With these few words (maximum ten minutes, I was told), I hope you will let me share a conviction about LST which has been growing in my mind for some years now. I am now the only Jesuit priest who has been in this house and school since its first day of occupied existence for fifty years now, with no change of basic assignment. That same year that we came to this house, the Second Vatican Council ended, on 8 December 1965. As the jubilee year 2000 was about to begin, Pope John Paul II said what innumerable other qualified observers (Catholic, and of many other Christian denominations) had said before him, and are still saying now, now that we mark the 50th anniversary of that 8 December 1965. For Christian communities, including Protestant and other, Vatican II was the single most significant and history-changing event for the Christian church and Christian world at least in the Twentieth Century - or some say, even, - since the Reformation.
Our former Father General Peter Hans Kolvenbach has written that one of St Ignatius’ most remarkably original theological insistences was the insight that God is truly at work in history, truly moving it forward, His wisdom and goodness truly giving it direction and shaping it - with His own ways of wisdom and goodness - with our genuine free collaboration. (Fr. Kolvenbach has said this was a genuinely new ‘Ignatian perspective’ in theology and spirituality.) In that context, I believe LST was ‘created’ by God, with His own timing, to be one effective instrument to bring about what He had brought about in Vatican II - to be, at least beginning-wise, realized in the Church in the Philippines, and in the Church in Asia.
Let me admit that this conviction needs fuller development if it will be accepted by many others; but it is my conviction. If we were to create a line-up of some of the factors and events, some of the key people and movements, some of the realities which strongly brought Vatican II’s 'results' into the life of the Church in the Philippines, and in Asia, I believe LST was in some genuine and significant ways in active participation and interaction with practically every single one of them.
Pope Paul VI's 1970 Visit
We might choose Pope Paul VI’s visit in 1970 as ‘event number one’. The Asian Bishops’ Meeting was the first big Vatican II 'invasion' into the Catholic life of our country. Father de la Costa, our LHS/LST founder, was one of those chosen by the Holy See to contribute to "the input” of that visit, its theological content and directions, with “Populorum progressio,” as its basic theme, “development is the new name for peace”. The really remarkable 'vision/mission input' Pope Paul VI brought with him, as we now realize (we did not, in 1970), contained in semine what in the following decades the Asian Bishops would develop, in their 'first-time-in-history' assemblies and statements. In a way the seeds are in Pope Paul’s “FAPA”: “For All the Peoples of Asia”.
The concluding statement of the 1970 Asian Bishops’ Meeting, its inspiration really basically drawn from Paul VI, already foreshadowed the future FABC themes. “LST was there.”
For the very first meeting where the foundation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) was taken up and its beginnings really given initial form and substance, Cardinal Stephen Kim (FABC “Father”, if there was one) and Bishop Mariano Gaviola, Secretary General of what was in the future to become the CBCP, asked Fr. de la Costa to convene and organize that meeting at the Jesuit Provincialate in Xavier House. “LST was there.”
From the first genuinely history-making FABC General Assembly in Taipeh in 1974, to the actual nitty-gritty FABC part 'in the workings' of the 1974 Bishops Synod in Rome in 1974, “LST was really there.” (Vid. books by Fr Gerald O’Collins.)
For at least the first twelve years: in the first four FABC General Assemblies; in FABC General Colloquia and International Congresses – on Mission/Evangelization, on Ministries; in the smaller Bishops’ Institutes for Missionary Apostolate, Social Action, Inter-religious Affairs, Theology of Dialogue, etc., etc., 1974 to 1986, “LST was really there.”
The FABC Theological Advisory Commission founded in 1986: LST was its convenor-source; from its beginning, “LST was there.”
All of this ‘active presence and power’ would go on, and as the years went by, of course with decreasing force because, as was desired and actively sought after, there was greater and more active participation from others! By 1970 to 1990 - about 20 years, 'in the beginnings' - somewhat prominently, rather ‘front-line-wise’, “LST was there”.
In the Philippines
In the Philippines, for the foundation of what are now the Association of Major Religious Superiors for Men and Women Religious (AMRSMP and AMRSWP), the Sisters’ Formation Institute linked with AMRSWP, “LST was there.” (Frs. Horacio de la Costa and William Galdon M.M. were the main ‘achitects/constructors’ of AMRSM at its beginning.)
For the regular CBCP bi-annual assemblies, for Episcopal Commissions especially for Doctrinal and Theological Concerns; Ecumenism; for Lay Apostolate; for Special Action, NASSA, especially with its “praxis beginnings and projects” with Bishop Gaviola, “LST was there.”
For the writing of Pastoral Letters and other major Episcopal Conference statements; for organizing seminars (in theology and pastoral practice [eg, on Christology and Mariology, on mission in our time, on development, on marriage and sexuality, on holy orders], on ideologies, on non-violence and Church-praxis [during martial law years especially], etc., for many many years, “LST was notably there.” (Names: Frs. de Achutegui, Sevilla, Lambino, Blanco [especially on non-violence], San Juan, Arevalo ... )
Personal: On this 'primary service' to FABC and its Asian Bishops, to the CBCP and even to its individual Bishops who ask for it, sometime in the ‘80s, Father Pedro Arrupe personally sought me out to say: “If St. Ignatius were alive today, this service would be the one he would really give a top-priority to; really nothing would he consider to be more important.” To me he said, “You can tell your Superiors that Fr. General is giving you his personal assignment to this work as your truly Jesuit mission.”
Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, repeatedly over the years, has said that “the Church in the Philippines and her Bishops, and clergy, religious and lay institutes and groups ...” on the whole, what it has asked of the Society of Jesus was “formation, intellectual and spiritual”. Spelling this out somewhat more fully: solid formation in a spirituality based on the Ignatian Exercises; a solid intellectual formation, again, rather middle-of-the-road in orientation and choices: well rooted in Tradition and magisterium, but genuinely and “discerningly” in touch with “what was new, genuine and strong in Vatican II”, plus the cultural realities and movements of our people and our world and time. So, LST in real a way has had its “service road” set out from the beginning.
September 12, 2015
Oratory of St. Ignatius
Loyola House of Studies