Tuesday, 12 February 2013 00:00


The 150 Years of CICM (1862-2012)

By  Fr. Gilbert SALES, CICM
Chair, CICM 150th Anniversary Celebration Committee
President, Saint Louis College-San Fernando, La Union

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

This year marks the 150th foundation anniversary of the CICM. Founded in 1862 in Scheut, (Brussels), Belgium, by the diocesan priest Théophile Verbist, to preach the Gospel in China and to take care of the abandoned children, the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, better known as CICM (an acronym from the Latin Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae) is an international religious and missionary society of priests and brothers.

“Cor unum et anima una” (One Heart and One Soul) is the motto of the CICM. Today, around 1,000 CICM priests and brothers are united by the following common heritage that has at the same time formed their identity and provided them with missionary zeal and inspiration for the past 150 years.



Committed to the missionary orientation of doing missions ad extra (literally, to the outside), that is, transcending geographical, cultural, and ideological barriers, CICM missionaries are sent outside their country of origin to frontier situations where the proclamation of the Gospel is most needed. CICM missionaries are engaged in various pastoral activities in more than twenty countries.  They are strategically situated in four continents, as they continue to respond to the challenge of transforming the world through the active preaching and living of Christianity.

Currently CICM missionaries are present in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Mongolia, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Senegal, Zambia, Guatemala, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States of America, France, Italy, and South Africa.

The “Belgian Fathers,” as the CICM missionaries were popularly known then, arrived in the Philippines in 1907.  For more than a century of missionary presence in the country, they have been working with the local church, serving the poor, educating the young, empowering the laity, engaging in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, and ensuring environmental sustainability. These CICM efforts are all aimed at promoting a just and inclusive society.

When it comes to educational apostolate, the CICM-Philippines has significantly established schools. These are the Maryhill School of Theology (MST)- Quezon City, Saint Louis College (SLC)- Cebu, Saint Louis College (SLC)- San Fernando, University of Saint Louis (USL)- Tuguegarao, Saint Mary’s University (SMU) - Bayombong, and Saint Louis University (SLU)– Baguio City.

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.

Historically, bringing the Good News to the people of Northern Luzon at the turn of the 20th century demanded from the early missionaries the opening of schools in order to sustain their missionary activities. Religious education, for one, also meant training lay collaborators in the pastoral field of making the message of the Gospel more alive in and harmonious with the lives of ordinary people.

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

With the CICM jubilee theme this year of Mission Beyond Borders, CICM schools renew the missionary consciousness present in their system of education by expanding pedagogy, rethinking concepts, and revising methods of teaching Christian faith in the light of today’s emerging challenges. The key is to frame, articulate, and formulate core values around which school policy priorities, academic programs, and best practices revolve. These institutional core values provide the foundation of the CICM schools’ unique identity and permeate their missionary nature as Catholic educational institutions in the world. Finally, the pursuit for academic excellence of international standards that CICM schools offer to society must diffuse the flame of Christian life through relevant academic instruction and human formation. That is, CICM schools continue engage their own future in a rapidly changing world through a transformed missionary consciousness supported by institutional strategies, viz., 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 and religious life.

The CICM Tomorrow

The work of the mission is immense. The CICM society explores new mission paradigms, in arriving at a new meaning and appreciation of lay partnership. Engaging the help of mission lay partners necessarily brings with it a pronounced recognition of lay participation. Lay participation in the Church’s mission is something that the CICM tomorrow continues to support with resolute attention and care. Seen perceptively, the Church is more and more becoming effectively lay! The Church, being the people of God, understands that the laity has an important role to play in the work of salvation as an important truth..

In a rapidly changing world marked by radical transformations in organizational culture, the CICM - as an international religious and missionary institution - seeks to adapt itself to the process of reinvention and revitalization, by taking a proactive stance towards the presence of non-religious collaborators in the mission areas. In very different missionary contexts, the CICM develops different new strategies that are appropriate to the changing times.

Accordingly, in view of concluding the sesquicentennial event of the CICM this year, the CICM-Philippines has lined up commemorative activities that included a thanksgiving mass in the morning of 30 November 2012 at the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral (“Baguio cathedral”) in Baguio City, that was attended by hundreds of CICM missionaries, together with their mission partners and lay collaborators, priests and religious from various congregations, as well as valued guests from society.

Mabuhay ang CICM!