On 15 August 2015, the administration, faculty, employees, and students of Saint Louis University (SLU), together with government officials and representatives from the religious community and other educational institutions, witnessed the Investiture Ceremony of REV. FR. GILBERT B. SALES, CICM as the seventh President of Saint Louis University. “Academic Excellence and Missionary Faith” is Fr. Gilbert’s leadership slogan intended to guide SLU’s institutional life in the coming years of his presidency.
Fr. Gilbert B. Sales was born in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, on 5 August 1962. He has been with the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) for 36 years, first as a college seminarian, later as a professed member, having made his first vows in 1984, and finally as ordained priest on 25 April 1992.
Father Gilbert had taken his elementary and secondary education in his home city, respectively in Saint Paul’s College (graduation year 1975) and Saint Louis College – which became later the University of Saint Louis (graduation year 1979). For his university degree, Father Gilbert followed Philosophy and English Literature programs in Saint Louis University, Baguio City, a seminarian at Maryhurst Seminary, Baguio City. After his first vows, Father Gilbert continued with this theology formation in Maryhill School of Theology (MST), Quezon City. After finishing this theology studies, Father Gilbert was sent to Hong Kong as his first mission territory. (Father Gilbert also followed advanced theological and spiritual courses in Chicago and New York in the following years.)
On 25 April 1992 Father Gilbert was ordained priest in his home city of Tuguegarao. After his ordination, Father Gilbert was called to join the pioneering group of three missionaries sent by Pope John Paul II to the newly opened mission in Mongolia in July 1992. He would successively perform in that country the functions of a parish priest, interns’ formator, treasurer, and director of the “Verbist Care Center,” which he founded in 1995. Meanwhile, he was also a council member of the CICM Chinese Province, executive director of Caritas Internationalis in Mongolia, and Chairperson of “Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation” of the Vatican Office in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as well as of the management board of CICM social projects. It was through these positions that Father Gilbert became known for his concern for street children in the Mongolian capital, a problem that had fast spread after the former Soviet Union stopped with its massive support to the Mongolian economy and its social security in the wake of the collapse of communism.
Father Gilbert was seen bringing tea and pancakes to street children holing up in the city’s drainage system every Wednesday. The London-based international magazine The Economist even featured in its January 2000 issue Father Gilbert’s mission in the streets of Ulaanbaatar with the following article: “FATHER GILBERT knows every open manhole in Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bator, and, more important, the children who live below them. Every Wednesday this Filipino priest delivers hot tea and mutton pancakes across the city.”
Father Gilbert was also in charge of a local orphanage that sheltered 130 of them. The talents and efforts of Father Gilbert were recognized by the local authorities, who conferred upon him several expressions of their appreciation, including the Honorary Governorship of Ulaanbaatar, the award of Most Outstanding Social Worker, and the gold medals of the Mongolian National Police and of the National Children’s Center, and the Ghengis Khan Honor Medal of the Great Mongolia State.
In 2007, Father Gilbert’s missionary life took him back to his native country, where he was tasked to help in the CICM educational apostolate. He became first chaplain and liaison officer at Saint Louis College (SLC), San Fernando, La Union. Still, in that same year, he became the Officer-in-charge of the president’s office. In 2009, he was installed as the ninth president of SLC, during a ceremony with “Shepherding towards Growth” for his theme, and he became equally vice-president of the Board of Trustees. In this capacity, Father Gilbert was also made a member of the boards in the other CICM colleges or universities. He also became the regional director for Region I of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), and – until 2013 – he was also a member of its national board. This function is being combined with that of a regional commissioner in the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA). In his missionary congregation, Father Gilbert has been a member of the Provincial Council of its Philippine province since 2009. Besides this, he also chairs the Committee on Ongoing Formation and Care for the Elderly and is a member of the Committee on Education.
Since his inaugural address as president of Saint Louis College, Father Gilbert has repeatedly been stressing the twofold mission of that college, as well as of that of all Catholic – and especially CICM-founded – educational establishments: academic excellence and deepening of the Christian faith, echoing the words of Pope John Paul II: “To think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better.”
Father Gilbert has emphasized the importance of an institutional roadmap and adequate strategic planning. One of the aims of this approach is to be at par with other reputed educational institutions, both in the Philippines and abroad, and to be alert to changing needs in the labor market.
Father Gilbert’s assignment for more than eighteen years as a missionary abroad brought Fr. Gilbert not only the opportunity to learn more about different management principles and strategies; it allowed him also to acquire the command over several languages including Chinese and Mongolian.
Fr. Gilbert brings along with him all these experiences and expertise as a CICM missionary and educational leader when he assumes office as the seventh president of Saint Louis University.
Congratulations to Father Gilbert B. Sales, CICM, and we wish him all the best!