Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.

At the beginning of 2021, let me welcome you back to a continuation of our SY 2020-21 at Ateneo de Davao University in our Basic Education Grade School, Junior High School, and Senior High School, and in our Higher Education Undergraduate and Graduate Schools and Law School!

We have paused to celebrate the birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ.  We have celebrated  him as the Word-made-flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.  We celebrated him given the Holy Name of Jesus, meaning, God saves.  We celebrated his mother, Mary, Mother of God.  Yesterday, through the homage of the three wise men from the East, we celebrated him made manifest not only to the Jews, but to all women and men of good will.

We celebrated him as the Word of the Father’s Love.  And we rested in that Love. 

Continued University Mission

In the continuation of this academic year, we continue, as our vision and mission declare, to participate in the Father’s reconciliation of ourselves with Himself, of ourselves with other human beings, and of ourselves with his gift of our home shared with the rest of Creation.

Covid 19 will continue to be a challenge to us this year.  As the vaccines make their way legitimately into our communities and eventually into our arms most probably, according to IATF Sec. Carlito Galvez, only in 2022, unless we are prioritized for early vaccination, let us continue to be vigilant, taking care that we do not expose ourselves to the virus unnecessarily nor expose others to the virus unwittingly.  Let us continue to care for our health, physically, mentally and spiritually.  Let us continue to be resilient servants of light, truth and hope.

Depending on the differentiated requirements of our academic units, let us continue to pursue truth, liberating knowledge, personal and professional competencies appropriate for this 21st century through online education.  Pupils, learners and students must learn to take personal responsibility to achieve the minimum standards in learning outcomes required of them in their respective courses, as teachers and faculty members guide, coach and coax them to this learning through the proper use of online educational pedagogy and technology.  Learning must be solid and evidenced, with the current pandemic no excuse for failing to achieve minimum learning standards.  This means that in these pandemic years, an Ateneo de Davao student must gain the necessary insight into the challenges of humane humanity in order to meaningfully pursue the common good in personal freedom and responsibility; an Ateneo de Davao lawyer must be no less competent than lawyers produced in pre-Covid years; an Ateneo de Davao biology student in pre-med must be prepared to tackle medicine proper competently;  a Ateneo de Davao aerospace engineer must be able to contribute meaningfully to the Philippine Space Program; an Ateneo de Davao chemist or entrepreneur must be able to contribute to the development of wealth and its equitable distribution In Mindanao – whether or not he received instruction face-to-face or online. 

Meanwhile, let us continue to pursue truth through research and service to the community.  We cannot let up our efforts towards an integral ecology through research and advocacy in how to mitigate climate change, promote renewable energy, and develop ecologically responsible materials for industry.  Especially in these pandemic years, we cannot cease to use research and outreach to advocate internet democracy through satellite technology.  We cannot cease in social justice to advocate absolute closure the Tampakan mines. 

In our Ateneo de Davao University community, whether we be students, faculty members, formators, staff or administrators, let us help and encourage one another to grow in truth, love of God and of his creation, personal learning and competencies, freedom and responsibility – especially for the poor.  Let us remember and put into personal practice Pope Francis’ call to Fraternity through Social Friendship in that we are all sisters and brothers, Fratelli Tutti. Let us understand this does not just mean more words, words, words, but “good” political planning, organization and effective action. 

Ignatian Year: 500th Anniversary of the Conversion of St. Ignatius

This year, 2021, as a Jesuit University, let us also join the Jesuits in the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Conversion of St. Ignatius.  It will open formally on May 20, 2021 , the anniversary of Ignatius injury at Pamplona, and conclude on July 21, 2022, the Feast of St Ignatius.  Its theme is: “To see all things new in Christ” and “to be renewed by the Lord himself.”

The high point of this year will fall on the March 12, 2022, the 400th anniversary of the canonization of St. Ignatius with St. Francis Xavier, St Theresa of Avila, San Isidro Labrador, and
St. Philip Neri.   

500th Anniversary of the Coming of Christianity to the Philippines

While we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius this year, we must not fail to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the coming of Christianity to the Philippines in April 2021, even though because of the pandemic its celebration has been postponed to April 2022.  There is no better way to prepare for this than to beg “for a renewed personal encounter with Jesus, for the joy of discovering he is waiting for us with open arms, that he never tires of forgiving us, that he has given us a dignity through his boundless and unfailing love, that no matter how darkly we may have sinned, with a tenderness which never disappoints, he is capable of restoring our joy and helping us to start anew.”[i]

In this spirit let us celebrate our being Christian in Mindanao by sincerely opening ourselves to be enriched and edified by the experiences of God and of his transforming love in the personal faith of our Muslim sisters and brothers.  Perhaps we might also seriously reflect on the meaning of the coming of Christianity to the Philippines to the peoples of Mindanao, Islamized and Non-Islamized, and on the relations between Christians, Muslims and Lumad throughout these 500 years.  These have not been without pain and injustice inflicted on Muslim and Lumad communities in Mindanao.  This year Pope Francis challenges us anew to commit ourselves to “the culture of dialogue as the path, collaboration as the code of conduct, and mutual understanding as the method and standard.”[ii]  Above all, let 2021 be a year of peace!  Salaam!

[i] Cf.  Francis.  Evangelii Gaudium, (2013) #3.  Further referred to in this homily as EG.

[ii] Cf. Fratelli Tutti, (2020), # 285.  This was incorporated into the papal encyclial from the Declaration on Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together jointly signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi on Feb 4, 2020.

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