THE MESSAGE OF CICM AND
THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY TODAY
“Is the generous impulse of your soul rooted in love for sacrifice?
That is the touchstone of every true missionary.”
The present situation of the Catholic university is threatened at its very foundations by a growing secularism that tends to relegate the religious domain of life as a thing of the past. At the same time, the purpose of the Catholic university as a faith community is being challenged by a globalizing neo-liberal ideology in the world that gives premium to materialism at the expense of the poor. To this twofold predicament that confuses the mind of the Catholic university today, we respond with a renewed commitment to the role it is originally envisioned to play. Meaning, since as a human institution, the Catholic university runs the risk of forgetting its purpose of existence, it therefore has to constantly call to mind its role in unity with the Church. That is, “born of the heart of the Church” (cf. JP II’s Ex corde ecclesiae, 1990), the Catholic university is called to animate young people today with religious wisdom that springs from the eternal Truth.
The Catholic University as a Faith Community
Religious wisdom instills in young people moral imagination that allows them to see the world, others, and themselves always in a sense of harmony. Religious wisdom enables them to develop an inclusive perspective resulting in a meaningful appropriation and practical application of knowledge. In other words, Catholic university education aims at an integral understanding of life and its manifestations through scientific and humanistic learning in the light of the Gospel. (‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,” John 14:6).
Hence, it is not by sophisticated theories that to pragmatic-minded people are nothing but empty rhetoric that Catholic university education makes an impact on society. Rather, it is by putting the prophetic demand of the Gospel into action. That is, the Catholic university should translate academic erudition and scientific innovations into transformative actions which promote human dignity, economic prosperity, and integrity of God’s creation. Therefore, the Catholic university with its tradition of higher learning and enduring interest in research can and should become an important source of social opinion that rightly tackles issues affecting the lives of ordinary people. It should challenge power with the truth of the Gospel that it professes in society.
Moreover, religious wisdom learned in a Catholic university should inspire the importance and beauty of the process of “giving oneself.” “Giving oneself” is at the heart of a missionary life. In Catholic universities, it is made manifest when students devote themselves to their studies; when faculty open themselves to scholarly development; when office staff strive to serve cheerfully their clients; and, when university administrators competently work in the interest of the common good.
Such is the vision we hope to see realized in a Catholic university, and of course, in CICM schools as Catholic higher education institutions (HEIs). To do that, we need to resituate CICM HEIs within the overall context of the CICM mission, and to “refound” the CICM mission in the transformation of CICM schools in an evolving educational society.
CICM HEIs as Instruments of Integral Learning
At the outset, CICM HEIs should be concerned with promoting missionary consciousness among the youth that prepares them for a more realistic self-concept. Through missionary consciousness our young people are educated in solidarity with the poor in society. Integral then to the promotion of missionary consciousness is the conscious effort on the part of CICM schools to accompany young people in their journey towards self-identity. Ideally, Catholic universities like CICM HEIs should be “communities of believers of one heart and one mind” (cf. Acts 4.32) from where every individual derives his beautiful identity.
So, where is the CICM to be found? How is the CICM spirit made manifest? The answer is: The CICM is present wherever there are “frontier situations” to be transformed and wherever there are poor people to be set free with the truth of Jesus Christ (cf. “The truth shall set you free,” John 8:32.)
The CICM presence is radically transformative that comes as the realization of the promise of the mission. The CICM potential for social transformation necessarily makes it inclusive in its approach to “frontier situations.” Instead of abandoning those God-forsaken places, the CICM asserts its presence in those mission situations as if to say “God is with you; He is here!” In those “frontier situations” then the CICM mission is most needed.
The CICM mission is not limited to the generosity of religious priests and brothers of the congregation. It can it be embraced and carried out as well by women and men who have a sense of purpose by giving up themselves (“kenosis”) for the good of others. The CICM mission definitely provides a volunteerism opportunity for people to become involved in the shaping of society according to the measure of “God’s kingdom.”
Employees and staff in CICM HEIs are involved and given the unique opportunity to help carry out the CICM mission through the school apostolate. That is, with the right attitude and commitment, they become invaluable collaborators of the CICM missionaries in the work of “God’s kingdom.” “God’s kingdom” is the spiritual compass through which to navigate one’s path to Christian living. And as “God’s kingdom” is essentially proclaimed to the oppressed, the marginalized, and the brokenhearted, the message of the CICM which participates in God’s mission is clearly one of liberation.
Finally, the CICM mission is an invitation to an alternative way of life. It is a lifestyle oriented towards a purposive living sustained in a faith community. Perhaps many lay people in our CICM schools have long adopted it and enthusiastically taken it to heart. That is why to complement the important role of priests and other religious, then our lay people truly embody the CICM spirit and can bear the message of liberation for our young people today.
Jeffrey M. Centeno, PhD., is the Director of Planning, Quality, Assurance, and Communications Office of Saint Louis University, Baguio City