As the President of both Saint Louis University and the Association of Catholic Universities of the Philippines (ACUP), Rev. Fr. Gilbert B. Sales, CICM, attended the conference on Pastoral Care in Catholic Universities that centered on the theme, “Towards a Polyhedric Vision: Strengthening Catholic Campus Ministry for Spiritual Nurturing, Cultural Engagement, and Community Building” from 23 to 25 November 2023 at the Vatican City, Rome. The said Conference included a series of lectures, roundtable discussions, workshop, and an immersive experience through a rare audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis.
In the invitation letter sent by Dicasterium De Cultura Et Educatione (Dicastery for Culture and Education) to Fr. Sales on 11 July 2023, the said meeting was for those in charge of university pastoral care and of university chaplains of Catholic universities. The Dicastery for Culture and Education was entrusted with the care and promotion of the Catholic Church’s institutes of higher education through the Apostolic Constitution, Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel), that was recently promulgated by Pope Francis.
As one of the universities that are born “Ex corde Ecclesiae” (from the heart of the church), which is the apostolic constitution issued by Pope John Paul II regarding Catholic colleges and universities, SLU and other Catholic universities are at the service of the mission in the forms proper to the world of universities through research, teaching, and influence on society. Further, the “guardians and beating heart” of this mission of evangelization are university pastoral services and chaplains in the diversity of structures and methods.
In the homily of the Eucharistic Celebration of the CICM 161st Foundation Anniversary and of SLU’s 112th Founding Anniversary, Fr. Sales spoke about his reflections on the recent conference in Rome. He said that the focal point of reflection in the conference was: “How can we make our universities more pastoral, responding to the complexities of our society today?” Fr. Sales shared that three main things came up from the attendees of the conference: one, the vision of Christ; two, with appropriate action responding to the particular needs of our institutions; and three, with courage and boldness.
Fr. Sales further exhorted that the CICM as a congregation and SLU as an educational institution are therefore challenged to do the same: to have a clear vision of what we want our institution to be in the next two, five, or ten years; second, to match our vision with appropriate action, especially in responding to the cries of our stakeholders and in the complexity of our society; and three, to be resolute, determined, and courageous, working together in the achievement of the goals we have set for ourselves.
“Towards a Polyhedric Vision”: The Catholic Lens on Unity in Diversity
The theme of the meeting held at the Vatican came from recognizing the need to reinforce programs of university pastoral care with new methods and emphases. These methods ought to be open to what is new and relevant to the present cultural circumstances. Thus, these new programs should be done the “polyhedral” way.
In an article by the Vatican Files, Pope Francis uses the image of the polyhedron to “illustrate what he has in mind when he thinks of Christian unity and the unity of mankind.” Although the geometric shape may lack the sphere’s harmony and proportions, it does retain the unity of a solid shape. In addition, a polyhedron symbolizes that there is not a single way of seeing things, thus the “polyhedral way” is unity in diversity.
During his 2014 visit to the Italian Pentecostal Church, Pope Francis shared his perspective of ecumenism as a polyhedron: “We think of the polyhedron: the polyhedron is a unity, but with all different parts; each one has its peculiarity, its charism. This is unity in diversity”.
The conference on Pastoral Care, “Towards a Polyhedric Vision”, included the following conference talks, programs, activities:
23 November 2023: Conference Hall, Jesuit Curia- Borgo Santo Spirito 4, Rome
- “Proclaiming the Gospel in the University”, an address by Card. José Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education
- “Igniting the Imagination”, an address by Antonio Spadaro, S.J.,
- “Overview of the Reality of Culture and Young People”, a Roundtable Discussion with Bert Daelemans, S.J., architect and art critic, Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain; Isabella Guanzini, theologian, Katholische Privat-Universität Linz, Austria; Ivana Pais, sociologist, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy; and Andrea Riccardi, historian and founder of Comunità di Sant’Egidio. The roundtable discussion was moderated by Mons. Giovanni Cesare Pagazzi, Secretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education
- Presentation of university pastoral experiences by:
- Université Catholique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, Abidjan, Ivory Coast
- Université Catholique de Lyon, Lyon, France
- Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
- Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, South Korea
- Catholic University of America, Washington D.C., USA
- Moderator: Prof. Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi, Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education
24 November 2023: An Audience with His Holiness Pope Francis