THREE-TIME UST rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. was incredulous upon receiving word last April that he was being considered to become rector of Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, popularly known as the Angelicum.

For one, Fr. de la Rosa, the dean of Theology and a historian of the Church, did not study in the Angelicum, the top Dominican institution of higher learning that produced the likes of Pope St. John Paul II, the Venerable Fulton Sheen, and countless cardinals, bishops and theologians.

The former UST rector earned doctorates in religious studies and theology, magna cum laude, at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium.

“At that time, I was incredulous at being one of the candidates for rector of that prestigious university because I am not among its distinguished roster of alumni and professors,” Fr. de la Rosa told the Varsitarian.

Also, he was not too familiar with the Angelicum. “What I know about Angelicum are the bits of information I got from the Internet, from some documents about the university that I have gathered, and from fellow Dominicans in UST who had the privilege of studying there,” he said.

In early April, the Master of the Order of Preachers, Fr. Bruno Cadore, O.P., told Fr. de la Rosa he had been chosen for the job. He was included in a shortlist drawn up by a selection committee of Angelicum professors and officials.

“The Master called me up to say he has chosen my name from the list and sent it to the [Vatican’s] Congregation for Catholic Education which gives the nihil obstat (no objection) for the appointment of the rector. It came as a shock,” Fr. de la Rosa said.

Last May 4, Fr. de la Rosa went to Rome to attend the meeting of Spem Miram Internationalis, the Dominican foundation where he is a board member.

“After the meeting I had an audience with the Master of the Order and the assistant to the Master for intellectual life. I expressed my hesitation at accepting the position. But the Master said he would not change his decision,” he said.

Fr. de la Rosa received an email from the Master last Friday officially informing him of his appointment. He will be the first Asian to serve as Angelicum rector. He will replace Fr. Miroslav Konštanc Adam, O.P. on Sept. 1.

On top of the Dominican friar’s to-do list is to learn Italian and to familiarize himself with the Angelicum’s environment. “For now, my only plan is to go there, study Italian, and familiarize myself with the university. Good planning requires a certain familiarity with the place, people, structures, culture, finances, procedures, and operations of the institution in which one is working,” he said.

Fr. de la Rosa, a former Varsitarian Witness (religion) editor, served three terms as the rector of UST: 1990 to 1994, 1994 to 1998, and 2008 to 2012. From 2004 to 2005, he was chairman of the Commission on Higher Education.


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