Its Humanities Program will continue to play a critical role in the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) Campus of the Future soon to rise at Manresa.
“For Xavier Ateneo to remain an authentic Jesuit university, we should continue to have humanities subjects in its higher education curriculum,” Xavier Ateneo President Fr Mars P. Tan SJ PhD affirmed in his welcome remarks during the TAGBO 3 Literary Event held March 23-24, 2023 at the XU Little Theatre.
Over 120 guests and participants from 17 universities, schools, LGUs and other institutions coming from as far as Balingasag, Misamis Oriental; Don Carlos and Maramag in Bukidnon; Iligan City, Marawi City, Davao City, and Tacloban City joined the two-day TAGBO 3 which was funded by a grant for Xavier Ateneo’s Literature Program by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Center for Development in Literature.
“Remember, Jesuit education draws its origin from the spirituality of St Ignatius, finding God in all things. Thus, Ignatian spirituality translated into Jesuit education teaches a basic theological principle: whatever leads us to understand what it means to be human also leads us to understand God,” Fr Mars quoted one Jesuit writer.
If the humanities humanize the student and the person, he explained how it also helps the person to understand and discern how God works in his/her life.
For St Ignatius and those in Xavier Ateneo, humanities expands their knowledge about God as they come to know Him more deeply and discern His work in the entirety of creation, the center of which is human life and culture, he added.
Similarly, Fr Mars stressed how humanities subjects remain relevant to 21st-century education, which the XU Campus of the Future envisions to achieve.
He cited how former Jesuit Father Generals sought to expound the goal of Jesuit education by answering it with nuancing due to the contexts of their time.
Fr Pedro Arrupe coined the phrase, “to form students to become men and women for others”; while Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach wrote “to enhance competence, conscience, commitment, and compassion in students;” and Fr Adolfo Nicolas said students should “learn in creative new ways the depth of thought and imagination towards the construction of a more human, just, sustainable and faith-filled world.”
The current Father General, Fr Arturo Sosa addressed the question by inviting all Jesuit schools to “a continuous exercise of discernment in the face of the rapid cultural, anthropological and technological changes we are living through.”
“What all the previous and the present Fr Generals have declared is a call to human excellence, to the fullest possible development of all human qualities. It is a call to reflective thinking and disciplined studies, a call to the total formation of the person, academically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The humanities program, subjects, and activities have much to contribute to the ultimate goal of Jesuit education,” Fr. Mars noted.
He pointed out how it has become difficult to discern in the current technological age the importance of teaching students about humanities, and fulfill Xavier Ateneo’s mission statement to form graduates/students of competence, conscience, and commitment.
“Most careers (STEM) today are geared toward technological innovation and development, and the humanities are sadly often pushed to the side in higher education, in both the quantity and quality of their academic programs,” Fr Mars observed.
However, this only serves to further emphasize how the Humanities are needed “now more than ever to provide balance and perspective” in the 21st century (Reiter, 2017), and especially true in Jesuit education.
Father Adolfo Nicolas, SJ, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, outlines what sets Jesuit education apart from other universities: “the real measure of our Jesuit universities lies in who our students become” [and not in how much they will have].
In the emerging global reality, “tomorrow’s ‘whole person’ cannot be whole without an educated awareness of society and culture with which to contribute socially, generously, in the real world, he added.
Thus, although the new Xavier Ateneo is anchored on the 2019 Strategic Plan’s niche program areas to pursue plans for their necessary infrastructures (Health and Life Sciences; Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Sustainable Engineering and Technology), it remains deeply aware of the necessity to strategically position the Humanities program to achieve its desired role in the new Xavier Ateneo in Manresa. “It’s in the plan that the humanities program will have its necessary infrastructure and facilities,” Fr Mars assures.
Not the least, he attributed the gap in the enterprise of education aptly pointed out by a well-known Jesuit philosopher, Fr Bernard Lonergan, as the unwillingness of many educators to raise or attempt to answer burning issues of the day, rather than the lack of passion, lack of faith, and lack of intelligence as the cause of this gap.
“We experience a lack of integration, a lack of depth and creativity to wrestle with answering these tough yet basic questions: why are we here? what is love? why is there evil? why do we treasure our identity and our culture? how can we help society become a better place to live in? why do we have to study and write about who we are and what we want to be?”
“My colleagues in the Humanities, kindly teach us and lead us to answer these questions.”
Xavier Ateneo will transfer its 6-ha HEd campus in Divisoria to a 21-ha Manresa campus in 5 to 6 years.
“It will not just be a construction of a physical campus, but a reinvention of a new Xavier Ateneo including innovated and repackaged academic curricula and formation programs,” Fr Mars assures.