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ASPAC Meeting of the Presidents
of the SVD-Aministered Universities

Thomas Malipurathu, SVD

three-day meeting of the presidents of the SVD-aministered universities of the ASPAC Zone took place at the Holy Name University, Tagbilaran, in the Philippines (PHS) from the 28th to 30th January 2010. Of our six universities, five were represented. The President of the Divine Word University in Madang (PNG) could not participate because of busy schedule. Besides the presidents, a couple of other major officials of our two Filipino universities (Holy Name and San Carlos) also took part in the deliberations. Secretary for Formation and Education, Thomas Malipurathu, represented the Generalate at the meeting, which took off with an opening Eucharistic celebration at 10 a.m. on Thursday, January 28th.

One of the main items on the agenda was looking at the possibility of preparing a set of common guidelines for the six Society-administered universities in the Zone. There were some sort of an individual set of guidelines in existence for the three universities of Nanzan (JPN), Fu Jen (SIN) and San Carlos (PHS). They were formulated way back in 1981 by Fr. General Henry Heekeren and his council. In the intervening years there occurred many changes in various spheres rendering most provisions of those guidelines obsolete or irrelevant. The meeting at Tagbilaran took a detailed look at the 1981 proposals and tried to bring the various provisions up-to-date. They will now be articulated in formal language and forwarded to Fr. Superior General and his council for their perusal and eventual approval.

A second important item was taking up anew the question of the “pastoral and missionary slant” of these institutes of higher learning administered by the Society. Once again the point of departure for the reflections of the forum was a circular letter of 1981 by the then Superior General Fr. Henry Heekeren. It was entitled “Pastoral-missionary Orientation in Our Schools”. Fr. General Antonio M. Pernia’s comments on this document, which formed part of his address to the members of the same forum at its last meeting at Madang (PNG) in 2007, provided helpful hints for the deliberations of the group at the present meeting. The participants noted that the understanding of mission has changed much since 1981 and with it our preoccupations with regard to the pastoral and missionary slant of our ministry of education. The forum readily agreed that the framework against which our pastoral and missionary slant has to be evaluated today is the following: Our mission today is to give witness to the inclusiveness of God’s Kingdom and its openness to diversity which we carry out as a four-fold prophetic dialogue for which we take the four-fold pathways of Biblical Apostolate, Mission Animation, JPIC and Communications. The participants then decided that in the coming months each of the six universities would initiate a process to evaluate its pastoral-missionary slant using this framework as a yardstick and prepare report which will then be forwarded to chairman of the forum, Fr. Francisco Estepa. A future meeting of the forum will subject the consolidated report to further study and necessary action.

The host of the meeting, Fr. Francisco Estepa, who is the president of the Holy Name University, with the active collaboration of a dedicated group of his colleagues, did a marvelous job in organizing it. Every detail was superbly attended to. The famed Filipino hospitality was much in evidence throughout the three-day meeting. The participants went away with a distinct feeling of having taken another concrete step in advancing the discourse on the mission we engage in through our schools and other institutes of higher learning.