Address for the Ateneo de Naga University Service Awards

A Vision of Service:
Address for the Ateneo de Naga University Service Awards
Fr. Roberto EN Rivera, SJ
20 February 2018

Dear School Administrators, Faculty, Staff, and Students.  Our esteemed guests, friends, and associates. Our distinguished service awardees.  A warm welcome to all of you, dios marhay na hapon sa indo gabos.

On this 19th commemoration of the conferral of University status upon Ateneo de Naga, and on the occasion of these service awards, I am privileged to address our community for the very first time as your University President.  In the past few weeks I have been asked to provide my vision for Ateneo de Naga University, and it is this vision which I want to reflect on this afternoon.

What is my vision for Ateneo de Naga?  It begins with a wish. A very simple wish.  My wish is that each of you here present today can stand where I am standing right now, here in front of you all.  If you were to stand here, you would see what I am seeing. It is an astounding and awe-inspiring vision of 106 awardees, who among them represent several thousand years of dedicated service to our school.  It is an overpowering vision of love and generosity incarnate not only among our service awardees, but among all of you present here today. It is a vision that all of us behold, less dramatically but no less compellingly, each time we enter our school.  It is a vision of our Jesuit predecessors whose names are emblazoned on our buildings—Alingal and Adriatico, Burns, Dolan, Phelan, a tradition continued especially by our Jesuit awardees today, Frs. Carretero, Dizon, and Mallari. It is a vision of our Ateneo de Naga family, of all of you, quietly but diligently doing your work every day, teaching in the classroom, maintaining our facilities and offices, tending our grounds, exploring the frontiers of knowledge and understanding.

Thus dear friends it is my firm belief that a vision for Ateneo de Naga begins with a vision of the people who make the mission that is the Ateneo possible. And so we ask, how are we to be stewards of this university in a way that does justice to the contributions of our forebears, both lay and Jesuit, in building the Ateneo de Naga as the institution that it is today?

Our path to the future is illuminated by three guiding lights that I have adopted from the very start of my term.  These are the guiding lights of Continuity, Conversation, and Commitment.

A vision for the Ateneo begins with an affirmation of our first guiding light, continuity.  Continuity represents the conviction that what we have received as the patrimony of our school is a sacred trust.  Concretely, continuity entails consolidating the great strides we have made in Corplan 2020, and bringing it to a successful conclusion.  Continuity means staying on course in the transitions we are undergoing in the midst of the K-12 implementation, with a special mention here to our colleagues in the newest units of our school, the grade school, and the senior high school who are bravely going where no school has gone before.  Continuity compels us to sustain the local, regional, national, and international partnerships that have been nurtured over the years. We received the mission that is the Ateneo with gratitude. We continue it with determination, so as to pass it on to the next generation.

A vision for the Ateneo is crafted in the spirit of our second guiding light, conversation.  Conversation entails a dedicated dialogue with all the stakeholders of our university, our faculty and staff, students and alumni.  Conversation is to be carried out from the confines of our campus, to our wider Naga and Philippine community and with our Holy Mother the Church.  Conversation stretches out to the people we encounter in our outreach and extension activities, for they are not only beneficiaries and partners in our mission.  We converse with all these stakeholders because we will fulfil our mission with and for them.

A vision for the Ateneo is pursued with a resolve deriving from our third guiding light, commitment.  We commit our ourselves to a vision of a Filipino, Jesuit, and Catholic university. We commit ourselves to the future, and lay the ground work for our university over the next decade, to 2030 and beyond.  How do we actualize this vision over the next months and years? Here we arrive at the heart of the vision before us, and the mission which will challenge us, to which we commit ourselves to.

First, we commit ourselves to academic excellence for the Philippines, for Asia, and for the world.  Taking off from all the painstaking efforts you have exerted in the midst of the changing landscape of Philippine education.  In the midst of the mad pursuit to comply with DepEd and CHED requirements, we set our sights higher, aiming to produce students who will be instruments of good for our nation and the earth.  We will continue to promote research and knowledge generation with distinctly Bicolano roots, pushing forth to other realms of learning and inquiry. We will cooperate with efforts to make Naga an education center for Southern Luzon.  Here will consolidate the gains made under Corplan 2020, in the key result areas of academics, research, and student services, so that Ateneo will continue to grow in its capacity to produce men and women of excellence, men and women for others.

Second, we commit ourselves to a nurturing organization and community.  We continue to develop our Ateneo community in such a way that it becomes a true home for the excellence that we aspire for.  This will challenge us to continue the organizational reorganization that was begun by Corplan 2020, to adopt what has been useful, to review and perhaps to abandon what has not worked.  We will organize ourselves in ways that inspires work, not dragging it down. We will respect independence and subsidiarity where called for, and strengthen governance and institutionalization where it is helpful.  We will follow through with responsible and creative ways of fiscal care and resource generation, consolidating the Corplan 2020 key result areas of governance and resource management. But in the end, we will develop our community in a way that a commitment to the Ateneo becomes a viable, career long choice in the face of other choices in the public and private sector.  We will organize ourselves in ways that will nurture the vocation of education, especially for our youth.

Third and last, we commit ourselves to the mission that the Jesuits’ 36th General Congregation has called “the mission of reconciliation and justice.”  In the midst of continuing social, political, and economic challenges in our nation and in our world, Ateneo will strive to be a beacon of reconciliation and justice, bringing hope to our brethren burdened by poverty and oppression.  We will continue to be responsive to victims of the ravages of nature to which our Bicol region is especially susceptible, while cooperating in efforts to make a more resilient city and country, and to care for our common home. We continue to pursue the Corplan key result area of social involvement, but we will do so not merely as outreach and extension activities.  We will strive to ensure that the mission of reconciliation permeates all levels of our university life, as we produce men and women of reconciliation and justice, salt for the earth, light for the world.

And so there we have it, our vision for the university in broad strokes, animated in continuity and conversation, developed through the crucible of commitment for academic excellence, nurturing community and organization, and the mission of reconciliation and justice.  It is a vision inspired by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In this vision, Ignatian Spirituaity is not just another key result area, it is the glue that binds us together, the spirit that animates our work, allowing us to find God in all things, in the midst of the joys and the sorrows, the tribulations and triumphs, the consolations and desolations we encounter in the vocation of education.

Allow me end with two thoughts.  First, I am inspired by the quote of the Rev. Theodore Parker, famously quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King, who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  The vision and mission before us is imposing, but we put our trust in Divine Providence, in our God who is the lord of the moral universe, and bends everything towards justice. Second, we celebrate today two child saints, Saints Francisca and Jacinta, two of the three children to whom Our Lady of Fatima appeared.  We dedicated ourselves with courage and fortitude to the vocation of education. But we do so with trust and confidence displayed by these child saints before their God and before their Ina, our Blessed Mother who intercedes for us in this mission that we call the Ateneo de Naga University.

A special word of thanks to all who made this celebration possible, and congratulations once again to all our awardees.  May God bless us all! Dios mabalos!