[Address to the Educators of the Diocesan Apostolate on Catholic Education in Tagum (DACET)]
When Fr. Tom Avila asked me to give this talk to the Educators of the Diocesan Apostolate on Catholic Education in Tagum (DACET), I readily agreed. I knew that just two weeks after the National Convention of the CEAP, there would be much from the convention that we could share with you on Catholic education in the Philippines. Since DACET is part of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS) and DACS is Region XI of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), what was of relevance to the educational leaders of the CEAP National Convention on its 75th anniversary may also be of interest to you.
I am very happy that my first address as President of CEAP is here with you at St. Mary’s College of Tagum.
As we move toward 2021 with new fervor and new spirit, the common good is a concept that can give us fresh insight into the nature of our association; the common good also draws us to cooperate with others in society to achieve a larger common good. As far back as Aristotle this was known: An individual acts to achieve a good. A group of individuals cooperate to achieve a common good. In a political community, the most extensive form of cooperation, all cooperate to achieve the common good of all. The concept of the common good leads us to greater insight into ourselves as an organization, and challenges us to our role in achieving the common good of all.
We are filled with gratitude for more than 75 years of cooperation among our educators and educational institutions, big and small, all cooperating towards a common good: the advancement of Catholic education in the Philippines. Catholic education, in turn, impacts on society beyond the CEAP. It cooperates with other educators, public and private, sectarian and non-sectarian, and other organizations, public and private, in order to contribute to the common good of all.
Catholic education is delivered nationwide through a formidable array of schools, colleges and universities scattered throughout the Philippines. In the CEAP there are 1,476 member schools, 224 of them higher educational institutions, some of them among the most renowned universities in the Philippines. But some 80 percent of them are mission schools in poor urban, rural and remote areas continuing courageously to operate. They operate despite the poverty of their students and despite a personnel policy of government which has proven improvident for us; they do so in order to bring the blessings of quality education, inspired by the Gospel message, to all, to as many Filipinos as possible, especially the poor.
The difficulty in delivering this public good ought to be recognized. Working with teachers to improve their competence is a difficult task, especially when school resources are low, often taking years of sacrifice and investment. The last administration decided to improve the roster of its public school teachers. But in doing so it used public money to advance their good, but not the common good of all teachers. Effectively, they pirated teachers from our schools. We have been hurt by this public policy which did not respect the common good, but we continue to maintain our educational service in the interest of the common good.
Anticipating the 75th anniversary we now celebrate, we resolved together at the 2011 National Convention in Davao to strengthen our cooperation in delivering Catholic education, remembering our 75-year-old journey with gratitude, renewing ourselves in fervor, and setting forth according to the demands of the faith. That is faith which ultimately determines the substance of what we teach; it is faith which impels us in our mission, gladdens us in achievements, comforts us in setbacks, encourages us in adversity, guides us into our future and gives us hope
Today, 2016, we look together to the next 25 years that shall bring us to the first century of our service. But we look especially to the next five years leading to the celebration of five centuries of Christianity in the Philippines. With Christian evangelization came Catholic education. With Catholic education comes the joy of serving the Gospel and the special challenges we meet as Catholic educators today.
Today we are challenged in two ways: first, to remain faithful to our God-given vocation and identity as Catholic educators; and second, as integral to this vocation and identity, to actually engage society and transform it according to the demands of the common good. The common good is relevant to both challenges. We will reflect on this together.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Meanwhile, those challenges have taken on great urgency as the next five years will roughly coincide with the term of office of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. His democratic mandate was clear and substantial: some 16.5 million citizens elected him into office, some 6 million votes above his closest rival. He ran promising a war on drugs that he warned would be bloody. He promised to rid government of corruption. He promised to bring peace to Mindanao. He promised care for the PH environment. He promised Federalism. As election day approached, he declared, “Change is coming. ..”
He was elected.
As we have all witnessed in the meantime, sometimes with elation, sometimes with trepidation, “change is here “– one of the first changes being that the President is dead serious about fulfilling his campaign promises. He has wasted no time. At 71, he is a driven man, saying to his people as he bows, “I am ready to serve my people,” but bowing to no one, not even to the President of the United States of America, as he pursues his declared agenda. He is resolute, not wishy washy; he is irreverent, not polished; he is shocking, not irenic. But he loves his people, and he shows it, ready, apparently, to sacrifice life and his Presidency “to march into hell for a heavenly cause.”
Change is here. Some of the change has elated us.
Finally, the drug menace which has addicted some 3M in the country, taken the lives of individuals, destroyed the lives of families and whole barangay communities is being addressed.
The war on drugs has involved 18,616 police operations conducted, 17,759 drug personalities arrested, 1,061,235 houses visited as of Sept 19. It has yielded 715,393 surrenderees, 53,091 being pushers; the menacing presence of drug addicts has begun to disappear in many communities of the poor; the awareness of the extent and depth of the drug menace has taken center stage.
The private sector, CSO’s and schools have begun to partner with government to complement the campaign to win the war on drugs.
People who have been involved in the drug trade – in the police force, the military, the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary – have been named, shamed and removed from their posts.
President Duterte is going after corruption in government with similar energy and resolve. The word is: corruption is incompatible with Duterte.
A Freedom of Information Executive Order has evidenced the President’s seriousness about ridding the government of corruption and inefficiency. Deadlines for acting on citizens’ needs for service in government agencies have been set. Queuing of people in the streets have been decried; programs to eliminate them have been initiated.
A ceasefire has been reached between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP ending a half century of warfare. The MILF and the MNLF are working closely with government towards ending close to five centuries of warfare. The President has said the historical injustice done to Muslim Filipinos needs to be addressed and rectified. Government and Filipino Muslims tread a common path today towards a Bangsamoro homeland and Bangsamoro self-determination within the Philippine community.
The Duterte administration is powerfully addressing the concerns of the environment and its abuse over centuries. Longtime opposition to Government pertinent to large-scale mining is metamorphosing into people’s partnership with Government through the DENR in stopping illegal mines, illegal logging, the poisoning of our water, our air, our soil, our oceans.
The DENR has begun acting vigorously against mines established or operating illegally – especially in the ancestral domains of our indigenous peoples. With the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), this includes the fraudulent acquisition of “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC).
The Congress has been maneuvering to bring about Federalism at least cost to the people through a Constituent Assembly.
But some of the change has deeply disturbed us.
I do not refer only to the often intemperate language of the President, which he himself admits.
But the war on drugs has claimed 1,152 police-related deaths and 2,073 deaths from what many describe as “extrajudicial killings” as of Sept 15.
No matter the good end for the law enforcers, are not the harsh means taken unjustifiable? Are not human rights violated? Is this not so even in shaming people publicly?
What if there is error? Error that involves taking of human life is utterly irreversible. Is government not involved in an untenable case of “the end justifying the needs?
Considering that the international community has given up on the war on drugs, have they not disqualified themselves from commenting on our war on drugs? On the other hand, is the Philippines not being unrealistic in thinking it can win this war even if only for its own society?
Freedom of information should be mandatory not only for the Executive branch of government, but for all branches of government. Beyond the current Executive Order on Freedom of Information, a law on Freedom of Information encompassing law must be passed to cover not only the executive but the legislative and judicial branches.
There is still a long way to go to achieve true and lasting peace through the peace processes with the CPP-NPA-NDFP, the MILF and the MNLF, and with the Lumad. It is especially important not to leave out the Lumad from the peace process.
There are relatively new players on the ground who declare allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) who are very violent. Consider the 15 soldiers killed and mutilated in Patikul; consider the raw carnage on innocent lives in the Roxas Night Market in Davao last Sept. 2. These groups do not have the approval of most other Filipino Muslim Community, but they court the allegiance of radicals through their declared “Jihad.”
The BIFF, allied with the ISIS, seems to be gaining support in Maguindanao, and the Maute Group (bandits led by Omar and Abdullah Maute) were able to liberate their companions in the Lanao del Sur provincial jail carrying the ISIS flags
On the environment, powerful economic interests still exercise dubiously legal rights to extract PH minerals until the 1995 PH Mining Act is finally repealed and a new Minerals Management Law enacted. Beyond this, we have a long way to go towards the self-change necessary to reform the unsustainable production mammoth which destroys our environment and causes poverty and exclusion, as Laudato Si points out.
The Constituent Assembly now being engineered to bring about Federalism affordably may not afford the people enough opportunity to discuss and evaluate different options. Hastily changing the 1987 Constitution through an administration passionately committed to social justice jeopardizes the invaluable provisions which make it a social justice constitution. Error may strengthen the hold of the elite on power and further disenfranchise the poor and excluded.
Therefore, in the light and darkness of the Duterte Administration, where reality does not present itself in lines of black and white, but in chiaruscuro hues of brightness and shadows – we are doubly challenged: (a) to remain faithful to our God-given vocation as Catholic institutions even when forces in the world may draw us away from this identity, and (b) to actually engage and transform society as integral to this vocation as Catholic educators and educational institutions, ultimately “to preach the Word, to be ready in season and out of season; to reprove, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). It is on how we can meet these two challenges that this talk dwells.
FIDELITY TO OUR VOCATION
We may admit that our fidelity to our common vocation as Catholic educators has been uneven. Sometimes, our Catholic schools sink to being just good schools, not Catholic. They may be renowned among loyal local patrons and esteemed world wide as quality schools, but not Catholic. We rejoice in large enrollments, we are dismayed when enrollment is low. We rejoice in large revenues, and panic when revenues fall short. We teach only courses that are marketable and make money, and drop courses that cost us money, even though they may benefit students or society. We treat our teachers as laborers, and our students as sources of income. We cost cut for the sake of cost cutting, and hold back money when spending it would advance the mission goals of the school. We hold back on cooperating with other CEAP schools for common goods, looking at CEAP only as a organization from which my school is to get something. We are certainly shy away from getting involved in issues of social injustice, labor malpractice, environmental degradation through mining or mono-crop farming, since such involvement may upset our benefactors, worry our parents, and discourage their contributions to our school. Often we relate to others only as functions for the particular good of our own school; wrapped in the demands of our private good, we ignore the common good. The demon’s “I will not serve!” takes the form of “I will not cooperate!” When this occurs, the catholicity of our schools is extinguished.
In responding to the first challenge, the challenge to renew, sustain, and grow in our vocation as Catholic educators, in celebration of our 75th anniversary, we now have a guide that is the loving product of cooperation between CEAP and the Phoenix Educational Foundation over the past three years: the Philippine Catholic Schools Standards for Basic Education (PCSSbe). We celebrated its launching during National Convention, not just as a new handbook that we can add to our dusty library, but as a practical Road Map (pg. 7) towards ongoing growth and development in our common identity as Catholic schools. It immediately asks a disturbing question. If evangelization and Catholic education have been in the Philippines for close to 500 years, if we are celebrating our 75th year of existence as CEAP, and if the faith is truly inseparable from actual social transformation towards the “life in abundance, life to the full” (Jn 10:10) that Jesus brings, why does the Philippines “continue to grapple year after year with the consequences of massive poverty, injustice and violence, graft and corruption, migration, environmental degradation, family breakdown and deterioration of values?” (pg 4). The overall goal of the PCSSbe “is to help raise school-wide effectiveness, through establishment of standards, benchmarks and rubrics that identify the core characteristics of excellent and faith-based Catholic schools” (pg 5). It presents eight *defining characteristics of a Catholic school, without which we accept together a school cannot truthfully be called Catholic. For example, the characteristic of being “centered on the person and mission of Jesus Christ.” Or the characteristic of being “engaged in the service of the Church and Society, with a preferential option for the poor.” The defining characteristics are manifest in the five *domains of the school: its Catholic Identity and Mission, its Leadership and Governance, its Learner Development, its Learning Environment, and its Operational Vitality. Then, fifteen *Standards for Catholic Schools are presented as “expectations of excellence or effectiveness that give a clear picture of where the Catholic school should be headed. *Benchmarks further “describe what must be done in order to attain the standards. These are further broken down in *Rubrics. For every benchmark, palpable “Sources of evidence” are offered. It is pointed out that all these parts presuppose and complement each other.
Under the Core Characteristic of Mission and Identity, and the Standard: “An excellent Catholic school is committed to the building of a civilization of love and is strengthened by a commitment that nurtures faith formation, integral development of persons, intercultural dialogue, academic formation, and humble service” (pg 18), I was delighted to find the Benchmarks, “The establishment and development of harmonious relationships with people of other cultures and religions is vital to the school’s Catholic identity and mission” (pg 20), and “The building of a culture of peace, justice, and charity is integral to the school’s Catholic identity and mission” (pg 21). When I was a child the Catholic Identity and Mission of my school required us not to interact with persons of other faiths, to shun these as pagans or heretics, and to appreciate that outside of the Catholic Church there was no salvation. The Standards of this Guide are of a different inspiration and fervor, cut in the spirit of Vatican II which clearly affirmed religious liberty: they urge us to embrace more fully our identity and mission so that we might be truly Catholic not for ourselves, but (kat holos) for all.
The PCCSbe contribute therefore to the cooperation among our schools to achieve the institutional common good of the CEAP, the advancement of Catholic basic education in the Philippines. They describe defining characteristics of Catholicity without which we would not be cooperating with each other as Catholic. They describe standards of excellence which pull us away from deficiency and mediocrity towards outstanding cooperation in basic education toward our common good, the advancement of Catholic education. They invite the articulation of complementary Standards for Catholic higher education. Even here in Tagum relative to the DACS abnd the CEAP, we are invited in these Standards to assess the substance of our cooperation and appreciate more deeply our common good. We must be cooperating, not ignoring one another, not competing against one another, towards the common good of CEAP, the advancement of Catholic Education in the Philippines. That is what we are committed to. That is what we are about. As public state universities and colleges and local colleges and universities increase in number, as private sectarian and non-sectarian schools develop alongside our schools, we insist in these standards that the advancement of Catholic Education in the Philippines is a common good worth cooperating together for. For the shared common good of Catholic education, it is worth cooperating with other CEAP schools to ensure that our Catholic students come to a genuine personal encounter with Jesus Christ in our schools, that they are sensitized to the demands of social justice and the common good, that resources available to us are managed to advance our mission, and that taxpayers money is not allowed to destroy our schools. We are challenged to deepen our fidelity to our God-given vocation as Catholic educators and institutions. We do so in re-appropriation of our mission to cooperate together towards our common institutional good: the development of Catholic Schools in the Philippines. We do so now in reflected appropriation of the PCSSbe, and eventually of the PCSShe, which articulate the defining characteristics, domains, benchmarks and rubrics of our cooperation in our schools. We do so freely, and thoughtfully, because of a shared insight that Catholic education is good not only for our students but also for our country.
COMMITMENT TO THE COMMON GOOD OF ALL
That brings us to the second challenge of our 75th anniversary. We cooperate not only to advance our institutional common good as CEAP, but we cooperate further in order as Catholic schools to advance the common good of our society. We cooperate among ourselves and with others (b) to actually engage and transform the society in which we operate according to the demands of social justice and the common good.
This is integral to our vocation as Catholic educators and educational institutions. Our ninth defining characteristic says we are “engaged in the service of the Church and Society with a Preferential Option for the Poor” (DC, 7); our tenth defining characteristic says furthermore we are “promoting Dialogue on Faith and Life and Culture.”
Amidst the diversity of faiths, discordant receptions of faiths, cultures, sub-cultures, ideologies and behaviors in our society which tend to divide it, to disrupt it, to disintegrate it, sometimes violently, we are called to transformative education. As Catholic educators and educational institutions we cooperate to transform ourselves and society according to “a deep sense of social justice” – social justice which calls for the common good of all in society.
In this context I would like to recommend a book to you recently written by my friend and Jesuit brother, Fr. Patrick Riordan, S.J, of Heythrop College, London, as he was visiting recently in Davao, entitled, “Philippine Common Goods: a good life for all.” For the philosophical concept of the common good that is a keystone of Catholic social teaching yet useful in dialogue with peoples of others faiths or no faiths, Fr. Riordan’s book is the best concise systematic synopsis of “the common good” enriched by Catholic tradition that I know, remarkable in his discussion of such issues as President Duterte’s reference to the separation of Church and State vs. the separation of God and the State, the conflict between China and the Philippines in the Spratley issue, the importance of the international community, the proposal of federalism or even a parliamentary form of government in the Philippines, extractive mining in Mindanao as it affects not only the environment by the communities of indigenous peoples, the war on drugs and extra-judicial killings, the current Philippine economy.
We went out of our way to publish this book so that it could be available at the National Convention. I am leaving three copies with you for your appreciation (one with my former seminarian, Fr. Rector Arnold Tiplaca, for his seminarians). So I will not attempt to summarize it here. But I will draw on it to guide my suggestions on how we as Catholic schools, committed to transformative education, may contribute to the common good.
From the common good no one is excluded. For the Christian, it is “life in abundance, the fullness of life” (Jn 10:10) that Jesus brings for all – the fullness of life based ultimately on the love and compassion of his Father.
It is the opposite of the truncated life: life diminished and demeaned by lack of basic needs, lack of joy, lack of celebration, lack of love, lack of genuine community.
What the Vatican Council proclaimed still holds true today: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts” (Gaudium et Spes, 1). These joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties we carry in our schools, as we commit ourselves through transformative education to work against social injustice and cooperate towards the achievement of the common good.
The social injustice in our societies, local, national and global, bind all in our societies to undoing social injustice in the achievement of the common good. Pope St. John Paul II referred to this as the “duty of solidarity” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [SRS], 9)
Solidarity, according to St. John Paul II, “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all responsible for all” (SRS, 38).
The common good then is “the good of all and of each individual, because we are all responsible for all” that we achieve through shared cooperation.
But of what does the common good consist?
It is that set of circumstances to be achieved through cooperation through which each person and all persons flourish optimally as human beings in a given historical situation. It is a future goal which elicits collaboration today.
President Duterte outlined the contours of the common good for all in the Philippines in his inaugural address, for which he now elicits our collaboration. The common good entails a relentless fight against the drug menace in the country; the common good entails forging peace with the communist and leftist insurgents; the common good entails peace with our Muslim communities. Unto these ends, he seeks the cooperation of the police, the military, the politicians and even ourselves.
The common good, however, calls not only for active cooperation but for critical dialogue not only with supporters of the administration but also with its critics, not only with Christians but also with those in our society who do not recognize Jesus Christ and his teachings. It demands the solidarity of all, including those who are different, “other,” the least and the excluded – the unwashed, the undernourished, the sick, the helpless.
The critical dialogue – for which our schools may take special responsibility – is crucial. A proposed vision of the common good may falsely represent the common good. There are two criteria for disqualifying a vision of the common good:
“First, if any persons or groups of persons are systematically excluded from enjoyment of the good for the sake of which we collaborate, then the proposal cannot represent the common good.” If the miners claim mining is for the common good but substantially exclude the Lumad, the farmers and all who depend on clean water in Mindanao from the benefits of mining it cannot be for the common good.
“Second, “if the good to be shared is recognizably deficient, in lacking some genuine aspect of human well being, then it can be rejected as a candidate for the common good of political cooperation.” If an economic system is built on the exploitation of laborers or on the deadly triad, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and gun smuggling, it cannot be for the common good.
Wishing now to renew ourselves in fervor and spirit as Catholic educators in Tagum, we may want to re-assess our determination to commit ourselves as Catholic educators and educational institutions to the common good.
In our teaching and formation, how do we instruct and form for solidarity, for free commitment to the common good? Certainly not by fostering in our students a desire for high-paying jobs, or stoking a desire to use their studies to go abroad, or by honing our students’ leadership skills without concomitant formation for the common good.
Forming leaders must involve alerting them to the demands of the common good, and involving them in dialogue and cooperative action which promote the common good – “in season and out of season.” This may take place already in basic education when students are already taught to cooperate in achievement of common goods. Students in class may be taught to cooperate with each other in helping restore a forest, or clean a polluted river, or in bringing about a green campus. In higher education it may take place in forming business students in their responsibilities for the common good. Business is not just about earning private profits, as important as these may be, but in creating new wealth and sustainable jobs which contribute to the common good.
In this context we may renew ourselves in our familiar JEEPGY programs, all of which contribute the common good:
Justice and Peace. Justice, esp. social justice, calls for the common good where no one is excluded and the dignity of every person recognized. Justice is the ultimate foundation for peace.
We might ask:
- How does our school form leaders for justice and peace? What is the concept of the peaceful society built on justice to which we form our students? What do we imagine by it? What is the idea of development we instill in them when we teach and form? What images come to mind when we envision this? Pope John Paul II said, “…modern underdevelopment is not only economic, but also cultural, political and human” (SRS, 15). Do we inadvertently encourage in our students a commitment to what St. John Paul II refers to as “superdevelopment” – based on unbridled consumerism and crass materialism?
- Justice includes correcting the historical injustice committed against Filipino Muslims. What has our school done to create more understanding between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines?
- Have our schools contributed to correcting historic injustices? E.g the historical injustice done to the Filipino Muslim, or the historic injustice done in misrepresenting abuses during the Marcos dictatorship, or the historic injustice still done in depriving indigenous peoples of their ancestral domains.
- Are we as concerned for lives destroyed through drugs as for lives taken through extra-judicial killings?
- The Madaris Volunteer Program is a CEAP project now in collaboration with the ARMM. Would our school be willing to volunteer teachers or students to help improve education in the ARMM?
Ecological Integrity. In Laudato Si Pope Francis reminds us that the environment gifted us by our Creator is our common home, our common good. It is urgent and compelling that we cooperate to preserve this common good.
We might ask:
- Are we helping our students internalize and own values of environmental responsibility?
- Are we participating in any reforestation projects?
- Are we involved in projects towards urban renewal, i.e., making our urban spaces more conducive to quality human living, including the preservation and promotion of green spaces?
- Are we developing our campus into green campuses?
- Are we willing as schools to stand up against individuals, politicians, and corporations that destroy the environment for private gain?
Engaged citizenship. This is citizenship which takes responsibility for and cooperates unto the common good. It does not passively leave the achievement of the common good to others.
We might ask:
- What programs do we have in place to form our students as engaged citizens and worthy leaders for the common good?
- What can our school or our qualified faculty do to complement police campaigns in the war on drugs?
- How do we actually encourage our students to volunteer for cooperation with others for the common good?
Poverty alleviation. Because the common good demands that no persons be economically excluded from the benefits of society’s shared collaboration.
We might ask
- How do we form our students to respect and love the poor?
- How do we actually help poor people in our communities out of their poverty?
- Do we form our business and commerce students to understand their responsibilities for the common good?
- How is our school involved in livelihood development for the poor in our local communities?
Gender equality. Because the common good demands that each and every person, no matter one’s gender, be included
We might ask:
- To what extent are our schools implementing policies that are in consonance with the provisions of the Magna Carta on women? (pregnancy, lactation stations)?
- Are our campuses spaces where persons of different genders can experience acceptance, welcome and understanding?
- Do we work against discrimination against members of the LGBT community?
- Would we be willing to back legislation to curb discrimination in our society against members of the LGBT community?
Youth empowerment: Because youth, especially youth educated in our Catholic schools, must be enabled to own responsibility for the common good.
We might ask:
- Do we encourage our youth to speak their mind?
- Do we guide our youth towards service of the common good?
- Is our palette of extra- and co-curricular activities such that commitment to the common good is fostered.
- Do we challenge our students to volunteer for difficult activities that advocate the common good?
Beyond the JEEPGY program, in furtherance of the common good, we may wish to urgently add:
Inter- and Intra-Religious and Inter-cultural dialogue
We might ask:
- Do we form our teachers and students to such a deep appropriation of their faith that they can deal easily with people of other faiths.
- Do we form our teachers and students in religious freedom? In the importance of the secular sphere vs. secularism?
- Do we have activities where our faculty and students can actually interact with and befriend people of other cultures and religions?
- In our Catholic schools do we help our students value the rich diversity of religions and cultures present in the Philippines?
- Would we be willing to volunteer for long-term immersion programs in Muslim Mindanao which help improve education there?
We might ask:
- Are we willing to stand together to insist on the complementarity between public and private education?
- Are we willing to fight together for equitable access to public funding for the operation of our Catholic schools?
- Are we willing to insist in law that Catholic education is not only good for Catholics but for the common Good?
As Catholic educators of Tagum, what is the source of our new spirit, of our new fervor?
The ultimate source is he who calls us to be ourselves as Catholic educators, and to transform ourselves and our society according to the demands of the common good. Considering that this is the good life for all or the life that Jesus brings us “in abundance, or life to the full,” we understand it to be no mean good. It is rather that situation where we shall flourish optimally as human beings – having shared goods beyond basic material needs that respond to our human needs for joy, for loving, for creativity, for nurturing, for worshipping even in religious diversity. It is the common good for which we are willing to work together and with others to achieve, humbly but persistently, though our schools, through our teaching, our learning, our research, our community service and our cooperation.
If this is the case: nothing has changed. God still calls us to be Catholic educators, as he did 75 years ago. He inspires us in love and guarantees our success.
But if this is the case: everything has changed. He sends forth his Spirit of renewal filling us with new fervor and love as we meet the challenges of society under our new President Duterte in the context of an evolving globe.
If this is the case, that ultimately it is God who bids us through transformative education to the service of the common good, we have nothing to fear. “For if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31b). Certainly not the SUCs, the LCUs, the DepED, the CHED, the competition, not the enemies of our common good, not the global blood cartels, not even the bloody blasts of terrorists’ bombs. Ultimately, God’s love prevails: “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, can separate us for the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-38) who comes “to bring us life in abundance, life to the full” (Jn. 10:10).