Installation Address by Rev. Fr. Ernesto M. Arceo
Rev. Fr. Ernesto M. Arceo, OP
8th Rector and President
I feel so comfortable with this beret on my head. It covers a lot of deficiencies!
Most Rev. Joel Baylon, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi; Rev. Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, O.P., Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines; Honorable Geraldine Rosal, Mayor of Legazpi City; Honorable Noel Rosal, former City Mayor and the present City Administrator; members of the Board of Trustees; Mr. Salvador Mediavillo, representative of the Commission on Higher Education; Presidents and other officials of colleges and universities; Dominican priests, brothers and sisters; lay members of the Dominican family; priests from the Archdiocese of Manila and the Archdiocese of Naga; administrators, faculty members and non-teaching employees of Aquinas University; members of the administrative staff of Aquinas Hospital; our beloved students; guests from the University of Santo Tomas and the UST Hospital; friends; Good morning!
Last year, while I was getting out of the front door of the church of the Sacred Heart parish in Los Angeles to greet the people after the Mass, a navy-veteran parishioner said aloud, “O here comes the short-timer.” I was smiling civilly and asking myself “Is he mistaking me for someone he may have seen entering a place of ill repute for some quick ecstasy?” “Hey guy, what do you mean?” I asked. “O Father” he said, “we heard that you’re going back to the Philippines next month. So soon! You’ve been with us in this parish only for a year and a half. You are a short-timer!” Accordingly, in the navy, someone who stays in a post only for a short time is called a short-timer. With a sigh of relief and a hearty smile, I said, “O yes I am a short-timer.”
Yes, my friends, I am a short-timer. I never got re-elected to one and the same post consecutively. And in some instances, I didn’t even finish a full term for one reason or another. I have a classmate who, on the other hand, is a long-timer - Fr. Mon Mendez. He was Rector and President of Letran College, Calamba, Laguna for two terms (7 years), and Rector and President of this University for three terms (12 long years). To my recollection, to this date, he is the only Dominican in the Philippines who served as Rector and President of a university for three consecutive terms. If Rectors were remunerated like the employees of the university, Fr. Mon would receive the biggest longevity pay among Rectors.
During his term, he had to lead this university safely through a series of natural calamities - five volcanic eruptions and a series of typhoons two of which are extremely strong - Milenyo and Reming. The devastation in Legazpi and the surrounding areas is unbelievable. Many people died. Some of the cadavers were swept by the floods even into the campus. However, with the able leadership of Fr. Mon, and the collaboration of the whole Aquinian community, rehabilitation of the campus soon started. Today, with the new high school building beautifully in sight, we can hardly see the traces of Milenyo and Reming.
Fr. Mon likewise helped in the development of so many communities in Bicol Region in collaboration with local government units and non-governmental organizations. Certainly, he left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of those who benefit from the projects that Aquinas University Foundation has done.
He also improved the infrastructures of Aquinas Hospital. There is now a 5-story building to accommodate patients more comfortably.
On behalf, therefore, of the Aquinian community, the hospital administration and employees, the beneficiary communities of Aquinas Foundation, I would like to congratulate Fr. Mon and thank him for his long years of dedicated service. May I ask Fr.Mon to stand please?
Now, what else can we do after the long list of Fr. Mon’s achievements? Well, it’s time to give more focus to the basic elements of Catholic education, which I think most of you if not all know by now. Two things: professional competency and moral integrity lived out in the context of faith. The challenge which every Catholic educational institution should meet is how to form professionals who are competent in their fields of specialization, and live their lives and practice their profession according to the moral principles discovered by reason enlightened by faith. With the limited resources that Aquinas University has, the task of optimizing the learning capacity of our students is enormous. Given the fact that the University cannot afford to have a highly selective admission policy particularly in the college level due to economic difficulties, the responsibility of producing highly competent graduates is difficult. However, despite such a handicap, relatively, yes relatively, the University has been performing well in the licensure examinations in Law, Electronics and Communications Engineering, Education, Nursing. I won’t dare divulge to you, however, our exact passing percentages in those areas, not out of modesty really!
Admittedly, the University still has a long, long, long way to go toward the direction of quality education in terms of professional competence measurable by the results of the licensure examinations. The administration, faculty members, and the non-teaching staff have a gigantic challenge ahead. Among others, there is a need to give more focus to the classroom instructions. Disruption of classes will be reduced to the minimum. Faculty members will be afforded enough opportunities for development, and therefore, in the allocation of resources, the ongoing formation of the teachers will be a top priority. With these and other measures, we hope to upgrade in particular the performance of our graduates in the licensure examinations.
In many conferences dealing with Catholic education in the country, there is always one lingering question that confronts Catholic educators: Why is it that in spite of the fact that many of our government leaders and other public servants have been educated in Catholic institutions, our society continues to live in the shadow of graft and corruption. Honesty, by and large, remains an ideal. Despite competent lawyers and judges, Lady Justice seems to be actually blind in many ways to the requirements of fairness. In the halls of Congress, the culture of death implied in a contraceptive mentality seems to be more attractive even to Catholic legislators than an honest-to-goodness effort to curb graft and corruption in order to alleviate the problem of poverty. Even divorce was already laid on the table for discussion. In other countries more progressive than ours, these two laws (RH Bill and Divorce) eventually led to legalized abortion. With the kind of reasoning that even a number of Catholic legislators are adopting, is it unrealistic to prophesy that someday, even they (our Catholic public servants) will propose the legalization of abortion without qualms of conscience?
It is interesting to note that in the midst of these trying situations, not few of our Catholic public servants are claiming without feeling any sense of contradiction that they remain Catholic even while they go against the moral teachings of the Catholic Church and the explicit teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Some have even expressed their sentiment that God and religion have nothing to do with public debate on RH Bill and similar issues.
This brings to mind the other essential component of Catholic education which I believe is more important: moral integrity developed by reason enlightened by faith. This implies putting to practice the moral values that the students learn in schools. More than professional competence, moral integrity and Christian values are sorely needed in our society today. If at least, the majority of the students who graduate with professional competence from Catholic schools including Aquinas University also practice their profession and live their lives according to Christian values, surely our political, economic, and social situations would be significantly much better today.
It remains a challenge for all Catholic schools in the Philippines, including Aquinas University, to produce graduates who are not only professionally competent but also morally upright. The second part of the challenge is certainly more demanding on the part of the administration and faculty members and all the others who participate in the educative process of the students. It’s easier to teach the principles of accounting to our students than to inculcate in them the value of honesty. It’s less difficult to impart the rules of journalism and other forms of mass media than to develop in our young people the virtue of truthfulness. It is easier to teach our students matters pertaining to law than to form in their hearts and minds a solid dedication and fidelity to justice.
And why is it so? Well, as you already know, values are more effectively caught than taught. No amount of well-organized Powerpoint presentation can substitute for the long-lasting and penetrating audio-visuals of life and good examples. When we live honestly, we become effective teachers of honesty. When we live justly, even without knowing it, our students learn to deal fairly with others. When we love truth, those around us will think twice before they tell lies. Good examples have always been and will always be the best method of developing positive values in others.
The Dominican Order considers the university as a vehicle for evangelization. And more important than academic formation, moral development is a component of evangelization. We Dominicans in this community are expected to be evangelizers. After all, that is our chosen ministry. However, those who are working with us - the lay administrators, faculty members and non- teaching staff - are also to perform the ministry of evangelization. I wonder if all of them are aware of this and are committed to it. May I take this opportunity to address them directly. You are our partners in the work of evangelization. Aside from your task of enabling the students to learn the things pertinent to their chosen field and eventually to become professionally competent, you also have the responsibility to help them develop into morally upright men and women. All of you have this moral obligation especially the religion teachers among you. The religion teachers are expected to be models not only to students but also to other teachers. Among all the faculty members, you are to radiate more visibly the face of the God of justice and compassion to your students and fellow teachers alike. The same is expected, of course, and much more indeed from all the Dominicans working in this venerable institutions. Even our non-teaching employees in different ways are also to help us in the work of evangelization in the university. By your good work-ethic and other virtues, you can also inspire the students, indeed even the faculty members and administrators to become better persons.
These are the two important areas that will be given more attention during my term as Rector and President of this University - academic excellence and moral development of our students. Consequently, the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Religious Affairs will be the most prominent, most important, and most occupied divisions in the University. All the others are expected to support and cooperate with those offices.
With the collaboration of everyone in the university, we hope to produce more and more graduates who are professionally competent and who live their lives and practice their profession in accordance with moral values known by reason enlightened by faith.
At this juncture, I would like to express my gratitude to Most Rev. Joel Baylon, the Bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi; Rev. Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines; the Mayor of the City of Legazpi, and to all of you for gracing this occasion with your presence.
Thank you very much and may God bless you all.
Posted on: 06.09.2011
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