A commitment to develop ‘Christ-centered’ leadersBy Stephen Norries A. Padilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Catholic schools, colleges and universities in the country remain crucial in transforming students into Christ-centered leaders amid new challenges in a modern society.
This was affirmed by the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) at its recent annual national convention at SMX Convention Center, SM Mall of Asia Complex, in Pasay City.
With the theme “Remember with Gratitude, Renew with Fervor,” the convention tackled topics and issues for Catholic educational institutions.
Thousands of school leaders and administrators of the 1,345 CEAP member institutions discussed the K-to-12 program, religious instructions, public-private partnership in education, legal issues affecting private schools, advocacy work and transformative education, among others.
They also discussed how Catholic schools should respond to challenges like the no-hijab (veil) policy at Pilar College in Zamboanga City and the question of academic freedom for the 192 faculty members of Ateneo de Manila University who declared their support for the reproductive health bill.
“While we celebrate the longevity of our institutions, we need to take stock of new and emerging contemporary challenges,” said Fr. Gregorio Bañaga, C.M., outgoing CEAP president.
Bañaga also reiterated the message in the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on what the Catholic community must do as it moved toward the 500th year of Catholic education in the country.
The tasks correspond to what the CBCP calls the “four pillars.” The first is to fulfill the “mission ad gentes” —involving laypeople in a consecrated life. Second is to bring the good news to the poor. Third is to reach out to those who have drifted away from the Church and joined other religious sects. And last, to awaken or reawaken in faith young people everywhere.
In the run-up to CEAP’s 75th anniversary in 2016, Bañaga said, and in line with the CBCP pastoral letter, Catholic schools should remain centers of evangelization. He said the schools were rendering invaluable service by being at the “core of educational systems in the Philippines.”
The CEAP supported educational reforms being implemented by the administration of President Aquino.
Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., chair of the CEAP National Advocacy Commission, said they were in constant dialogue with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to help bring about reforms, such as the K-to-12 basic education program.
Apart from educational initiatives, CEAP has also been engaged in major national issues. In public statements, it bared its stand on certain political and social problems plaguing the country.
It strongly opposed, for instance, suggestions to give former dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.
Its statement read: “Let justice be the tie that binds us as a nation…. No to a hero’s burial for Marcos!”
Tabora admitted that although CEAP made its position clear on several national interests, it had yet to come out with a formal statement on one of today’s most pressing issues: House Bill No. 4244 or “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill.”
Members of CEAP were taking too long in deliberating on the issue because of its “contentiousness” and “[there is] the atmosphere wherein nobody wants to offend the bishops” and “many are not that articulate on the provisions [of the bill].”
But he said CEAP fully supported the Catholic bishops in their official teaching concerning the dignity of the faith, even as many discussions were being done to generate finally a unified stand on HB 4244.
As for CEAP’s plans if the bill became a law and sex education was imposed on Catholic schools, Tabora said the organization had already come up with modules on teaching sexuality and they were open to negotiations with authorities in setting up parameters for the subject’s presentation and methodology.