On the eve of celebrating the 200th year anniversary (1814-2014) marking the restoration of the Jesuits as a religious order in the Catholic Church, several events are separately being launched around the world to commemorate this special milestone. These two centuries of restoration after forty-one (41) years of suspended animation (1773-1814), through a papal  bull, ushered in a new era in the history of one of the church’s most influential religious institutions that built a distinctively unique and unparalled school system present in six continents.

In the context of the Philippines, among the many events being cooked up is a gathering of Jesuits in Mindanao, in the company of a select group of lay people representing various sectors in Philippine society.  Toward this end, the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU), under the leadership of University President Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ, will host this one-of-a-kind event simply entitled Jesuits in Mindanao Conversations.

Jesuit and Lay Participants

Preparations for the Jesuits in Mindanao Conversations on 26th-28th December 2013 are now in full swing, spearheaded by the Assistant to the President, Mr. Jeremy Eliab and Mr. Vinci Romulo Bueza, Technical Assistant to the President for External Affairs.  This gathering of Jesuits in Mindanao (those who are assigned in Jesuit ministries and missions on this island, current or previous) is a special convocation of Jesuits and some lay partners/collaborators the purpose of which is to provide a wider platform for discussion on what the Society of Jesus and its phalanx of external partners and advocates have been doing and are actively engaged in, in support of their social and educational apostolate.  This post-Christmas gathering is expected to be attended by some seventy-five (75) to eighty (80) participants (including twenty-five [25] active Jesuit priests who currently head several Jesuit centers and institutions in Mindanao).  Generally, the participants represent not just those missioned in academic and social institutions but also in government, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), media, civil society groups, peace centers, military, church, among others – especially those whose work revolves around the promotion of peace, indigenous cultures, wealth creation and equitable distribution, environment, spirituality and leadership.

Round Table Discussions

The format of this conversation is a round-table discussion (RTD) where some participants are requested to lead the discussion in a panel.  There are four (4) major panel discussions, all conducted in a plenary.  Key discussants are already tapped (in advance) to constitute each panel.  A plenary discussion immediately proceeds from the panel discussion, where the other participants are given the opportunity to interact with the panellists and the rest of the people in the audience. These RTDs are also moderated, following a flow and a process that are strictly under time wraps (with one running for four [4] hours, and the rest for two [2] hours).  Some faculty members from ADDU have been requested to act as moderators for a total of four (4) RTDs spread in two (2) days.

On the afternoon of 26th December, the kickoff of the conversations, Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ will welcome the participants, to be followed by the current Provincial of the Jesuits in the Philippines, Fr. Antonio Moreno, SJ, who will render his address and provide the rationale of this special gathering.  Likewise, the first day provides an introductory overview of what to expect in the course of the three-day assembly.  Fr. Karel San Juan, SJ, newly installed President of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University (ADZU), will render a talk on the current situation of the Jesuits in Mindanao, following a Mindanao situationer to be given by Mindanews editor, Ms. Carolyn Arguillas.  The evening will wind down with a cultural presentation by Davao’s very own Kaliwat Theatre Collective.

Panel and Plenary Sessions

Three RTDs are scheduled on the second day, 27th December, to wit: “Jesuits in Pursuit of Peace in Mindanao” to be headed by Datu Mussolini Lidasan of ADDU’s Al Qalam Institute for Muslim Identities in Southeast Asia, Fr. Albert E. Alejo, SJ of ADZU, Atty. Johaira Wahab and Atty. Raisa Jajurie, both of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Ms. Mucha Shim Quiling of Lumah ma Dilaut, Prof. Roque Yusuf Morales of the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos, Br. Karl Gaspar, CSsR of the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI), Maj. Gen. Natalio Ecarma of the Department of National Defense (DND), and Ms. Starjoan Villanueva of the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM).

The second RTD is entitled “Jesuits in Support of Wealth Creation and Its Equitable Distribution” to be presented by Prof. Germelino Bautista of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Economic Department, Fr. Robert Yap, SJ and Fr. Rene Tacastacas, SJ of Xavier University (XU), Dr. Nene Guevarra of Synergeia, Ms. Jainab Abdulmajid of Gawad Kalinga and Arch. Daniel Lim of the Davao Chamber of Commerce.

Capping the second day’s schedule is the third RTD focusing on “Jesuits and the Mindanao Environment” with Fr. Pedro Walpole, SJ of the Institute of Environmental Science for Social Change, Fr. Joy Pelino, SJ of the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Marbel, Mr. Jaybee Garganera of Alyansa Tigil Mina, Mr. Toni Loyzaga of the Manila Observatory, Dr. Leah Vidal of ADDU’s Institute of Anthropology, and Fr. Mars Tan, SJ of XU.

On 28th December, the RTD “Jesuits Promoting Spirituality and Leadership in Mindanao” is the last panel discussion of the three-day conversations.  The lead discussants are Hon. Toto Mangudadatu of the Provincial Government of Maguindanao, Dr. Tony La Vina of ADMU’s School of Governance, Fr. Karel San Juan, SJ and Fr. Wilfredo Samson, SJ of ADZU, Fr. Celerino Reyes, SJ of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Atty. Laisa Alamia Masuhud of the Regional Office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Articulated Resolutions

Critical on the third day is a series of resolutions which will be presented to the plenary before the formal end of the convocation. These articulated resolutions are, therefore, the fruits of the discussions of the past three (3) days which will then form part of the output (from Mindanao) to be presented to the national gathering of Jesuit heads in Manila in early January of 2014. Fr. Provincial Tony Moreno will immediately render his response upon the presentation of the collated resolutions.

A tour of Samal Islands, specifically the spread of property where a newly constructed retreat and spirituality center of ADDU now stands, caps the three-day event, following the mass and lunch.

Attendance by Invitation

Attendance to the Jesuits in Mindanao Conversations is strictly by invitation only.  It will be held at the Finster Auditorium on the afternoon of 26th December until lunchtime of 28th December.  Assisting Mr. Eliab and Mr. Bueza in the preparation are a select group of faculty, staff, personnel, and some students who are requested to assist in the conduct of the conversations from logistical preparations all the way down to liturgical services, RTD moderatorship, documentation, food and accommodation, among other things, including the Samal trek. (By M. Isabel S. Actub, Arrupe Communications & Advocacy, for the Office of the President)