Rev. Msgr. Manuel G. Gabriel, Ph.D.

Diocese of Parañaque, Philippines

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Maraming salamat sa iyong makabagbag-damdaming introduction. Pwede nang pang necrological service. Two clarifications sa nag-introduce sa akin. (Thank you very much for your poignant introduction. I have two clarifications to make on that introduction). First, I am not called a monsignor anymore. I am retired. Retired, but not retarded. I just turned 75 years old. So, I am Lolo Monsi (Grandpa Monsi); call me Lolo Monsi. Kids in the school call me Lolo Monsi. Second, I am also working now as the executive director of CBCP-BEC. That keeps me young, and able to walk down three-storeys of the building where I stay.

I am happy that we are here. I worked before sa UP. I miss the good old days when we worked together. My heart belongs here. The first level is to make religion as the core. And we used to have in our school vision-mission and programs. Because today, ang daming problema ng mundo ngayon (the world is saddled with so many problems). I just got back from Italy. I arrived yesterday. Napakagulo, may lindol, may sunog. So many things have changed and things are changing.

Magulo (It is chaotic). We really need a framework, an understanding of life, of death. And we, as students, give them a sense, ano ba talaga ang panghahawakan natin sa buhay (what should we really be hanging onto in life)? It will give us the power to handle stress. So, because I am Lolo Monsi, I am not adept with this. I am scared to handle a PowerPoint. I am powerless in front of a PowerPoint.

Responding to the call for renewal sounded by the PCP II, CEAP has launched a process encouraging all member schools to re-examine the thrust and the effectiveness of their educational services in light of the evangelizing mission of the whole church. I remember I was in Pasig Catholic College in 1997-2003, especially in Pasig Catholic College that I was tasked by Msgr. Teddy that time to take care of Religious Education for MaPSA. And he asked me to come up with a concept paper. I remember presenting this concept paper at the time also.

 The basic question to be raised is: How can Catholic schools form graduates who have assimilated Christian values and live them out in their family and in society so that they become lay apostles in their respective fields of endeavor? (PCP II, No. 627) Kasi nakakaeskandalo. Alam niyo, ang mga nga nasa Kongreso ngayon, malaking porsiyento, graduate ng Catholic schools. Ang nasa Malacañan Palace, graduate ng Catholic schools. Ang mga nasa negosyo, graduate ng Catholic schools. Bakit ang bansa natin ganito? Kasi graduate ng Catholic schools. Obvious ang answer, ‘no? Kaya magulo. Nakakainis to look at the situation. (It is quite appalling, really. Did you know that majority of those who currently make up the Congress are products of Catholic schools? Those who run Malacañan Palace are products of Catholic schools, too. So are our businessmen. But what has happened to our country? Because it’s ruled by graduates of Catholic schools, that’s why. Isn’t the answer too obvious? The situation is so messed up it is frustrating.)

The specific areas that have to be addressed are:

• the Vision/Mission of the school
• the school curriculum and the place of religious education program
• the priority of the spiritual formation and Christian education of the academic community and all sectors of the school

Ang problema, ang pagtingin sa religion ay the social context and orientation of the school, particularly its immersion and outreach programs, and now Pope Francis wants us to consider the whole ecological environment of the country. Sabi nga ni Pope Francis (As what Pope Francis said), the greatest problem affecting humanity today is precisely ecology and the technocratic environment of society that seem to destroy what we value—the value of life. 

Ano yung mga (What are the) structures that support the practice of faith? The structures provided to live the faith, extension services, and parents-alumni.

CEAP recognizes the need to strengthen the Religious Education program and to make it the core subject of the school curriculum. (PCP II, No. 639) What does this specific challenge entail?

In its primary and basic sense, making Religion the core of the curriculum asks for a formation of faith that is shaped and developed through the dynamic and mutually reinforcing process of knowing, experiencing, believing, and loving Jesus Christ; of accepting His teachings, of becoming His disciples, and sharing this faith with others. It means experiencing Christ in our lives, knowing Christ in our lives, believing in Him, and sharing Christ in our lives. You cannot give something you don’t have. You cannot know Christ if you haven’t experienced Him. And through that experience, go into a reflection to discover who is Christ and how do I know Him, and how do I share Him. An expression of faith is knowing Him and sharing Him. And that is the formation of faith.

This formation requires a content-context-process… iba ang konteksto ng mga paaralan geared towards the integration of faith and life, including. We have to understand where they are coming from. It includes the following:

• a dynamic exchange of faith and culture
Nakita ko ang konteksto ng pagbabago… iba ang kanilang attitude in life, iba ang kanilang perception of reality (I have seen the context of change… they have a different attitude in life, they have a different perception of reality). I dealt with students the rest of my life. Iba mag-isip. That’s why as teachers, I am telling you, know the context of your students. You can learn from them. You can learn a lot from them.

• the interaction of the human person and society
May kasabihan (There is a saying), it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to raise a person. It also requires dialogue and solidarity with the poor. Kasi, whether we like it or not, especially in Manila, mga nasa school, marami dyan isang kahig isang tuka. Mga magulang nyan, migrant workers. Mga bata rito, hirap na hirap sila (Because whether we like it or not, especially in Manila, many of those who are in schools couldn’t even make ends meet. Their parents are migrant workers. Kids here are going through tough times).

That is something that you have to really see; that the poor, many of them are coming from that experience. There is still privilege; we are not all in accord. So, it is important to see solidarity with the poor.

• action for justice and social transformation
I know people who are very good in their profession. Once you get a good push sa education mo, you go places. Nung kami pumasok sa seminaryo, (When we entered the seminary), out of 22 seminarians, 2 lang kami ang graduate ng public schools. Hirap na hirap mag-English. But, hard work. Hard work. Kaya yun and transformation, people really working hard, they can go places. 

• dialogue with other Churches and faiths
Furthermore, the task of making Religion as the core of curriculum highlights the singular participation of the Catholic schools in the mission and identity of the Church in society. 

Yung kanta ng Carpenters “Bless the Beasts and the Children,” for me, “they have no choice, they have no voice” that beautiful movie, Bless the Beasts and Children. Kasi sa States, mga bata dinadala sa camps. (The children are sent to camps.) And then, the movie evolved around the environment. And in one scene of the movie, it was asked, “How do we look at children, like they are trained like beasts. Are we looking at children that way? They have no voice? They have no choice?” If they have no voice, what is education for? What are we in this business for if our children cannot have a voice and a choice?

The role of the church precisely is that we have to look at these issues in a 
bigger way.

It is for that prophetic ministry. Teachers are prophets. Naniniwala ba kayo (Do you agree)? We are men and women of the Word. Men and women who give meaning to life. Men and women who give direction to people. Men and women who are spokespersons of God. Kaya marami sa mga teacher (That is why, teachers), your words are more valuable that the words of the parents. 

They are to serve in the prophetic ministry of the Church’s evangelized and evangelizing mission. Catholic schools rally all their constituents, the students and faculty, maintenance personnel and non-teaching staff, the administration, parents, and alumni to journey together and become a Community of Disciples, taking the road of “New Evangelization and Conversion,” giving to a Church of the Poor, and helping the Reign of God on earth. 

Religion as core of the curriculum links the entire school community with the local Church (BEC/Parish/Diocese) as well as with the Government and other institutions of society.

The main road where this shared journey begins and unravels is the classroom, the campus, and off-campus setting of the school. In this perspective, the call to make Religion the core of the curriculum takes a more specific and proper meaning. 

She teaches very strict, but she teaches being very critical, all the abuses of the time. Every Friday, she wears a Nazareno to school, with yellow cord. And when she teaches, she links it to faith. Out of her teaching, dalawa kami nag-pari and isang madre.

We become critical, she would teach us, linking everything to faith without being religious. To be a teacher, you have to be a clown, an artist, a policewoman, a security guard, everything. All roles rolled into one.

Religion is not just in paper but in the pedagogy, in the way we teach. We witness as a teacher.

It now focuses on Religion as a particular subject or course that is taught and learned, imbibed and lived, nurtured, and celebrated. 

The students acquire a body of knowledge pertaining to Catholic doctrine, morals, and worship. This knowledge, dynamically linked and integrated into 
their life situations, serves as worldview, and sustains and aids their total growth. 

The whole process of knowledge acquisition and Christian worldview formulation becomes an evangelizing activity, enabling the students to become evangelizers of their fellow youth and in preparation for their vocation in life.

Sa Psychology, ang ibig sabihin ng world view is (in Psychology, worldview means) that you have a way of understanding physical and social realities that may impact behavior.

Religion is present in all cultures, from all walks of life. 

You know, we read that in children, yung retention ay mabilis. You cannot pin them down and say, this is it. Many of them are attracted to motion, teach them about travel. They learned so much about life, traveling. Itong adventure ang hinahanap ng mga bata.

Religion as core also underlines the pivotal role of all the faculty, most especially the reading teachers. It is they who facilitate the acquisition and development of this paradigm of Christian living among the students. 

Evangelizing the youth through a program of Christian formation and education, and honing them with upgraded and updated training are deemed essential as theyevangelize and teach their wards. In the process, they become not only agents but also recipients of evangelization.

You know, ang mahalaga rito tingnan ay ang mga bata (what is important here is that children should be viewed) not just to be evangelized but to be evangelizers. The best teachers are the best students.

The journey continues even as Religion takes an interdisciplinary thrust; where it links itself with all the other courses with regard to values, basic orientation, and the integral development of the students. 

Maski ibang disciplines. 

Gospel values are to permeate other secular courses for mutual enrichment while respecting the intrinsic values, and methods proper to each discipline as well as the spirit of academic freedom in the pursuit of truth. 

That’s why I feel sad when they say that honesty is not the issue in this election. In all disciplines, honesty is ingrained. Cleanliness is next to godliness. This will penetrate to all other values. 

Religion is seen as a binding force even while it keeps its character as one particular subject in the curriculum.

Ang ina-avoid natin dito ang tinatawag nating fundamentalist (What we’re avoiding here are the so-called fundamentalists). You maintain your discipline, your science,but the values you project, what you teach in terms of other concerns,must be glowing and inspired.

Toward truly making religion the core of the curriculum, the following concerns have to be faced:
• The professionalization of Religion teachers. Give your best Religion teacher for Religion.
• The development of an ongoing Religious Education program for all school teachers and personnel
• Strengthening religious activities and other support structures
We must support these structures, the policies you have.
• The formation of campus ministers
• The training of community extension workers
• The updating of parents and alumni

Ang maganda rito, kung maganda ang religious program natin (What’s great about it is that if we have a sound religious program), the program of your parents and teachers are also accompanied by students that’s very good.

The school administration has to respond to these challenges with courage and will to bring about meaningful change guided by the Spirit of truth and love. 

These challenges, after all, spring from the very identity and mission of Catholic schools. 

Our prophetic needs are at stake. If the world is magulo kasi we have problems, and if the schools are not performing their prophetic roles, there will be a lot of fake news and fake education; there will be a lot of fake problems. I hope we don’t become one.

Thank you very much. God bless.