The Social Responsibility of the Catholic Teachers

By Lana, Tamerlane R.; O. P. | Manila Bulletin, April 8, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Social Responsibility of the Catholic Teachers


Lana, Tamerlane R., O. P., Manila Bulletin


(Conclusion) The ''Internalizing'' Service to the Academic Community

SOME educators label this third component of the University as outreach or extension service rather than community service. While this nomenclature may tend to limit the scope of this mission of service, it brings sense to the fact that service to the society especially to the poor is but an offshoot of the strong and healthy community of educators and learners grounded in mutual respect for one another and simplicity of life animated by charity. This is especially true in the case of our Catholic schools. Our service to the poor is a form of ministry, and it will have a sense only if it is an outflow of the richness of the community we build in academe, driven by a common goal and mission, the motivating factor of which is the gospel of love. There is a dictum that says "charity begins at home." There's more to it than meets the eye. In my several talks to religious communities, I have consistently stressed to them that the quality and effectiveness of their apostolate or ministry to others will depend much on the strength of the community they have in their religious life. Their "acts" of charity will all be empty if there is no charity among them that should continue to build them up to form a stronger community. Likewise our service to others will be empty if there are animosities, conflicts, illfeelings, suspicions and utter disrespect for each other in our own academic community.

Ever since I assumed the Rectorship of the University of Santo Tomas, my ardent wish has always been to "build a strong Christian community" in the University. This is also the desire of the local Church for our Catholic educational institutions in the Philippines. To quote the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II):

Catholic institutions of higher learning should not only prepare for Christian community living but should already provide an experience of Christian community. The Catholic school or college is not only a place, but a Catholic environment where members of the administration, the faculty, staff and the student (and the parents as well) develop into Filipinos who are makaDiyos, makatao, at makabayan and not makasarili (God-centered, person-oriented, patriotic, and not self-centered). Catholic educational institutions should be a city set on a mountain and should aim at producing citizens and leaders who will imbue the world with Christian values. Their products should not only be better technicians, professionals and money-earners, but also better persons who live not for themselves but like Christ, for others (PCP II, 636).

In this kind of community, the school management considers the teachers and staff as collaborators in the fulfillment of the school's missionvision, and therefore treats them fairly and justly as persons. As collaborators, they are entitled to the blessings that the University receives. Teachers are motivated by love and concern for the welfare of their students and consider teaching as opportunity to serve. Love, however, presupposes justice. And sadly there are teachers who may not even be living up to the basic demands of justice in the fulfillment of the task expected of them. How many of them really render at least the required teaching hours to their students? If we reckon by the number of hours they have been absent or late in their classrooms, can we still say that they are being fair and just to their students? John Paul II exhorted us to develop among our students the sense of justice. How difficult it would be to inculcate this social value among these young people if the teachers themselves were mighty examples of its utter disregard and violation!

A strong Christian community in academe can be built on healthy relationships among the administrators and teachers, among the teachers and students, and among the teachers themselves. I surmise that we educators of the Catholic institutions owe it to one another to establish and sustain these healthy relationships in academe. …

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