Jesuit universities all over the world confer special recognition to distinguished individuals, organizations and communities who exemplify their values and principles, their vision and mission. In the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, we do this through this special awards academic convocation, and this is one of our most meaningful events in the school year.
This has become even more relevant and necessary at this time when education in the 21st century and the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution can preoccupy us with things like upgrading our teaching technologies, and with scientific advancements like artificial intelligence. Keeping pace with rapid changes in the educational landscape can make us forget the fundamentals. And these fundamentals are our values – our non-negotiables, the principles that govern our action, our priority for what is human, and as a Catholic university, our aspiration for the divine. In riding the turbulent waves of change, there is the temptation to forget these very basics.
The task of a Jesuit Catholic University like the Ateneo de Zamboanga University is to avoid this tendency to forget. In an event like this academic convocation, we declare thus: we will never forget!
We will never forget because there are individuals and organizations who will constantly remind us of these values we uphold. We will never forget because this afternoon we witnessed how our four awardees lived up to these principles, and have given us something we need so much these days: inspiration.
The Jesuit Volunteers Philippines or JVP. Our very own student and teacher Gen Buckly. Our Maestro Polly Enriquez. Our Archbishop Romy de la Cruz. Thank you for this inspiration. Thank you for inspiring us.
First, thank you for inspiring us through your availability. As one of the most successful volunteer programs in the world, JVP continues to teach us availability. This precisely attracted Gen Buckly and your more than a thousand JVP alumni to the wonderful life of a volunteer. Polly Enriquez, you offered yourself and made available your genius in music at first to Basilan, then to Zamboanga through the Ateneo, and then beyond. And Archbishop Romy de la Cruz, yours is a story of continuing availability to the church as priest then bishop in four dioceses. Your spirit of availability brought you to places far and wide, extending, sharing your love and service to more people beyond your circles, offering your selves in generosity without counting the cost, in obedience that requires humility, allowing yourselves to be sent, for to be sent, for you, is to be on a mission. A mission to give yourselves to others. Thank you for inspiring us with your availability.
Second, thank you for inspiring us with your courage. Your courage was grounded in faith. Because of your deep faith in God and faith in your selves, you faced several challenges and adversities that came your way: loneliness, separation from friends and loved ones, tragic events, crisis situations, the threat of violence, the threat to your very lives. All these did not deter your commitment. On the contrary all these further unleashed your energy and drive, to stay the course, to remain, with even greater energy and creativity, deepening your desire to do more, to give more, to serve more, to love more – what we call magis in the Ateneo. You were relentless, you were unstoppable, you did not stop giving, amid the fears and threats, you were unwavering in faith. Thank you for inspiring us with your bravery and courage.
Third, thank you for inspiring us with joy and delight. Your music, Polly, and your band, and you yourself, have been our pride and joy at the Ateneo. Whenever you perform for others, you give honor to the Ateneo. You continue to surprise and delight us with your pieces, old and classic, but also, modern and millennial. Archbishop Romy, your pastoral presence and leadership, enkindles the spirit in us, bringing us closer to God and to Jesus, the source of our joy and peace. Your leadership of our Church in Zamboanga, as you have done with your other previous dioceses, has strengthened our faith in God, and our faith in our selves.
And JVPs, working in different places, doing a variety of tasks, you have become beacons of light and hope, transforming darkness, despair, and difficulty into comfort and consolation, to many, especially the poor and the neglected in our country, especially in Mindanao. You are a vibrant community of long lasting friendships; a band of brothers and sisters for peace and justice, for non-violent social transformation.
And Gen Buckly, our very own former student and teacher Gen, everything about you, your beginnings, your story as a daughter, a sister, as student, as teacher, as volunteer, your passion and dreams, your smile so bright, your spirit so light, your desire so noble, your self so humble, your life and your death, everything about you inspires us, making your early death and passing, so painful we will live with it for a long time, but your very person, gentle and graceful, full of life, we will keep in our hearts forever. Thank you, Gen, because you will keep this fire burning in our hearts, and in the Ateneo, your alma mater, forever.
Thank you, our dear awardees for inspiring us with your availability, with your courage, and with joy and delight. You edify us, you build us up, you encourage the Ateneo in our mission. Thank you for showing us how to love and how to serve, amore et servire, the ultimate call in the Ateneo, amore et servire, in the service of God and country, pro Deo et patria.