First of all I’d like to thank his Eminence, Cardinal Chito, for presiding in our Eucharist in spite of his hectic schedule. He just got back from meetings in Italy a few days ago. I suspect he’s still adjusting to some jet lag.
I thank all of you for your presence this morning. You represent different sectors and stakeholders in the mission of education, especially, Catholic higher education.
I also treasure the presence of my distinguished predecessors: Dr. Lita Quebengco, Brother Armin Luistro, Brother Jun Erguiza, Brother Ricky Laguda, and Brother Dennis Magbanua. While it is true that Brothers Ricky and Dennis are from Bacolod, and Brother Armin finished his doctorate in La Salle Bacolod, there is no truth to the rumor that my election as DLSU president was orchestrated by an Ilonggo mafia!
As I told the members of our board upon my election, I am honored and humbled to be chosen for this position. A few moments ago, I found out that the mace is indeed heavy, and rightly so, because it symbolizes the gravitas of De La Salle University, the first and flagship institution of the Philippine Lasallian educational family.
What is the Lord asking of me?
After my election, I was moved to pray: what is the Lord asking of me? The Parable of the Talents kept ringing in my mind and heart. In St. Matthew’s version of the parable, the Master entrusts his servants with different measures of talents, expecting each one to make those talents bear fruit.
I felt like the servant who received, not 1, 3, or 5 talents, but rather 50 talents! For when I consider DLSU, I see the outstanding quality of her teaching faculty, the giftedness of her students, and the high caliber of her co-academic faculty and service personnel. To these resources, I must add the unlimited social capital of DLSU’s network of alumni and alumnae, parents and guardians, her links with Church leaders, industry, government and colleagues in other educational institutions.
But I remembered, that in the parable, the Master expects the talents he has given to bear fruit. Then, I felt fear and anxiety. That’s why, when many of you congratulated me, I texted or emailed you: “Please pray for me!” Now, you know why.
What is the Lord asking of DLSU?
But another question came to me: “What is the Lord asking of DLSU at this time of her history?” Isn’t DLSU a servant to whom the Master has entrusted a generous amount of talents?
The parable speaks of the growth and multiplication of the talents: the servant with 3 talents presents 3 more, the one with 5 talents presents 5 more. And the talent that did not grow, was given to the more enterprising servant.
And this led me to the question: For whom are the resources of the university?
In St. Matthew’s version of the parable, the Master tells the successful servant: “You have shown you are trustworthy in small things, I will trust you with greater…” In the version of St. Luke, the Master says: “Since you have proved yourself trustworthy in a very small thing, you shall have the government of ten (or five) cities.” The increased number of talents are not for the servant. Instead, the Master increases the servant’s responsibility! All the talents are ordained towards the service of others! These gifts are for the common good.
I’d like to anchor my presidency on this premise. I believe that the tremendous talents and resources of this community of learners and mentors are ordained towards the greater good of our Church, our country and the world. And when these gifts benefit our learners, mentors and others, the benefits come with an added responsibility – that they place these talents at the service of others… The Lord appoints the enterprising servant to serve five, ten or more communities!
What does this imply for DLSU? Hasn’t she been entrusted with an abundance of talents by the Master, talents to carry out her mission? The university’s vision-mission statement avows that DLSU is “a leading learner-centered research university, bridging faith and scholarship in the service of society, especially the poor.”
If the Master returns today and demands an accounting, what could we present in terms of being learner-centered, of bridging faith and scholarship, of serving our society, especially the poor? Certainly she would not come up empty handed.
DLSU has not buried her talents. Just to give an example. DLSU has had five (5) presidents over the last five or six years. This is not because DLSU presidents are an endangered or unpopular species. Dr. Lita Quebengco retired but continues serving as board member or consultant in over 20 educational institutions and NGOs. Br. Armin Luistro is now Secretary of the Department of Education. Br. Jun Erguiza is president of De La Salle – Araneta and president of CEAP. And Br. Ricky Laguda is in Rome as General Councillor of the worldwide Lasallian Family!
In many other ways, DLSU offers her talents to serve the Church and our nation through its faculty, staff, students and alumni.
As I take over the helm, I am asked: “What directions must DLSU take to broaden and strengthen her efforts in carrying out her mission?” As a new President, I don’t presume to know the answer. I am painfully aware of my need to have a deeper and more comprehensive grasp of DLSU: the persons who make up the academic family, the students, the programs, etc…
Bertrand Russell said, “In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” I think this is an opportune time to raise some questions, for myself and for our academic family. The answers we will discern and pursue together.
For the sake of brevity and clarity, I “hang question marks” on three areas of DLSU’s mission: being a leading learner-centerer university, integrating faith and scholarship, and serving the Church and nation, especially the poor. (To be continued)
Br. Raymundo B. Suplido FSC was inaugurated as the 23rd president of De La Salle University on June 30, 2015. He can be reached at [email protected].