[Address to Graduates of the Integrated Program, SAG Institute for Higher Studies (SAG-IHS), Taunggyi, Myanmar, May 27, 2017.]
It is a great joy for me to be with you today. I am deeply moved by your welcome and your kindness. Even the rain is a blessing! I am awed by the beauty of your mountains, the silent call of your pagodas, the gentleness of your people, and the rich diversity of your cultural traditions just manifested in your dance. Even as I acknowledge the strength of your Buddhist tradition, I appreciate the mosques in your city, as well as the Catholic churches, and even Catholic schools.
Today I am happy to recognize I am not only in an Institute of the English language. I am in an Institute of Higher Education. I am therefore in an institute that stands proudly in the great traditions of the university throughout the world. What was the university? It was a community – universitas – of teachers and students who came together in academic freedom to search for truth. They were interested, as you are interested, in the search for the whole truth about God, about nature, about the human being. They were interested in why there was being and not just nothing, and what the secrets of the sun, the moon and the stars were. They were interested in the human being, the human person, and what made the human human. Therefore, they were interested in such as human life and human death, human joy and human suffering, human love and human hatred. They were interested in what was right and what was wrong, what had value and what was worthless, in human bondage and in human freedom. They were interested in human society, the way people live in society and freely create their ways of living, and how the tensions between the human individual, the human group, the human family, and human society as a whole are recognized and resolved.
I also recognize that the St. Aloysius Institute of Higher Education is not just an institute of higher eduction, it is a Catholic institute of higher education, as it is Jesuit. It is an institution that presides over a great tension between, on the one hand, acknowledging Jesus as he presented himself to be, the Way, the Truth and the Life, yet having to search for truth in the diversity of peoples’ beliefs, in the confrontation between faith and reason, in the search for what in life we may do and what in life we ought to do, in the search not just for the good of some but the good of all. As Jesuit it is given to clarifying the meaning of faith where religions are diverse, to the challenges of social justice, to the preservation and transformation of culture, to the dialogue between the great religions of the world, to the preservation of the environment.
The Ateneo de Davao in the Philippines, a higher education institute as yours, stands humbly in this university tradition, aware of the great challenge of being a Catholic and Jesuit university today, yet also aware of its great limitations. We know of our great responsibility to form not only the mind of our students, but also their freedom, to touch not only their intellect but also their hearts. We know in many ways we fall short, failing to achieve the learning outcomes we so ardently ambition, failing to appropriately prepare for instruction or deliver our formation successfully, failing in research to continue to find new truth, failing in outreach to appropriately serve our community. Despite our shortcomings, we know ourselves carried by the university tradition in which we stand, by the nagging eros for truth, which forces us to face our failures and work at overcoming them, so that in our ongoing search for truth, we can continue to grow as a university.
With great humility therefore I come to you, our sister higher educational institution in Taunggyi, grateful for the privilege that you have granted the Ateneo de Davao of playing a small part in your own search for truth, and in your magnificent struggle for institutional maturity, little by little, step but step, weathering frustrations, overcoming difficulties, achieving awesome victories. We started off sharing skills in teaching and methods of teaching in compact modules. Recently we have shared the dedication of our Cardoner volunteers over longer periods of time. But over the years you have integrated our piecemeal contributions into your own search for truth and have created an Integrated Program that delivers professional teaching skills, yet transcends them, insisting that the teacher is not just a skilled pedagogue, but first and foremost a human being. In this institution, that human being is coaxed through his or her own personal search for truth through literature, philosophy, the social sciences, history and mathematics to the fullness of life. “I have come to bring life,” Jesus said, “life to the full’ (Jn 10:10). Ateneo de Davao University salutes your achievement, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Institute of Higher Studies, in your Integrated Program!
As it salutes the personal achievements of every graduate here today. You have worked hard and grown much. You have been tested by fire and not been found wanting. May your teaching careers be filled with the joy of human fulfillment as you touch your students with the challenge of being persons of deep compassion and joy. “I have come to bring life,” Jesus said, “life to the full’ (Jn 10:10). In your teaching, may you be part of the fullness of humanity that Jesus brings. In your teaching, may you bring your students to the fullness of life. In your teaching, may your joy be full.