Members of the Philippine ecclesiastical hierarchy walk solemnly out of the Santisimo Rosario Parish toward the altar located at the UST Grandstand. Photo by JILSON SECKLER C. TIU

THE QUADRICENTENNIAL was first and foremost a spiritual event, and on Jan. 27, the Philippine Catholic Church hierarchy joined the Thomasian faithful in giving thanks to God and in recalling the lives of the Dominican saints and martyrs produced by the University.

The solemn Eucharistic celebration, led by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and a UST alumnus, was the religious highlight of the last day of the closing week dubbed Neo-centennial week.

“We gratefully conclude this year knowing that the season of grace proclaimed by Jesus never ends,” Palma said in the introduction of the Mass at the Jubilee Door of the Santisimo Rosario Parish.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas praised UST’s legacy in his homily, calling it the “mother of all schools and colleges in the Philippines.”

“All schools in our country somehow carried a Thomasian influence, even the Jesuit schools, even if they are too proud to admit that,” said Villegas, whom Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., Rector of UST, noted is not a Thomasian but has nonetheless a deep affection for UST.

But while UST has served as “mater et magistra” or mother and teacher to successful alumni all over the world, Villegas said there are also “ignored, forgotten, refused, convicted, despised, and hated” Thomasians to whom UST’s jubilee should also be dedicated.

“Our dear alma mater, like all mothers, holds dear to her heart [her] forgotten sons and daughters, buried in the tombs of anonymity by our unthankful society,” he said in the Mass at the UST Grandstand.

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Villegas said UST is set apart from other schools because the food it feeds to its children is Jesus Christ himself. “The other universities produce excellent men; the University of Santo Tomas produces other ‘Christs’,” he said.

“UST is the mother of all universities because it teaches [about] Christ and it makes sure that Christ is present in the campus,” Villegas told the Varsitarian after the Mass. “Only the spirit of Christ can renew the world [and] the Philippines.”

In his message at the end of the Mass, De la Rosa thanked Villegas for his tribute to UST and quipped that a non-alumnus was tapped to give the homily so Thomasian clergy and Dominicans won’t be accused of “carrying their own sofa.” He thanked members of the CBCP for concelebrating, as well as organizers of the Quadricentennial, administrators, faculty, support staff, alumni, and students. The Rector also thanked the Varsitarian.

UST welcomed new Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, who led Thomasians in a renewal of baptismal vows. Tagle, in a short message, congratulated UST for breaking into its fifth century.

“It’s a monumental event and I’m proud to be here,” he said in a chance interview after the Mass.

Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, O.P., the first Filipino rector of UST, led the congregation in remembering the Thomasian martyrs of Japan, Vietnam, and the Spanish Civil War.

“We enter the new century of the University of Santo Tomas inspired by the memory of the UST martyrs,” he said.

Palma granted a plenary indulgence to those who attended the Mass, in accordance with the spiritual privileges bestowed by Pope Benedict XVI for the Quadricentennial year.

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The chorale then erupted into the Hallelujah chorus of Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ after which bells tolled in thanksgiving for the past 400 years and the dawn of UST’s new century.

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Legaspi said many things have changed since he was appointed rector of UST.

“There are more students now, but the spirit and enthusiasm of Thomasians remain the same,” he told the Varsitarian.

Legaspi attested to the significance of Thomasian education, citing his experience as the fourth Dominican archbishop of Caceres. “The progress of the Archdiocese of Caceres came from the Dominicans, from UST,” he said.

Meanwhile, Palma said students and graduates of the University should consider their education in UST a blessing that also entails a responsibility to live up to the ideals of the institution and the ways of Christian life.

The government should recognize the “outstanding contribution of Catholic schools,” which Palma said is sometimes taken for granted.

“Catholic schools are indeed [producing] good citizens, and certainly, good Christians,” Palma told the Varsitarian. Rommel Marvin C. Rio with reports from Reden D. Madrid and Anne Marie Carmela U. Dayauon

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