah Yacob of Singapore


In the name of the Ateneo de Davao University Community and particularly of its Al Qalam Institute on Muslim Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, it is my pleasure to welcome Your Excellency Madam Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore, to the Ateneo de Davao University.  I welcome you as both our countries celebrate the golden anniversary of their diplomatic relations.  In this context, both Singapore and the Philippines are founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and your visit strengthens our bonds as active members of a cultural, economic and political community in Southeast Asia.  The Philippines is happy to enjoy strong economic ties with Singapore in trade, investment, and tourism, even as we marvel at the economic, political, educational, cultural and social miracle that is Singapore. Despite its small size Singapore is a giant in the world.

Madam President, as a Catholic and Jesuit University, ADDU has a mission to social justice and peace; we welcome you to our University particularly as a promoter of women’s rights, the welfare of the underprivileged, the marginalized, the worker, and of the environment, our common home.  In this part of the Philippines, Mindanao, where conflict has had its roots in social injustice and inter-religious conflict between Muslims, indigenous Lumad, and Christians, we welcome you especially as an advocate of interreligious dialogue.  You come from arguably the most religiously diverse country of the world, and we are delighted that you have set aside time during your State Visit to the Philippines to come to our University to share of your wisdom with our youth!  As we welcome you to our University, we wish upon you and Singapore God’s blessings of continued prosperity and peace.



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A Christian Prayer on the Day of Decommissioning of Former Combatants

[Old Provincial Capitol Gym, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, 7 Sept. 2017]


Heavenly Father, the Almighty One,
the God of Compassion, the God of Reconciliation,

APTOPIX Emirates Pope

six months ago in Abu Dhabi in the Arabian Peninsula
you moved the Grand Imam of Al Azahr, Ahmed Al Tayyeb,
with Muslims of the east and west,
and Pope Francis, with the Catholics of the east and west,
to declare
in the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who save the whole of humanity;
in the name of orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled
from their homes and their countries;
in the name of human fraternity that embraces all human being, unites them and renders them equal;

in the name, therefore, of all those who have suffered
and died here in Mindanao
to right historical injustices, struggling for a homeland,
for a space to worship according to the religion of one’s conscience
and to determine one’s way of life
according to the richness of one’s culture and traditions,
in the name of justice and mercy,

Almighty God,

you caused the Grand Imam and the Pope to declare
“the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path,
mutual cooperation as the code of conduct,
reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”

Today as combatants are decommissioned,
the culture of dialogue replaces enmity, terror and war,
mutual cooperation replaces maiming, wounding, and killing,
and reciprocal understanding replaces hatred, ideological othering and the abuse of religion that dehumanizes people and demonizes God.

Even as we recall with sorrow those who valiantly sacrificed their lives
in the struggle for self-determination
or in the defense of a wounded nation,
bless our former combatants with a sense that as they lay down
the arms that they took up to fight a just cause,
they have won the respect of the Filipino community,
and that they now deserve to live with their families in homes of peace, worshipping their God as their conscience impels them,
with their weapons turned into means of livelihood,
and their lives as combatants now turned into lives of
citizens of the nation through the BARMM
dedicated to the common good
and enjoying the fullness of their cultural traditions.

Bless the Bangsamoro People
and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
with the Peace that is
at the heart of Islam,
at the heart of the message of Jesus,
at the heart of our indigenous peoples
and at the heart of our Philippine nation.

Bless all Peacemakers in Filipino society and all here present.
Bless our religious communities.
Bless our President.  Bless the leaders of the BARMM.  Bless the OPAPP.




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