A TITLE revered by the Dominicans and held by St. Dominic de Guzman himself has been bestowed on UST’s renowned historian, Rev. Fr. Fidel Villarroel, O.P., last December 2009.
Villarroel was dubbed Master of Sacred Theology, a second-level professional degree granted by seminaries and theological colleges. For the Dominicans, it is an honorary title given to its most distinguished scholars.
“It is a rare honor, especially nowadays,” Faculty of Sacred Theology Dean Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P. said. “In order to be a recipient, one must have shown exemplary performance in scholarly pursuits.”
Before being named Master of Sacred Theology, one should at least be a scholar of theology, a full time professor of theology for 10 years, and a published writer of Vatican-acclaimed books and articles.
“Before, one has to pass an oral exam conducted by 25 Masters of Sacred Theology. Today, upon recommendation to the Master of the Order, the Dominicans will then evaluate the candidate’s performance to determine if he is worthy of the title,” Aligan explained.
Born on March 18, 1929, Villarroel hailed from Tejerina in Leon, Spain. He took up Philosophy and Theology at the House of Studies in the Convent of Avila, where he started his Dominican vocation. After his ordination in 1952, he pursued postgraduate studies at the University of London.
Villarroel went to the Philippines in 1957, devoting much of his time to historical research, particularly on Philippine history. He held various posts UST since 1957, from being the head of the Spanish Department for 25 years, archivist for almost 50 years, and professor of Church History in the Faculty of Sacred Theology.
In addition, Villarroel has authored 23 books and 65 articles regarding Church history and Theology. He even authored the positio or cause of beatification leading to the canonization of San Lorenzo Ruiz and his companion martyrs.
Aligan said that Villarroel is truly deserving of the title because of his dedication to his studies and to the Dominican life.
“He exemplified a well-balanced Dominican lifestyle, dividing his time equally between his studies, community service and prayer,” he said. “More importantly, his vigor to education and research, and the time as an archivist paved the way for him to produce excellent works.”
Apart from the title, Villarroel was also named as an Outstanding Thomasian Awardee for Historical Research in 1982, and was given the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in 1984 from the Vatican for his distinguished service to the Church. He also received the Cruz de Isabel la Catolica in 1985 from the Spanish government for his works which exemplified the relations between Spain and the international community, and the Catholic Authors Award by the Asian Catholic Publishers Inc. in 1991.
According to him, his recent title was different from the others he had received because it was granted through the direct request of the Dominican Province where he belonged.
But despite receiving such a prestigious award, Villaroel affirms that being a professor and an author remains his two most significant contributions to the Church.
The historian was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years ago. He remains hopeful that his last book, consisting three volumes dealing purely with UST History, will be released this year in line with the University’s quadricentennial celebration.
“I started writing that book 10 years ago, and it is the product of my 50 years of research in the Archives,” he explained.
On a final note, Villarroel encourages Thomasians to excel in their chosen fields, but never forget to help their fellowmen. “Thomasians should be outstanding in their own professions, but they must always keep in mind to be of service to their countrymen.”
Peruvian theologian Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P., founder of Liberation Theology, was also named as Master of Sacred Theology. Camille Abigael P. Alcantara and Julienne Krizia V. Roman