A Jesuit, Filipino, and Asian Ecclesiastical Faculty of Theology

Friday, November 17, 2017
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Identifying where LST is

 
We are situated in Southeast Asia, a region characterized by diversity in language, culture and religious tradition. Together with such diversity, Southeast Asia has also undeniable links among its different populations and with other parts of Asia, particularly East Asia and South Asia, as a result of ethnicity, commerce and history.
 
In recognition of this diversity as well as these links, “Asian” is better applied to particular contexts rather than one Asian monolithic context. To speak of “Asian” in the latter sense entails a second-order construction that runs the risk of facile generalization especially if done in contrast to what is labeled “Western”.
 
Locating Jesuit Mission Today
 
From its very beginning, Jesuit mission has considered “the entire world” as “the object of our interest and concern.” Moreover, “as this world changes, so does the context of our mission” (GC 35, 2, nos. 23-24). Thus Jesuit mission has always been international and global.
 
This means that all ministries of Jesuits, whether in their own country or elsewhere, are related to this wider reality. In our case, located as we are in the Philippines within Southeast Asia, our ministry of theological formation at LST must reflect this international and global dimension of Jesuit mission. The Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) itself has articulated the desirability of having Jesuits spend part of their formation in a context other than their own.
 
Describing LST’s Asian Theological Program
 
In the light of the above, the 2004 Asian Theological Program at LST specifies its mission even further. As the report of JCAP's Theological Cooperation Working Group (TCWG) puts it: “Founded on the recognition that theology is 'an academic enterprise that mediates between a cultural matrix and the significance and role of religion in that context' (Bernard Lonergan), it missions LST to provide theological education with a more deliberate international and Asian focus.”
 
This program consists primarily of preparing Jesuits and other students from particular Asian contexts, including the Philippines, for the core ministerial tasks in these contexts. This requires a dynamic interaction between Catholic tradition and these contexts in the theological formation of students: in particular, enabling them to understand and communicate the Gospel within their contexts, to enrich this tradition with concerns arising from these contexts, and to reflect critically on these contexts in the light of the Gospel.
 
LST or any other theological center in Asia is neither a center of “pan-Asian” theology nor one knowledgeable about all Asian theologies. However, LST can and must develop greater familiarity with theologies in and from particular Asian contexts and undertake comparative analysis among these theologies. Steps to accomplish this can be undertaken through increased collaboration with other theological centers in Asia.
 
What the Asian Theological Program at LST entails
 
In the Asian mandate given by JCAP and accepted by LST, this program asks that LST be “more Asian in content, methodology and ethos.” Subsequent discussions within LST and by the TCWG have pointed out that this program could be implemented through
 
  • courses that have an explicit Asian content, e.g. History of Christianity in Asia
  • courses that discuss theological issues common to Asian contexts, e.g. the theme “Christ and other Religions” in Christology
  • tools for critical understanding of our cultural and linguistic contexts (e.g. social analysis and current trends such as globalization, migration, ecological degradation, etc.)
  • courses that highlight the importance of context in understanding Christian doctrine and practice.
 
LST must then take steps regarding how these could be implemented by identifying and prioritizing courses related to the Asian Theological Program and by adding what is needed for fuller implementation of the program. Then LST can more systematically express what help it needs from other theological centers such as the exchange of faculty and students, forums on particular theological issues and concerns, and identification of local resources for research and teaching.
 
What the Asian Theological Program asks of Faculty in LST
 
LST faculty is expected to grow in serious interest and non-specialized knowledge of some Asian contexts. This could be promoted through exposure to these contexts and exchange with theological colleagues from other theological centers. This should be reflected in their courses as well as in their research and publications.
 
With the assistance of JCAP, Jesuits from the Philippines and other provinces or regions under the Conference may be prepared with the Asian Theological Program in mind and made available for long term teaching at LST.
 
What LST can offer to other Theological Centers
 
LST offers theological graduate degree programs in English. Excluding undergraduate programs in Theology or Religious Studies, it probably has the greatest number of graduate students in theology among Jesuit theological centers, at least one-third of which are international students from Asia, Latin America and Africa.
 
Theological cooperation among all theological centers in JCAP and with LST has been identified as a JCAP priority. In line with this, LST can offer faculty to respond to requests from other theological centers. It can also work with formation communities at Arrupe International Residence and Loyola House of Studies in sending Jesuit scholastics to other theological centers for limited periods.
 
As an ecclesiastical faculty in theology, LST can set up structures that will enable students in the other theological centers to obtain ecclesiastical degrees through formal affiliation and aggregation or through recognition of credits from other theological centers. 
 
What other Theological Centers can offer LST
 
Visiting faculty from other theological centers who can provide expertise in line with the Asian Theological Program and who can teach in English can be made available to LST for at least two months.
 
Students from other theological centers can take courses at LST for limited periods and earn credits for ecclesiastical or civil degree programs.