Br. Noelvic H. Deloria, SC
It is of no small significance that we come together today more than two years since the breakout of the pandemic. To gather as DACS for our annual assembly despite the continuing threat of COVID19, I take as our brave and earnest attempt to return to normalcy but more significantly to renew our bond of friendship and solidarity in the mission of Catholic education. This, in view and in the midst of the various challenges encountered by Catholic schools. The pandemic is truly an unprecedented upheaval, rebooting much of what society has established as standard and ordinary in different areas of human affairs, whether in domestic and family life, community relations, politics and governance, global trade and economics, yes even in faith and religion. Education is no exception.
According to UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, “In 2020, schools globally were fully closed for an average of 79 teaching days, while the Philippines has been closed for more than a year, forcing students to enroll in distance learning modalities. The associated consequences of school closures – learning loss, mental distress, missed vaccinations, and heightened risk of drop out, child labour, and child marriage – will be felt by many children, especially the youngest learners in critical development stages.” We welcome the direction of the new government towards resumption of full face-to-face classes by November of this year. But again, this is not without risks or great costs for private schools because of stringent protocols and requirements set by the government.
For Catholic schools, the pandemic sees the closure of institutions nationally and even within DACS because of financial strain due to huge loss in enrollment. While the rest of us are slowly beginning to adjust to this difficult situation and even starting to pick-up, it is still an uphill climb given that many of Filipino Families are still grappling with loss of employment and livelihood. Our economy has been disrupted by global events, not the least by war and climate and environmental issues. Global recession next year is even foreseen by economists.
Despite this, our association continues to support our members in ways possible so that Catholic education can thrive remain relevant and effective for students coming from Catholic families.
Here are the DACS highlights in 2021-2022:
- On the actions of the DACS Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees has met for two (2) regular meetings and three (3) special meetings to discuss programs for the launching of the DACS 60th Foundation year. The Board has passed a total of twenty-five (25) resolutions confirmed by this General Assembly.
- On the Launching of DACS 60th Foundation Year
In February 23, 2022, we opened our sixtieth (60th) foundation year in consonance with the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. An online program was organized where we launched our Laudato Si Program. To mark the significance of the event, we have also commissioned the composition of our DACS Hymn which we heard earlier.
A conversation was organized on the topic: A Community of Catholic Schools in DADITAMA Journeying together in Thanksgiving, Formation, Synodality & Mission. Our guest speaker Br. Karl Gaspar and invited panelists presented their experiences and insights on how DACS and Catholic schools in the Region have fostered the faith in the students, how they have cultivated a culture of dialogue and the many challenges to social transformation that Catholic education seeks and works for.
Last April 19-20, 2022, the Board of Trustees and selected administrators came together to formulate our new vision-mission statement and design our strategic plan for 2022-2025. Our new Vision statement thus reads, “DACS-CEAP XI is a communion of Catholic Educational Institutions, in the local Churches of Davao, Digos, Tagum and Mati centered in the Person of Jesus Christ”. Our Mission statement commits the following: Inspired by the virtues of Mary and Joseph, DACS-CEAPXI accompanies the Catholic Educational Institutions in the region become effective in education and evangelization for social transformation in the 21st century. We have identified five (5) major Objectives:
- Strengthen Catholic Identity
- Champion Transformative Education
- Intensify Community Engagement
- Advocate for Justice and Peace, Ecological Integrity, Engaged Citizenship, Poverty Reduction, Gender and Development and Youth Empowerment (JEEPGY)
- Foster Financial Viability
The challenge now is to translate these objectives into concrete programs and activities. We invite everyone to consider these DACS Strategic Plans in your own schools development plans for greater impact.
- On DACS Advocacies and other Activities
Our DACS Advocacy Commission, with the leadership of Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ, has been meeting almost weekly to discuss various urgent educational, social, political and environmental issues.
A position paper on the national and local elections last May 9 was crafted by the ADVOCOM and adopted by the DACS Board. It supported the call of the CEAP for moral courage in choosing candidates and demanding from them truth in the face of disinformation. Our DACS position emphasized respect for individual choice and to maintain a non-partisan stance in consonance with the directives of the DADITAMA Bishops.
In keeping with this position, DACS responded to the call to help in cultivating spiritual discernment among young voters especially in choosing worthy leaders for the nation. The Youth Circles of Discernment modules were developed and shared to all schools and dioceses in DADITAMA to be used for voters’ formation and as an orientation material for those willing to volunteer as voters assistants and poll watchers on election day.
In collaboration with the Community Extension and Advocacy Offices of DACS schools and the Social Action Centers of the dioceses, we were able to recruit and train 2,225 volunteers from parish social action ministries who served in the different voting centers.
Given the positive feedback and experience from our recent electoral involvement, we recommend the continuation of the Circles of Discernment for our students and encourage community involvement among our students.
Pursuing the direction of empowering our young students to be socially aware and involved in promoting good governance in their respective communities, a Youth leaders conference was organized by the Advocacy Commission last June 24, 2022. Gathering more than a hundred student leaders, the conference allowed the young people to share experiences, views and recommendations on six (6) key advocacy issues, such as: Empowering Communities, Enduring Peace, Ecological Sustainability, Educational Reform, Economic Recovery, and Enhanced Covid Response. We shall continue to encourage these young leaders to define and articulate their development agenda for Mindanao and hopefully use this as their guide in engaging with national and local government, as future leaders in their communities.
- On Collaboration with the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP)
The DACS President has regularly represented DACS to the Board of the CEAP and has been part of consultations on issues affecting private education.
This year, we sent and subsidized another two DACS teacher-scholars to the CEAP Justice and Peace Academy Certificate Program with Miriam College.
The scholars who joined this course can serve as Justice and Peace Program trainers for other teachers in our region. They are coming from Assumption College of Davao and Holy Cross of Davao College. We will ask our teacher-scholars to conduct at least one echo-training at the end of their certificate program.
For the CEAP 80th Kapatirang Kamagong Project, DACS has identified mission schools among our members. The project was conceptualized to provide material assistance to small CEAP schools in all the regions as a demonstration of solidarity with Catholic schools which carry out the mission of Catholic education in remote and difficult areas.
The Board of Trustees have chosen five (5) mission schools that received new laptops to aid their school administrators and faculty in their instructional activities. There were:
- Holy Cross of Sulop
- Holy Cross of Sta. Maria
- Holy Cross of Malita
- Holy Cross of Magsaysay
- Holy Cross of Matanao
- On Laudato Si Program for Integral Ecology.
Among the global initiatives launched by Pope Francis to meaningfully celebrate the Season of Creation is for universities and schools worldwide to commit to be part of the Laudato Si Action Platform – a seven-year journey of cultivating integral ecology through planned actions. Participation in this program could be formalized by signing up a letter of commitment and sending it to the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion
of Integral Human Development.
Established as a general program of DACS through Resolution No. 5, the Laudato Si Program was launched last February 5 when some DACS schools organized tree planting activities in their respective areas while some forwarded letters of commitment to the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
Our recommendation is for each of the seventy (70) DACS schools to adopt a five-hectare private or public land to be reforested with at least 500 endemic trees for the next five (5) years. This translates to 350 hectares of forest with 35,000 trees. Imagine how much we can contribute to ecological protection and the universal effort to stop or revert the trend of global warming. Science tell us that forests capture almost 30% of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. So let us all participate in this campaign which is of life and death urgency for our Mother Earth. We shall be collecting data on many trees have each school planted and how many of these have survived into mature trees.
- On DACS Representation in Government Bodies
Our DACS staff continue to provide valuable assistance to our members especially in the area of information dissemination and the management of our regular office programs and services.
DACS in meetings and consultations called by government agencies especially by the National Economic Development Authority -Regional Development Council in Region XI.
For the coming schoolyear, I propose that we focus on these important directions:
- To formulate action plans on our 3-year strategic plan
- To conduct orientations and organize activities to help member schools implement face-to-face or flexible learning delivery
- To explore the resumption of Sports Program, not just for the athletic events among our students and school personnel but also as a means of engagement to promote peace and socio-cultural development in our respective communities.
- To strengthen our representation before the government to address the plight of private schools.
The Instruction of the Congregation for Catholic Education, “The identity of the Catholic school for a culture of dialogue”, issued last March 29, 2022, mentions,
“The path of the global compact on education tends to favour interpersonal, real, lived and fraternal relationships. In this way, a long-term project is launched to form people who are willing to put themselves at the educational service of their community. A concrete pedagogy – based on bearing witness, knowledge and dialogue – is a starting point for personal, social and environmental change. For this reason a “broad compact on education is needed, capable of imparting not only technical knowledge, but also and above all human and spiritual wisdom, based on justice” and virtuous behaviour “that can be put into practice”.”
The concrete nature of a global compact on education is also expressed through the harmony of co-participation. It originates from a deep sense of involvement taking the form of a “platform that allows everyone to be actively involved in this educational task, each one from his or her own specific situation and responsibility”. This invitation takes on great value for religious families with an educational charism, which over the ages have given life to so many educational and training institutions. The difficult situation affecting vocations can be turned into an opportunity to work together, sharing experiences and opening up to mutual recognition. In this way, the common goal is not lost sight of, nor are positive energies wasted, making it possible to “adapt to the needs and challenges of each time and place”.
I thank you to all for your being with us in this Regional Assembly. I express commendation to the incumbent and outgoing officers and members of the Board of Trustees and its commissions. I appreciate the staff for their commitment and service to the organization and all its members.
May God continue to guide us and inspire us to whole heartedly and faithfully collaborate with one another as a community of Catholic schools in DADIATAM as we navigate towards a new, exciting and challenging future.
2.  Pope Francis, Discorso alla Pontificia Università Lateranense, 31 October 2019. [Our translation]
3.  Pope Francis, Message to the Prepositor General of the Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools (Piarists), on the Occasion of the Online Seminar of the Union of Superiors General and the International Union of Superiors General on the Global Compact on Education (12-14 November 2020), 15 October 2020.