In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, while leading an expedition to the Spice Islands, landed on the island of Homonhon in Samar and thus found himself in what is now the Philippines.
In the days that followed, Magellan would go through other islands in the region, interacting with the natives, introducing some of them to Christianity, and eventually convincing thousands of locals to be baptized into Catholicism. This moment would signal the beginning of the Christian faith in the Philippines, which over 90 percent of Filipinos adhere to today.
In commemoration of the 500th anniversary of that historic moment, DLSU has partnered with various institutions and organized conferences, symposiums, and round table discussions for the next year. A kick-off symposium scheduled on April 7 will begin the quincentennial activities that will run until March 2022.
The Lasallian Pastoral Office (LSPO), which is in charge of the committee handling DLSU’s quincentennial celebrations, has begun preparations for these activities.
The committee includes the Lasallian Mission Office Laguna Campus, the Vocations Ministry Office, the Theology and Religious Education Department (TRED), and the Br. Andelino Manuel Castillo FSC Religious Educational Foundation (BAMCREF).
LSPO Director James Laxa shares that DLSU has aligned itself with the Gifted to Give theme set by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for the nationwide commemoration. “As Lasallians, we look at the gift of quality education as something to be given back in the form of service and compassion for the poor and marginalized,” he expounds.
The year-long celebrations will kick off on April 7 with a Eucharistic celebration led by University Chaplain Fr. Luis Lorenzo, LC, and an address from University President Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC. On the same day, TRED will have a symposium open to all students and faculty led by speakers, including Vocations Ministry head Br. Emmanuel Sia FSC.
In July, books related to DLSU’s history and those that were released during the University’s centennial celebration last 2011 will be made available. In November, LSPO, in partnership with the DLSU Libraries and the Office of the Vice President for Lasallian Mission, will lead the online launch of the The Lasalliana, a collection of works that includes those on the life of St. John Baptist De La Salle.
“DLSU wishes to be part of this celebration through activities and events that will help Lasallians reflect and examine how the faith has grown over the centuries and how we can keep nurturing the faith in the current context of post-secularism, pluralism, and diversity,” Laxa says.
External partnerships and plans
Last January 22, the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the International Association for Mission Studies (IAMS), an organization that focuses on advancing the study of the Christian mission.
TRED Chair Dr. Fides Del Castillo explains that they had entered into the agreement to “develop academic and research cooperation” through collaborative activities such as conferences, symposia, and research.
IAMS President Dr. Paul Kollman recalls that it was Del Castillo who first reached out to him on a possible collaboration. He then directed her to Dr. Bokyoung Park, IAMS Vice President and Regional Representative for Asia, to further iron out the details.
Park shares that the MOU signing was also driven by DLSU’s reputation as “the leading Catholic university” in Asia.
The main event from the MOU between CLA and IAMS is the International Conference in Catechesis and Religious Education scheduled on June 25 to 26.
Four plenary speakers, including DLSU History Department associate professor Dr. Jose Rhommel Hernandez, whose specializations include cultural heritage and historiography, will be headlining the event. Other confirmed guests are American Catholic theologians Dr. Paul Kollman and Dr. Peter Phan and Indian religious studies professor Dr. Atola Longkumer. The Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila, Most Rev. Broderick Pabillo, and the chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, Most Rev. Roberto Mallari, will also be gracing the event.
TRED and IAMS have also begun calls for academic papers to be presented at the virtual conference. Del Castillo adds that researchers will also be given the opportunity to publish their works in the Scopus-indexed journals, Religions and Intersections.
IAMS, meanwhile, will be in charge of inviting international academics, especially Asian scholars, to the conference. Park aims for Asian voices to have more active participation in global settings. “Previously, IAMS [conferences were] mainly led by Western scholars,” she explains. “I hope through this conference, we will be able to establish [a] more Asian perspective within the IAMS.”
Aside from IAMS, DLSU will also enter into another MOU with KU Leuven, a university in Belgium, with the aim to foster academic and research collaborations between the two institutions. The ceremonial virtual signing is scheduled on May 4.
The De La Salle University Southeast Asia Research Center Hub, the Vice President of Lasallian Mission, the History Department, and the Brothers’ community will also be involved in the year-long activities.
TRED has also plotted other events throughout the year. These include a roundtable discussion on indigenous people on May 22, a symposium on empirical theology on July 23, another roundtable on religious education on August 28, and an event titled Sacred Scriptures, Hermeneutics, and Spirituality on September 24.
“It’s very important that we cannot miss a specific area in theology and religious education,” Del Castillo emphasizes.