ONE HEART, ONE SOUL: The 150 Years of CICM and the Mission of Education
Saturday, 26 November 2011 20:54
by Jeffrey M. Centeno, PhD

“The group of believers was of one heart and soul.”  (Acts 4:32)

“We have here a good and beautiful mission.” (Fr Théophile Verbist)

Remembering the origin of CICM

“Cor unum et anima una” (“One Heart and One Soul”) is the motto of the CICM and introduced into the coat of arms of the Congregation on 5 October 1933 during the Generalate of Fr Constant Daems (1930-1934). “With the oneness of heart and soul we can achieve.”

Fr Théophile Verbist was born on 12 June 1823 in Antwerp, Belgium and ordained priest on 18 September 1847. On 28 November 1862, Fr Verbist founded the CICM (Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae) or the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. His first companions were Frs Alois Van Segvelt, Francois Vranckx, and Remi Verlinden. On 25 August 1865,  Fr Verbist and his companions left Brussels for the historic journey to China.

On February 23, 1868, Fr Verbist died of typhoid fever at the age of 45 in Lao-Hu-Kou, Mongolia.

The CICM missionaries through the past 150 years have generously committed and offered their lives to the great missionary task assigned to them. For as long as there are men who are generous enough  and who truly love God  and willing to give themselves for  others,  the CICM and its mission will go on. Today, there are about 1,000 CICM priests and brothers around the world.

With changing human situations, emerging new realities, and looming global crises in the world, the CICM is strongly moved to redefine its vision and strategies of actions towards the attainment of that vision. Fortunately, from the writings and examples of Founder Fr Théophile Verbist and from the various official documents of the Congregation, the CICM can continually draw relevant insights for missionary directions in the face of new challenges.

“The general purpose of the Congregation is the conversion of the non-Christians, but its specific aim is the preaching of the faith to the Chinese and the salvation of the many abandoned children,” reveals Fr Verbist of the reason for the establishment of the CICM in 1862. That is, faithful to the inspiration of the Founder to dedicate lives and efforts as members of CICM communities to the proclamation of the Gospel values and to the care of the marginalized and the poor, we take the 150th foundation anniversary of CICM in 2012 as an fortunate moment to revitalize the common origins of the CICM character formed out of a genuine sense of the mission. Thus, we renew today with hope for a brighter future our shared missionary identity whether as religious or as lay members of CICM institutions.

Hence, at the core of CICM character are  –

1) A Christ-centered spirituality for the mission;
2) A missionary activity integrated into the whole pastoral work of the Church; 
3) The evangelization of cultures through quality education;
4) A proactive stance in support for people’s natural and cultural heritage; and, 
5) Solidarity with the poor through the establishment of an inclusive society.

Concerning CICM Schools as Today’s Frontier Situations and Signs of Christian Life

The educational apostolate of the Philippine CICM province (CICM-PHL) affirms the animating spirit of the pioneer missionaries who saw the essential role of schools in the process of evangelization.  Evangelization essentially consists in the promotion of human dignity and solidarity with the poor, following the enduring message of the Word Incarnate, i.e., to give one’s life for another.

Hence, CICM schools, envisaged as training grounds of integral human formation for the work of the mission, are necessary conditions of social transformation.  Likewise, CICM schools as places of learning, have the potential of shaping human character according to certain systems of values and beliefs. In short, CICM education must go straight to the heart of society with an enduring missionary spirit.

Bringing the Good News to the people of Northern Luzon beginning in 1907 demanded for the early missionaries the establishment of schools in order to sustain their missionary efforts of religious education. Religious education also meant training lay collaborators in the pastoral work of making the message of the Gospel more relevant to the lives of ordinary people.

Clearly, CICM school founders, namely, Bishop Constant Jürgens and Fr Godfried Lambrecht for USLT and SMU, respectively, Fr Alfred Spincemaille for SLC, and Frs Séraphin Devesse and Fr Florimond Carlu for SLU, started the mission of education in their respective assignments through religious instruction.

On the occasion of the 150th foundation anniversary of the Congregation which affirms its Ad Gentes character, with its theme of Mission Beyond Borders, CICM schools and Universities renew the missionary consciousness present in their education system by expanding pedagogy, rethinking concepts, and revising methods of teaching Christian faith in light of the emerging challenges of the present times. “The educator is forever confronted with new pedagogical methods,” (Kindling the fire, 1974). This includes framing, articulating, and formulating school core values around which school policy priorities, academic programs, and best practices revolve. In effect, these core values provide the foundation of the CICM schools’ unique identity and permeate their missionary nature as Catholic educational institutions in the world.

Consequently, the practice of CICM school shared core values on which rests the strength of the schools, alongside their respective internal institutional support mechanisms, calls for their active application inside the school in terms of promoting healthy relationships among the administration, staff, faculty, and students, and outside the school in terms of leading students to successful professional lives in the world animated by a distinct CICM identity.

(The recently held first ever CICM religious education teachers’ congress in Bauang, La Union, last October 28-29, 2011, as spearheaded by the CICM Provincial Committee on Education and hosted by SLC, gave a fresh impetus to the reaffirmation of the missionary and religious identity of all CICM schools in the Philippines, aptly expressed with the congress theme “Keeping the flame of the CICM mission of education alive.”)

In the end, the pursuit for academic excellence of international standards that CICM schools strive to offer to society must diffuse Christian life through relevant human formation. Relevant human formation is an integral component of the missionary activity of CICM schools as Catholic educational institutions. That is, CICM schools must engage their own future through a transformed missionary consciousness. For “together, we will be able to work for the transformation of our society,” (Kindling the fire).

Thus, CICM schools must promote through effective planning and systematic implementation of institutional strategies -

1) Orientation towards social and cultural development;
2) Education of professionals and leaders animated by Christian spirit; and,
3) Vocation promotion among the students to the missionary life.

Addendum: CICM SUPERIOR GENERALS

“The Superior General shall govern the Congregation with wisdom.”
- CICM Constitutions, Art. 222


1. Théophile Verbist (1862 – 1865) 
2. Frans Vranckx (1869 – 1888) 
3. Jeroom Van Aertselaer (1888 – 1898) 
4. Adolf Van Hecke (1898 – 1908; 1st General Chapter) 
5. Albert Botty (1908 – 1909; 2nd General Chapter) 
6. Florent Mortier (1909 – 1920) 
7. Joseph Rutten (1920 – 1930; 3rd General Chapter) 
8. Constant Daems (1930 – 1934; 4th General Chapter) 

*Jozef Vandeputte (1935 – 1947, as Vicar General)

9.  Jozef Vandeputte (1947 – 1957; 5th General Chapter) 
10. Frans Sercu (1957 – 1961) 
11. Omer Degrijse (1961 – 1967) 
12. Wim Goossens (1967 – 1974; 7th General Chapter) 
13. Paul Van Daelen (1974 – 1987; 8th  and 9th General Chapters, respectively) 
14. Michel Decraene (1987 – 1993; 10th General Chapter) 
15. Jacques Thomas (1993 – 1999; 11th General Chapter) 
16. Jozef Lapauw (1999 – 2005; 12th General Chapter) 
17. Edouard Tsimba Ngoma (2005 – 2011; 13th General Chapter)
18. Timothy Atkin (2011 – present; 14th General Chapter)

About Superior General Fr Timothy “Tim” Atkin, CICM -

Born in 1948 in Jackson, Michigan, USA, Fr “Tim” entered CICM in 1968. After his ordination in 1974, he left for Haiti. After his language studies, Fr “Tim” was assigned in Hinche. He also served in the US formation program in San Antonio, Texas, from 1983 until 1985. Back in Haiti, Fr “Tim” became pastor of La Victoire Parish until 1988. From 1989 until 1992, he was a seminary formator in Mexico. In 1992, he returned to Haiti, first as pastor on the Island of La Gonaives, and then in 1996 as Provincial Treasurer.

Fr “Tim” was a member of the Haiti Provincial Government in different periods. Since 1990, he has been a member of the Investment Management Board and of the General Finance Committee. From 2000 to 2005, Fr “Tim” was the Provincial Superior of Haiti. He participated in the 1987 and 2005 General Chapters, and he was elected General Councilor during the 2005 General Chapter.

In June 2011, the 14th CICM General Chapter in Rome elected Fr Timothy “Tim” Atkin as the 18th Superior General of CICM for a term of 6 years (2011-2017), a term coinciding with the occasion of the sesquicentennial blessed jubilee of CICM in 2012.