During the Assembly of the General Government of the Claretians with the Major Superiors of the Congregation, held in Rome in October 1992, the Plan of Action for the subsequent five years was presented. The General Government proposed the establishment of a Center for Higher Studies in Asia. The proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the Assembly. In this way, the Congregation could offer a qualified service to the Churches of Asia, while at the same time consolidate its presence in Asia. This would oblige the Claretians of Asia to prepare qualified personnel who would staff the Center and enrich the life and mission of the Congregation in Asia.
In February 1993, on his visit to India, the Superior General, Fr. Aquilino Bocos, CMF convoked a meeting of all the Major Organisms of Asia, to discern the concrete ways to implement the Project. The following consensus were reached:
In November 1993, the General Government appointed Fr. Domingo Moraleda, CMF to be in-charge of the Project.
In 1994, with the qualified help of Fr. Josep Rovira, CMF, the initial planning stages were set up. The academic authorities of the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila before its division, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) were contacted. They all welcomed the Project with enthusiasm and gave an excellent recommendation to the Congregation for Catholic Education which endorsed the initiative and approved it “ad experimentum” for five (5) years.
During the period 1994 to 1995, provisions for the necessary infrastructure of the Institute were initiated, such as the residence of the professors, library, members of the faculty, publicity, etc. At the same time, by the mandate of the General Government, the Institute was created as a “financial Foundation” in order to confront the urgent needs of establishing the fundamental structures. The seed money of the Foundation was pulled together from the following sources:
Frs. Fernando Torres, CMF and Juan Jose Pineda, CMF who were assigned by Fr. General to collaborate in the Project, arrived in Manila in September 1996. It was during this time that the first foundational meeting of ICLA was held with the participation of several professors from our Institutes in Madrid and Rome, as well as all the future members of the Faculty, both Claretians and those from other congregations like OMI, SVD, SFIC, OP, OFM, etc. who are residents of the Philippines.
On June 14, 1997, ICLA was officially inaugurated by Cardinal Sin and Archbishop Quevedo, the Rector and Dean of UST, with the participation of over 500 men and women religious. The following day, on June 15, 1997, classes under the degree program Licentiate in Theology for the Academic Year 1997-1998 started. Students of various nationalities from 11 countries enrolled in the major courses. ICLA also offered a minor course which was scheduled every Saturday. This was attended by over 100 students.
During the Academic Year 1998-1999, there was a substantial increase in the student population coming from the different countries in Asia. It was during this period that ICLA offered the first Licentiate degree in Theology of Consecrated Life. During the same school year, the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) gave the approval to offer Master’s degree in Theology of Consecrated Life and Missiology. This was a tremendous achievement of the Institute during that time. Also during this period, ICLA started the publication of the Religious Life Asia magazine, a necessary condition for granting the Licentiate degree. At present, we have a total of 759 subscriptions from here and abroad.
In the Academic Year 1999-2000, with practically increasing number of students from all over Asia, Fr. General assigned Fr. John Thadathil, CMF to ICLA who started teaching during the First Semester. Aside from the major and minor courses offered, ICLA started a Program in Preparation for the First Religious Profession of novices from various congregations and institutes during this period. Said Program was attended by 130 Novices and Formators.
Likewise, every year, ICLA celebrates a Religious Life Week which gathers almost 1000 men and women religious from the different congregations.
Special concern was given to the establishment of a library specialized in Theology of Consecrated Life, a conditio sine qua non for the approval of the Project by the University of Santo Tomas and the Vatican. At present, the library has a combined number of books at around 14,000 with an increase of about 1,000 volumes per year.