[Address to the Davao Association of Catholic Schools/CEAP Region XI]
The President of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools, Fr. Tom Avila, the representatives of the DACS Board of Trustees, members of the DACS and of CEAP Region XI:
My warm congratulations to the trustees and new officers of the DACS and of CEAP Region XI!
Atty. Roselle Perez-Barluan will provide you with an update on the many ongoing activities of the CEAP. I take this opportunity to speak to you from what is moving me as President.
With John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Education Ex Corde Ecclesiae, I invite you to recall that the Catholic University – and analogously all our Catholic schools – proceeds ex corde ecclesiae, from the heart of the Church. The heart of the Church is Jesus Christ.
Our schools are institutions of basic and higher learning. But as Catholic, they are powerful instruments of evangelization, of spreading the joy of the Gospel. Because we are committed both to quality education and to the service of the faith in our schools, each of our schools is crucial for the youth of our nation and precious in the eyes of the Lord.
Because of this, we must exert every effort, despite the adverse conditions in which many of schools operate, to keep our schools alive. I congratulate all the Catholic schools of Region XI that, through the genius and grit of local leadership, have not only survived but have distinguished themselves in educational service, especially in successfully meeting the challenges of establishing and running senior high schools.
Jesus is the heart of the Church. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Ex Corde Ecclesiae says it is our privilege to preside over the tension between on the one hand knowing Jesus as the truth, but on the other hand having nevertheless to search for truth. It is this tension that in our instruction and formation that can provide our schools their special transformative character: knowing Jesus on the one hand who as truth teaches love for all and service for all, yet having to search for this truth in the realities of our world: the exclusion of the poor from the benefits of society, the consumption-based economy that ravages the environment, the loss of confidence in national leadership and governance structures, the diminishment of truth in fake news, the social media and its negative impact on real interpersonal relations. From the heart of our Catholic schools, Jesus, we must exert every effort to keep the institutions alive that address these issues transformatively.
Pope Francis has recently published a document entitled Veritatis Gaudium meant for ecclesiastical faculties of theology, but with very deep relevance for what we do in all our schools. In the document he says, “The joy of truth is the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s light and shares that light with all peoples.” All our schools, in teaching, research and service to the community, are about truth. But the joy of truth is in the restlessness of our human heart until they encounter and dwell in God’s light and share that light with all peoples. It is a statement that we can meditate on and pray over in each of our schools, individually or collectively, to recover our privileged mission in Catholic education, where joy is linked to restlessness, and the joy of truth is linked to the restlessness of our human hearts, insofar as they are still human in the darkness of today, until they encounter and dwell in God’s light and share that light with all peoples. The transformative character of our education depends crucially on encountering and abiding in God’s light and the imperative to share that light with all peoples.
In this light, with Pope Francis, we might consider four consequent invitations:
The invitation to meditate and pray over what I teach, how I teach, whom I teach and what truth demands. Where teaching has become dry and routine, this is the invitation to rediscover in prayer the awesome mystery of the Trinity speaking a Word of Truth to our darkened world and reconciling it to itself in divine Light. Our schools play a crucial role in that reconciliation.
The invitation for each member of the community to enter into dialogue. This is an invitation to break out of my personal aloneness, my personal shyness, my thinking that what I see or what I experience is of no value to others, or my thinking that what others know and experience is of no value to me. It is an invitation to risk a conversation where lives and life experience and insight from life is shared.
The invitation to multi- and interdisciplinarity. This is the invitation to understand that one’s own discipline does not exhaust truth. Nor does it meet the challenges of darkness in the world which rejects the light of God’s transforming compassion. Our individual disciplines need to come together with other disciplines against the darkness of the world that neither comprehends nor grasps God’s light.
Finally, the invitation to network, to understand that none of our schools can go it alone. This is why we have CEAP, why we have the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), and why COCOPEA today is committed to a partnership with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC). In Region XI, it is why we have the Association of Private Schools, colleges and Universities in Region XI (APSCUR XI) and the Davao Association of Colleges and Universities (DACUN). We are all part of the one system of education the Philippine Constitution mandates the State to provide in order to bring quality education on all levels to all. But for Catholic schools it is through our one network of Catholic schools, the DACS and the CEAP together, through which we undertake from the heart of the Church to search for God’s truth and communicate it in our world, and to find the joy of that truth in the restlessness of our human heart until we encounter and abide in God’s light and share this light with all peoples. In sharing this light with all peoples, we are transformed in the light, as the world is transformed.
Today, not only in Mindanao but throughout the Philippines, we rejoice, because the restlessness in our Catholic schools for light relative to the injustices done to the Muslims of Mindanao; we rejoice because our networked efforts to be faithful to that light have contributed to the passage by Congress of the Bangsamoro Organic Law for Muslim Mindanao which we hope will help secure lasting peace in Mindanao. I thank all of the schools in Region XI and throughout the CEAP that now rejoice in the triumph of God’s light in Mindanao.
We thank and congratulate Msgr. Julius Radulfa assisted by ED Jimmie-loe de la Vega for shepherding DACS from brokenness to wholeness to holiness, even as we encourage Fr. Tom Avila and the new DACS leadership to strengthen us in our oneness, and in our brokenness to open us to the wholeness and holiness of God’s Light!