8 January 2008 Tuesday after the Epiphany
1 John 4, 7-10; Psalm 72, 1-8; Mark 6, 34-44
The University of the Philippines celebrates 100 years of existence and kicks off its celebration today with a misa cantata at the UP Philippine General Hospital and a motorcade from PGH to Diliman. Here at Diliman, we have continued the celebration with fireworks. With this backdrop, we shall look at our celebration with the eyes of faith. Let me take our reflection from historical Jesuit sources whose presence in PGH, UP Manila and Diliman began in 1910, thus we are celebrating 98 years of Jesuit presence in UP; from these articles come out certain characteristics of the faith community in UP.
First, the believing community had been counter-cultural. The pervading culture of the University of the Philippines has been anti-clerical and anti-religious. Then Fr. Delaney was assigned to UP first in Padre Faura in 1946 and then to Diliman from 1949-1956. The prayer and lifestyle of the administrators, students and faculty who were especially members of UPSCA, provided an alternative to a culture that was hostile to religious belief.
Second, the community became agents of change: they spawned a religious movement that was ‘radical’ at that time. Radical means the ability to think ‘outside of the box’, to experiment on new ways of expressing one’s faith. When UP transferred to Diliman, Fr. Delaney used a former US Army Signal Corps’ dilapidated-bamboo-and-sawali structure that served as a non-denominational church. With students and faculty volunteers, they cleaned it up and began regular Wednesday and Sunday Masses. The architecture of the UP Chapel was ‘radical’ at that time in 1956: a circular church meant that the priest faces half of the congregation which would then be the change of Vatican II in 1965 ten years ahead.
Third, the UP community of believers focus was the Eucharist. They found nourishment and inspiration at mass. The rivers of life of the UP Church means that all peoples from all corners of the world come to worship Christ at the altar, and their love of God enriched and overflowing at mass, goes out to all parts of the world.
Finally, the manner of evangelization was personal. For Jesuits, we call it, cura personalis — personal care. Fr. Delaney knew by name the people who lived in UP. He ate his meals with them, as Jesus did. He got to know his students well enough, that when he died, he had the longest funeral so far.
As we celebrate the centennial, we look back at what made our community alive. And then, we ask what more can we contribute to make our faith a leaven of change and transformation for the future generation.