The first general assembly of ICLA resident students for Academic Year 2015-2016 took place on June 26, 2015 at the Conference Room of the Institute. It started with an Opening Prayer led by Ms. Lettie Taberdo, who also explained the reasons why a general assembly is necessary.

ICLA is not just an institute for higher studies, but also a center of formation and a residence /home for students, who live together as brothers and sisters. Psalm 133:1 captures the vision of community life: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.”

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Fr. Jonathan Bitoy, CMF announced the appointed Coordinators of resident students. They are Fr. Jonathan Balakase from Zimbabwe and Sr. Sandra Toscano from Bangladesh.

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Ms. Menchie Rojas presented the Center for Accompaniment, Renewal, and Empowerment of Students (CARES) Thrust for AY 2015-2016.

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Fr. Yoseph Ferdinandus Melo, CMF presented some guidelines for the community liturgy and Mrs. Eisen Villanueva gave the house rules and regulations.

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The resident students selected the service team they wished to join. This was followed by the initial meeting of the various service teams, namely, (1) Liturgy and Prayer, (2) In-house Service, (3) Food, (4) Manualia, (5) Sports, (6) Socio-Cultural, and (7) Medical.

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After the short initial meeting of the various service teams, some students articulated their concerns related to the community life of the resident students.

The first general assembly was concluded with the community evening prayer prepared by Sr. Lin Yanzhen, CCV.

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Fr. Salvador G. Agualada Jr., CMF—Fr. Buddy to many of us who know him personally—was President of Saint Anthony Mary Claret College (Claret Seminary) from October 2011 to April 2015, where he taught courses in theology. He was also professor of the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) for three years from 2012 up until last semester. He will fly to Rome this coming August to pursue his doctorate in Systematic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he also did his Licentiate in theology in 2009-2011. Last June 8, 2015, ICLA invited him to preside over the Mass of the Holy Spirit in his capacity as former President of SAMCC. Thank you, Fr. Buddy! Kudos to your doctorate in Rome! 

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Here is an excerpt from the first part of Fr. Buddy's homily:

While the Church and the world were preparing for the coming of the Great Jubilee in 2000, for the coming of the third millenium, Pope John Paul II came up with an apostolic letter entitled Tertio Millenio Adveniente and in that apostolic letter he declared 1998 as the year of the Holy Spirit – the year of a renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the world on our human families and our human communities. And because it was a year of renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, the pope also declared that 1998 was a year of appreciation of the theological virtue of hope. On that year, Pope John Paul II invited Christians all over the world never to submit to cynicism.  The question I would like to pose to all of us, as we begin this new academic year in ICLA with the Mass of the Holy Spirit is this: Why does a renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the world lead to hope? 

You can read the whole talk he gave entitled THE HOLY SPIRIT AND RELIGIOUS LIFE from which Fr. Buddy substantially derived his homily.


ICLA formally opened the new Academic Year 2015-2016 with a Mass of the Holy Spirit on June 8, 2015. The ICLA staff, employees, faculty, and students were present in the event.

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The academic orientation, which took place after the Eucharistic celebration, consisted of the following: 1) Welcome Address by Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF – ICLA Director, 2)Presentation of the different academic programs offered by ICLA and some items in the Student handbook by Dr. Tessa Rosana – Secretary of the Institute and Biblical Ministry Coordinator, 3) Presentation of the CARES Program by Ms. Menchie Rojas – CARES Coordinator, and 4) Open Forum – facilitated by Sr. Elvie Camilion and Ms. Lettie Taberdo.

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In his Welcome Address, Fr. Samuel Canilang gave a brief history of ICLA in the context of the Claretian Institutes for Consecrated Life. He also explained the nature and identity of ICLA, its vision and mission, as well as the line up of the faculty, staff, and employees of the Institute.


Dr. Tessa Rosana presented the various academic programs being offered by ICLA and the requirements for admission. Likewise, Dr. Rosana briefed those present that ICLA education is interdisciplinary, biblically oriented, contextual-dialogical, mission-pastoral oriented, and academic-formative. 


Prof. Menchie Rojas, Coordinator of the Center for Accompaniment Renewal, and Empowerment of Students (CARES) Program, presented the evolution of ICLA’s CARES program and the various activities undertaken for the formation of the resident students to make ICLA truly an institute for higher studies, a center for formation, and a residence/home for the students. 

Simultaneous with the Open Forum for the students, Fr. Sammy met with the faculty and the Superiors of religious communities with students in ICLA and presented to them, among other things, the revised academic programs for implementation in the Academic Year 2016-2017.





The ICLA Staff had Strategic Planning at Maryridge, Tagaytay City last April 6-8, 2015. This was facilitated by Fr. Jonathan Bitoy, CMF. The last Strategic Planning was done in April 2012 that resulted in the crafting of the Vision-Mission-Objectives of the Institute. It was agreed in 2012 that the V-M-O be revisited after three years.

Those who participated in this year’s Strategic Planning were six laywomen (Eisen Villanueva, Floren Ladic, Lettie Taberdo, Menchie Rojas, Susan Mozo, and Tessa Rosana); two sisters (Sr. Amelia Vasquez, RSCJ and Sr. Elvira Camilion, FCJ); and three priests (Fr. Edgar Javier, SVD; Fr. Jonathan Bitoy, CMF; and Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF).

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Each day started with an Opening Prayer. There was also a daily Eucharistic Celebration. Fr. Bitoy followed the Awareness, Baseline information, Compelling vision, and Down-to-work (ABCD) approach. The first day was devoted to Awareness and Baseline information while the second day was spent in looking at the Compelling visions of ICLA and Down-to-Work sessions to come up with Strategies and Plans. The third day (half-day) was for reflection on the experience of the first two days.

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Three groups were formed for the sharing/discussion, namely: Academics, Administration/Governance, and C.A.R.E.S. (Center for Accompaniment, Renewal, and Empowerment of Students). It has to be noted, however, that some of those present were in reality involved in all the three areas but had to be in one group all throughout the strategic planning.

One of the main recommendations discussed during the planning is the addition of a Propaedeutic (preliminary or introductory) Program to better equip the students with the necessary tools and knowledge to prepare them for their masteral course. It is hoped that this program will start in the Academic Year 2016-2017.


Some of the reflections shared on the third day are as follows:

•The Strategic Planning was an experience of companionship, teamwork, camaraderie, and cooperation.

It was an experience of grace in abundance.

It was a privileged moment of learning from each other as brothers and sisters whatever our positions are.

There was a smooth flow of communication and freedom to share one’s feelings, experiences, and thoughts.

It gave a better understanding of what ICLA is as an academic school (St. Anthony Mary Claret College) and as an Institute.

ICLA has gone a long way. Now is a high point for ICLA… a privileged moment. How do we sustain it?

There is a convergence of people with a sense of mission and dedication.

The role of Claretians is very vital; the leadership of the Congregation is very important. There is a need for a stronger commitment from the Congregation to nurture/sustain ICLA. 

“Small is beautiful.” The Institute has a good chance to flourish because of its smallness. ICLA is small but big enough to make a difference.

We are guided by the Holy Spirit.

The way Fr. Jonathan facilitated was appreciated. It was flexible. He allowed free-flowing conversation and was able to bring it back to the task at hand.

There is a better understanding of one’s role and a greater appreciation of the contribution of others.

There’s a feeling of gladness to be part of the community to serve the students.

It gives a sense of fulfillment to see students who are well motivated.

The expectation was to come up with a time-frame for the tasks to be done. It is hoped that this will not be forgotten.

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Fr. Josep Rovira, CMF delivered the homily at the Baccalaureate Mass on March 21, 2015. He was already set to leave ICLA a couple of days after the Graduation Day and thus it was another fitting moment to draw the depth and wisdom of his experience and knowledge as a Professor and a missionary.  

As in all his lectures and retreats, he always gives a thoroughly prepared, solid and very substantial content. This was meant primarily for ICLA’s graduating batch 2015, but a wider readership will certainly benefit from his and thus we are posting it here.





Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During these past months we have lived, and, in a particular way, we have studied the meaning of our Christian life and mission as committed Lay, Priests and Religious. On this “Graduation Day,” at the end of the Academic Year, having in front of us a period of deserved rest and other kind of activities, or the longed coming back home to our countries and apostolic fields, enriched by what we have deepened and experienced this year, we can ask ourselves: How can we put all our learnings into practice? How can we be more credible and more fitting witnesses to God, to Christ, in our world, with the people (Catholics or not, Christians or not, Believers or not) whom we shall meet? I would like to offer you some suggestions for our own reflection, by means of a sort of “Decalogue.”

1- The first one and the source of all the rest: the insistence on the primacy of God, the search for the Absolute in our human and Christian life, as a response to the increasing secularism in our society, the intellectual laziness, the comfortable indifference, scepticism and superficiality (of those who do not even ask themselves about the significance and aim of their lives); that to be is more important than to have; and witnessing that each one of us is worthier than what he or she produces, because every person is worthwhile in itself. In other words, the passionate search for God, the nostalgia of God, as St. Augustine said: “Oh God, You created us for Yourself; and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”1 Perhaps, someone can take this first suggestion for granted; but that cannot be. In fact, the consumer mentality, the longing for more and more money, the more or less bourgeois way of life (even among committed Lay, Priests and Religious), the need to find a social place, the passion for efficiency even in our apostolate, and the obsession for our own personal realization, have undermined the spiritual life of many Christians as well. Without this primacy of God, our existence has no sense at all. The risk is that many disciples of Christ can die due to many things, and even due to much work, but not due to much Gospel! We are not more or less philanthropic people, but first of all men/women of God; we are called, first, not to share or sell bread, but to be Evangelical leaven. So, the life of faith and, as a consequence, a rich prayer life: to be men/women of God.

2- Fraternity and solidarity, being preachers, witnesses and patient constructors of communion, as a response to the individualism and self-centeredness in the world, to the violence, to the many kinds of injustice, to the slavery in front of an excess of structures, to the sort of  social massification, passivity and comfort at any cost (cf. VC 91-92). So, fostering altruism, fraternal life.

3- Simplicity, austerity/frugality and internal and external freedom, respecting God’ creation, as a response to the unbridled thirst for consumerism that destroys creation and produces economic and social unbalance (cf. VC 89-90). If we are attached to many material things, only to one place, to some people, to a culture…,, we are no more free for God and for the mission in favour of our brethren.  So, a free and a more or less austere way of life.

4- Humility and courage at the same time, humble courage and spirit of service, as a response to the longing for economic power and political dominion of the people, and to the not so rare temptations of triumphalism and power even in the Church, calling in mind that the way and icon of being in authority in the Families, Parishes, Dioceses and Religious communities is Jesus serving (cf. Mt 23:8-12) and washing the feet of the disciples (Jn 13:1-17; VC 75, FT 12b, 17b). As saint Peter says in his first letter: “… always have an answer ready when you are asked upon to account for your hope, but give it simply and with respect…” (1Pt 3:15). So, not to be afraid –and still less, to be ashamed- to be what we are called to be.

5- Gratuitousness and magnanimity as a response to the relentless and merciless spirit of contract and exploitation of the people (cf. VC 104-105). So, being in a utilitarian and technocratic society and culture, “which is inclined to assess the importance of things and even of people in relation to their immediate «usefulness»” (VC 104), a sign of unbounded generosity and love, a life “poured out” without reserve, “in a world which risks being suffocated in the whirlpool of the ephemeral” (VC 105). To a society of calculation, we offer an unbounded gratuitousness; to a society of ephemeral, we bear witness to human and spiritual depth. In other words, and according to the Gospel (Jn 12:3; cf. VC 104-105), being a sign of the superabundant perfume at Bethany.

6- Cordiality and mercy as a response to any kind of cool, distant and technical, standard and computerized relationship (think, for example, of health’s world in some hospitals, factories, fields, and in general in the working places). Mercy is an image of God, and merciful people are, truly, God abiding on earth. Therefore, Jesus said: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6: 36). We, people, tend to reward those who reach the goal; God, instead, to those who try to. So, examples of closeness and tenderness.

7- Tireless builders of an always possible reconciliation, as a response to any kind of tensions, old and new hatred among people, families, cultures, religions, tribes and groups. As Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect” (Mt 5: 43-48). So, being models of welcome, acceptance, constant dialog and tireless pardon and reconciliation in any field.

8- Openness to everybody, starting with the small ones (cf. Mt 25: 31-46) and those living close to you (perhaps a member of your own family, Parish or Religious community), as a response to an economic, technological and technocratic depersonalized  society. So, witness of humanity.

9- The joy to live and the joy for your Christian charism and mission and, as a consequence, the openness to hope, as a response to the spirit of dissatisfaction, the spirit of resignation, to sadness and to a certain kind of “taedium vitae” (disgust of living), which can lead even to drugs’ experiences, drunkenness, as a result of an atheistic and hedonistic culture (cf. VC 88). So, lovers of life, as a gift of the God of life (cf. Gen 1-2; Dt 30: 19-20; Ps 8; Wis 11: 24-26)2; love for the life that makes us signs of simple and mature joy (cf. FLC 28)3; happy people, in spite of all difficulties—but it does not mean a superficial or candid, ingenuous, unaware people—because God, the Lord is with us “always until the end of this world” (Mt 28: 20); and, “if God is with us, who shall be against us?” (Rom 8: 38), “… whom shall I fear?... I will not be afraid… I hope, I am sure… (we) trust in the Lord”, in Him is our hope (Ps 27). As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “The scars are the sign that it was hard, but the smile is the sign that You overcame!” 

10- Depth, seriousness, mother of wisdom and, as much as possible, preparation and cultural qualification, with a life inwardly unified, as a response to a sort of uncritical and superficial existence, made by advertising slogans, fashions, vain chatting by internet, every kind of cell-phone and television spots. It does not mean that you necessarily have to get certain academic degrees and doctorates, but it does mean that you have known and have reflected what you think and what you say. You have prepared, you understand it (even with a certain cultural depth, as we do along these years in ICLA) and, above all, you live it, because we are convinced that not our academic titles (although they are so important to improve our mission!) but decisively our lives will convince the people, will “attract” them, as Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have said (EG 14). Being competent, above all, on the divine issues (experience of God, life of prayer, theological and spiritual ongoing formation) and on human issues (experts in humanity and, as much as possible, on cultural subjects too.) So, models of seriousness and competence in your own fields, of human maturity and responsibility.

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1- We committed Lay, Priests and Religious men and women, have to be, in our society, more than ever, Christians who point out and stress: 1) God as the sense and centre of our lives, His Word and the life of prayer; 2) life of fraternal communion; and 3) simplicity, authenticity and even austerity of life, being –in this way-, like Christ, free and available for the mission, and especially close to the poor and all people’s human and spiritual needs; 4) in very few words: being men/women of God, rich in humanity,

2- And, at a human level, being: cordial/heartfelt, simple and competent,

3- With a well-defined human, Christian and charismatic identity; a right-centred, deep, joyful, open and welcoming life.

Finally, dear brethren and friends, at the end of this academic year we have once more and better understood that what we are is more important than what we do; but, if we are right and faithful disciples of Christ, inevitably we shall do also what the people need and are waiting from us. The constant temptation in the world that we face is to point out more to do than to be. Let us be like our Master and Lord, and for sure we shall do, like Him the plan of love of the Father in favour of our beloved brothers and sisters.


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