The Theology and Religious Studies (RS) faculty members of all Jesuit Universities in the Philippines gathered for this year’s 3rd National Conference of the Association of Jesuit Religious Studies and Theology Departments (AJRSTD).
Held at the Arrupe Convention Center inside the Bagumbayan campus of the Ateneo de Naga University, the three-day gathering was held last April 28-30, 2017, themed: AJRSTD’s Role in the Formation of the Parish as Communion of Communities. The conference theme was inspired by the theme for the celebration of the Year of the Parish as a Communion of Communities this 2017.
Most Rev. Rolando J. Tria Tirona, O.C.D., D.D, Archbishop of Caceres, warmly welcomed the AJRSTD delegates and members of the Jesuit community at his residence upon their arrival in Naga City last April 27, 2017.
For the first day of the Conference, Fr. Primitivo ‘Jun’ Viray, S.J , President of the Ateneo de Naga University, celebrated the opening Eucharistic celebration and gave the welcome address. Quoting Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, Fr. Jun reminded the delegates to proclaim the Gospel with joy and to beg God, through prayer, for the grace of joy. He also thanked the delegates for the work that they do since they are at the forefront of the ministry of teaching.
Avenues for New Evangelization
The present challenges of secularism, materialism, relativism, avalanche of gadgets and views contrary to Jesus’ teachings are fertile grounds for New Evangelization, Fr. Patrick Villasanta S.D.B., said during the keynote address. Considering this situation, he emphasized the need for personal spirituality in the teaching ministry. Fr. Pat, an assistant at the Parish, together with Fr. Florante Affable, S.D.B., the Parish Priest, shared their insightful reflections and experiences on the Conference. Both are Salesian priests serving at the Parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Carolina, Naga City.
Religious Imagination as Social Capital
Conversations with Clyd Rex Jesalva animated the evening session of the first day. Jesalva gave his paper presentation on “Rediscovering Religious Imagination as a Social Capital.” In the reflection, Jesalva: “attempts to suggest and illustrate how religious imagination, conceived and developed in the tradition of Roman Catholic Christianity, may [still] function as a viable resource (repository) of potentially useful and socially creative motives, images, insights and intuitions, emotional states and paradigmatic attitudes proposed in the Gospel narratives that could engender performativity and induce social action as well as provide us with universally rationalizable frameworks for socio-political renewal. It is intended to stand as a modest invitation for our fellow Filipinos to critically reflect on our past and present cultural states together in order to rediscover the creative beauty and power of our Catholic Faith and its social teachings especially in a post-colonial, third-world Philippines.”
The Conference was concluded by proposals, resolutions and suggestions for the next conference which will be held at the Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) in Cagayan de Oro City, 2018. The primary aim of the Association is to strengthen the collaboration and faculty development through professional, theological updating and sharing of resources and strategies of pedagogy of doing and teaching theology. It also seeks to promote and support research, scholarship, and camaraderie among its members. Currently, the member schools of the Association are the five Ateneos coming from Cagayan, Davao, Manila, Naga, and Zamboanga.
Marco Guiriba, Theology Department Chair at the Ateneo de Naga University, is the current President of the AJRSTD. Ramon Almoneda, on the other hand, was the coordinator for this year’s Conference. Myrna Bermudo