A FILIPINO Dominican will lead an “intellectual mission” of the Order of Preachers in Africa after being chosen by Master General Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, O.P. to become the founding rector of the first Catholic university in Ethiopia.

Fr. Virgilio Aderiano Ojoy, O.P., a former vice rector of UST, stood high on the list of those who were considered to head the Ethiopia Catholic University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Ecusta).

“There was this world-wide search but the qualifications were quite stringent,” Ojoy told the Varsitarian.

Among the important requirements to qualify for the position were the attainment of a doctorate degree in any field and an administrative experience of at least 15 years, which became Ojoy’s edge over other candidates.

“There are quite a number of fathers with doctorate degrees in the Order,” Ojoy said. “But only few have 15 years experience in administration. For those who were qualified, their provinces were not willing to give them up.”

The initiative of establishing an educational institution in Africa came from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE), which sought help from the Order of Preachers, one of the leading religious orders of the Church also known for its missionary and educational work. The Dominican Master agreed to send friars to put up the university.

Under the memorandum of agreement between the Order and CBCE, the school will be owned by the Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia, but administered by the Dominicans.

Azpiroz then asked the Philippine Dominican Province to provide personnel for the school, which will open this year in Addis Ababa, the capital.

Theology is 'guardian' of thought

‘UST Ethiopia’

The foundation of Ecusta was highlighted in the Acts of the General Chapter of the order in Bogota, Colombia last year, which noted that Filipino Dominicans have put up a community in Addis Ababa, the House of St. Augustine of Hippo, and that the opening of the new university, with five faculties temporarily at Nazareth High School, was “imminent.”

The chapter also cited the fact that the university would be an undertaking of the entire Dominican family, noting that the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, which runs Siena College, has been invited to join.

Meanwhile, the CBCE appointed last December priests Abba Tsegaye Keneni as project director and Abba Ketema Asfaw Weldeyes as vice-president of Ecusta.

The university is expected to open this September.

“Ecusta could operate starting September if the government would grant the permit to begin the school operations,” Ojoy said.

Ojoy, who will formally assume the new post in January 2009, plans to focus on three areas –- a strong skeletal force, a fundraising office, and adequate facilities.

“I will have a careful recruitment of qualified, competent and committed skeletal force, both from the Philippines and in Ethiopia,” Ojoy said, referring to professors, administrators, and a support staff.

Even though the university has been assured of a one-million euro subsidy from Italy, Ethiopia’s former colonizer, for the first five years of operation, Ojoy still wants to have an office for fundraising.

Some of the proceeds from fundraising will be used to provide equipment needed inside classrooms.

What hope may bring

The university will initially operate with five courses –- Education Management, Literature, Philosophy, Arts, and Sciences.

According to Ojoy, UST will have a big role in the start of Ecusta.

“I will have some of our staff and faculty to train in UST, and I would ask experts to help us out in the operations of the university,” Ojoy said.

UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. told the Varsitarian that Ecusta would be under the supervision of the officials of the Philippine province, not UST.

“But if they will need our (UST’s) help, we are very willing to extend our support,” he said.

Ethiopia is a progressive eastern African country with a population of 78 million, 61 percent of whom are Christians.

Ethiopia has an economic growth rate of seven percent. It has seven universities, the largest of which is the state-run Addis Ababa University.

Ex-Varsitarian editor

A former Varsitarian associate editor, Ojoy graduated cum laude in 1978 from the Dominican House of Studies. He then received a meritissimus in UST after finishing his Masters in Higher Religious Theology.

Ojoy finished his licentiate in Higher Religious Studies in UST, magna cum laude, and later earned his doctorate in Higher Religious Studies and another doctorate in Sacred Theology. The latter two degrees were taken from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

Among the academic positions which he had held in UST were acting dean and regent of the Faculty of Arts and Letters (1990-1991), secretary general (1991-1992), and vice rector (1992-1995).

At the Angelicum School of Iloilo, he was high school moderator (1983-1984). Ojoy also became a rector and president of Aquinas University in Legazpi City, Albay (1995 to 1999).

Freshmen, sinalubong


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