Homily for the SLU CICM Day
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 12:08

Homily delivered by Fr. Ramel O. Portula, CICM Provincial Superior
On the occasion of the CICM Sesquicentennial Launch and
SLU’s Centennial Closing, Bonifacio campus, 28 November 2011

Allow me to extend to all of you my warm greetings and congratulations on the occasion of the CICM day and the SLU Foundation Week. Last year’s CICM Foundation Day here in SLU was the opening of the Centennial Foundation Celebrations of this prestigious University. Today, we close those activities and we launch the CICM Sesquicentennial Celebrations with its theme “Mission Beyond Borders”.

The Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary since its birth in 1862 through the pioneering spirit of our founder, Fr. Theophile Verbist, has been at the service of God’s mission, dedicated to the proclamation of the good news to the poor and the marginalized. For the CICM pioneers in the Philippines, the school apostolate or the mission of education was seen as a concrete way to attain the vision of the CICM founder in the work of evangelization.

 

We are then called to a deep sense of gratitude for all the things that God has done through the CICM missionaries and their collaborators here in the Philippines and around the world. The late U.S. president John F. Kennedy once said about gratitude. He said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

And so, let us not so much look for accolades and seek recognitions about what CICM missionaries had done in the Philippines and in other parts of the world. In the words of the Gospel, we are all but faithful servants who must do what is expected of us.

Rather, we should approach this launching of the 150 years of CICM at the service of God’s mission as an opportunity to look for creative ways to adapt to the changes around us and to spur change in order to strengthen our missionary presence. Hence, the theme “Mission Beyond Borders” calls our attention to the question of how are we called to be missionaries of today and tomorrow?

I, therefore, want to share with you the following reflection on Mission and how CICM is called to be at the service of Mission Dei (the mission of God). Mission comes from God. It is the attribute of God. Nobody has a claim or a monopoly of Mission. We don’t own God’s mission. Rather, mission which comes from God owns us.

This bears profound implications about the way we understand ourselves and the way we carry out the works of God’s mission through SLU’s commitment to excellence in academic and human formation for the transformation of society. We are participants, collaborators, agents, and workers of God’s mission.

We draw inspiration from today’s gospel of St. Luke. Jesus sees his mission as bringing the good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, and new sight to the blind, freeing the oppressed and announcing the Lord’s year of mercy.

The founders of religious missionary congregations including CICM established their respective congregations precisely to do what Jesus proclaims to us today. In CICM, we call this mission ad extra. The CICM mission ad extra is being sent to where we are most needed to proclaim the gospel of salvation, the gift of God which liberates. This Good News means liberation from all that oppresses humanity, from sin under all its forms, and from all that condemns millions of human beings to the margins of life.

In the mind of the founders, the main purpose of establishing that one-small classroom school in 1911 near Session Road was to teach, first of all, the Catholic faith to children and to form them so they can become future leaders and productive citizens of the Cordillera and the country.

The Ad extra mission of the CICM Catholic schools is directed to the youth and ultimately towards society in which the schools were situated. Our CICM schools, SLU for instance, have still the same mission ad extra to transform her students, and finally transform society through their contributions.

Do you feel this in what you do today? Do you see this becoming a reality? Is SLU transforming society through the contributions of her students and graduates? Your extension programs and institutes and other college-based extension programs are SLU’s ad extra mission. The medical missions conducted by MOMFI in far-flung municipalities, the Sunflower Children’s Center,  and the Institute for Inclusive Education Foundation are some examples that come to mind about how you reach out to those who are most vulnerable in society.

I’m sure there are more examples we can give. You established programs, institutes and foundations as concrete expressions of this mission ad extra. I am sure, however, that you continue to look for ways to improve and involve more Louisians in these extension programs.

As CICM celebrates the 150 years of missionary involvement, we face certain challenges. The CICM Sesquicentennial Founding anniversary is a moment of grace for it not only gives us reason to celebrate because God has done great things for us, but also it is a unique moment to redefine its vision and strategies of actions toward the attainment of that vision started by Fr. Theophile Verbist, the CICM founder.

With changing human situations, emerging realities such as secularism, the negative effects of globalization, looming global crisis in the world, migration of peoples seeking employment abroad and its effects on family life, and global warming, the CICM and its school apostolate are challenged to seek creative means, rethink concepts and revise methods of teaching the Christian faith in the light of emerging challenges of the present times.

Because of these real demands and challenges affecting peoples and cultures, the old ways of evangelization will have to change. The business as usual attitude to religious instruction in our parishes and schools will have to give way to new methods.

For instance, we cannot ignore what has become of our religious instruction in our Catholic schools today. And what is the state of our religious education today in our parish communities and in our Catholic schools?

It is well recognized that many have fallen away from the practice of the faith and lack of foundation in the essentials of the faith. For many, the Gospel has lost its taste, its freshness and its luster.

We live in a time guided by secularism that treats religion as a purely private matter. It is a time guided by an ingrained consumerism and materialism, by an isolating individualism and pervading relativism that erode confidence in the truths of faith and in human reason itself. For many people, their religious instruction failed them at several levels. Something went wrong.

But we are not without hope. At the same time, this is an age when many, especially the young, are experiencing a surge of interest in enduring values and a yearning for meaning, purpose and a spiritual life.

Our CICM schools are training grounds of integral human formation for the work of the mission. Our CICM schools as places of learning have the potential of shaping human character teaching students, faculty and employees the core values of hard work, honesty, integrity, leadership, and service – all these are necessary elements in transforming society.

There is no doubt that SLU has been known for its excellence in the field of quality education as can be attested by the many accomplishments achieved and the recognitions received over the years. There is another area, however, where we can measure SLU’s reputation for excellence. It is in the area of shaping the minds and hearts of the young people passing through the four-walls of our school and ensuring that they graduate with the mind and heart of a true Christian. Are we also excellent in this department?

We take a look at the role of Catholic education in our schools in the context of building a just and more humane society, in terms of transforming society. SLU has a mission to transform being the “Light of the North”. Are we educating and forming future doctors, engineers, accountants, and lawyers who are imbued with Christian values of honesty and genuine integrity, and be confident that when they are in private or government service that they won’t steal money from the people?

Are we educating and forming future teachers, nurses, businessmen and women, and social workers who are motivated to pursue their respective careers not primarily for personal and economic gains but also professionals who are willing to render service to the poor, marginalized, and the most vulnerable in our midst? Scriptures say that when these people -the poor and marginalized - are ignored by society, God becomes angry. Does SLU excel in making Louisians socially aware and involve in the building of our communities by encouraging them to be agents and partners in our outreach and community service programs?

Our CICM schools through Catholic education are called to continue to produce not only competent professionals but competent Christian professionals who will put into good use their acquired knowledge and skills for a transformed society.

Our nation is suffering from a pervasive corruption and abuse of power. There is a need for honest and dedicated public servants with high moral integrity who can do the task of nation building. Corruption and abuse of power continue to be committed with impunity in public and private sectors. Religious institutions are not foolproof to these sins. Abuse of the environment in the name of progress and development is damaging Mother Nature and making life in the planet less and less sustainable. These are just some realities and missionary needs we find ourselves in and where SLU and our catholic education are called forth to continue to respond to.

I was struck by the quotation printed on a shirt worn by one of the students in another CICM school when I was visiting. It made me stop and reflect. The quotation on the printed shirt says: “The heart of education is the education of the heart”. That is truly what Catholic education is all about, I found myself saying.

My dear Louisians, the pursuit for academic excellence of international standards that CICM schools strive to offer to society must diffuse Christian life through relevant human formation. This involves the ongoing education of the heart of all Louisians. This includes framing, articulating, and formulating school core values around which school priorities, academic programs, and best practices revolve.

In particular, this means living God’s justice, teaching through examples that our practices in our offices, in our departments and in our classrooms are just, and that our dealings with one another are based on respect and love, not on personal gains. It means leading students to successful professional lives with transformed missionary consciousness.

In conclusion, we turn our minds and hearts to Jesus who is the source of our strength and inspiration. May our celebrations and activities during this week’s SLU Foundation and the launching of the CICM Sesquicentennial be joyful occasions that will encourage us to better ourselves and propel us to a more dynamic and relevant missionary activity for the building of a just and more humane society.

On behalf of CICM-RP Province, I thank all of you administrators, faculty, employees and you thousands of students for your continuous commitment to the works of Mission and for making what SLU is now today. You and I make our humble contributions to the school and to society according to what we have received from God as our gifts and talents. After all, it is God’s mission -- not ours. Amen!