By Fr. Tomas P. Avila, Jr.
2021 is a historical year for our country and for the Filipino people. We commemorate the 500 years of the first coming of the conquistadores who planted Christianity to our land. Since then, Christianity has been embraced by the majority of our people. In 2012, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) enjoined us to be part of the “a nine-year journey for the New Evangelization” as preparation for this fifth centenary celebration. Let me refresh you with the yearly themes that we reflected in the past years:
- Integral Faith Formation (2013)
- The Laity (2014)
- The Poor (2015)
- The Eucharist and the Family (2016)
- The Parish as a Communion of Communities (2017)
- The Clergy and Religious (2018)
- The Youth (2019)
- Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue (2020)
- Missio ad gentes [mission to the nations] (2021)
While Christianity has been deeply entrenched in our land, in fact we are topping as far as the number of Catholics in Asia is concerned, and the third in the world, following after Brazil and Mexico, respectively, our country “continues to grapple year after year with the consequences of massive poverty, injustice and violence, graft and corruption, migration, environmental degradation, family breakdown, and deterioration of values, among others” (Philippine Catholic Schools Standards for Basic Education, 4). With these challenges besetting us, we can really say that we still have a long way to go to be truly evangelized and transformed by the teachings of the Lord.
Our schools, in particular the catholic educational institutions, are at in the best position to be agents of transforming our society. The Catholic Educational Association of Philippines (CEAP) with its 1,500 member schools has a vision of a world transformed, a Philippines renewed. Various educational systems and schools have similar thrust. A landmark document on Catholic education, Gravissimum Educationis, succinctly puts it: “For a true education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end and of the good of the societies of which, as man, he is a member, and in whose obligations, as an adult, he will share” (1). So, early on in the life of our learners, our schools aim to provide a balance in different aspects. Others may only have a preponderance to the academic pursuit, thus, neglecting the moral or the spiritual dimensions and other aspects of the learners. Integrality in the formation and education of the learners and anchored in teachings of the Lord are at the heart of Catholic education.
The Catholic School, another post-synodal document, lays down the very reason for the existence of Catholic school as “…committed thus to the development of the whole man, since in Christ, the Perfect Man, all human values find their fulfilment and unity. Herein lies the specifically Catholic character of the school. Its duty to cultivate human values in their own legitimate right in accordance with its particular mission to serve all men has its origin in the figure of Christ. He is the One Who ennobles man, gives meaning to human life, and is the Model which the Catholic school offers to its pupils” (35).
As the Philippine Church continues to fulfill her mission, let the Catholic schools become indispensable partners and collaborators of renewal and evangelization. Their structures and capabilities are in place to support and sustain the evangelizing mission of the Church. Let us be grateful for the presence and the gift of our Catholic schools to our communities. Let the Catholic schools also share their giftedness to enrich and enlighten our faith journey.
A meaningful 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines!