MANILA, Philippines—Educators from schools run by members of the Benedictine Order in different countries are holding a four-day global conference in Manila on the theme “Benedictine Education: A Gift to the World.”
Some 100 religious sisters, monks and their lay collaborators are gathered for the Benet 2013 Conference, which opened on Wednesday and will end on Saturday, on the St. Scholastica’s College Manila campus.
The Benedictines are monks, nuns and lay brothers who are members of congregations following the rule created by St. Benedict of Nursia, Italy, in the 6th century. Benedictine congregations are known for their scholarship and liturgical worship. Benedictine monasteries in Europe were especially known to be repositories of learning and literature in the Middle Ages.
Abbot Primate Dr. Norkel Wolf OSB said the education of young people has been a hallmark of the Benedictine and Cistercian Orders for more than a millennium.
“(Our) vocation as educators is a strong testimony of the vitality and richness of our timeless Benedictine values, in particular, seeing and reverencing Christ in the young, old and most vulnerable among us,” he said.
In many countries, and especially in the Philippines, Benedictine institutions of learning are “forces for sociopolitical cultural transformation,” said Sr. Josefina Nepomuceno OSB, executive director of the Association of Benedictine Schools in the Philippines and chair of the conference committee.
“A socially oriented Benedictine education is our gift to the world,” said Sr. Mary John Mananzan OSB, former prioress of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters and former president of St. Scholastica’s College.
She said St. Benedict was a patron of “sustainable agriculture” and peace, the “Pax Benedictina.”
In her keynote speech, Mananzan spoke about priorities for Benedictine education in these times, about “academic leaders as servant and prophetic leaders of their communities toward education for justice and social transformation.”
She related how, during the repressive martial law years, St. Scholastica’s College adopted a “liberating pedagogy” that contributed to social awareness and responsibility.
Among the countries represented at the conference are South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Columbia, Germany, England, the United States and the Philippines. The last Benet conference was held in Germany in 2010.
The triennial conference was organized by the International Benedictine Committee for Education headed by Fr. Christopher Jamison OSB of Worth Abbey in England. The abbey runs Worth School, a boarding school that is the alma mater of a number of Filipinos, most prominently Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the brothers Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala.
Besides speakers at plenary sessions, the conference features “best-practice workshops” tackling topics such as “Young People and Benedict’s Rule Today” (Philippines), “Good Samaritan Education” (Australia), “E-twinning” (Germany), “The African Experience” (South Africa) and “Boarding Schools” (England).
The big Benedictine schools in the Philippines are St. Scholastica’s College run by the Missionary Benedictine Sisters, with many branches around the country, and San Beda College and its branches run by Benedictine monks.
The conference host, St. Scholastica’s College and Priory began in the Philippines in 1906 with the arrival of Benedictine sisters from Tutzing, Germany. Among the school’s prominent alumnae are the late President Corazon C. Aquino and the first woman Supreme Court justice, Cecilia Muñoz Palma.
The Benedictine Sisters established the country’s first college of music at St. Scholastica’s. The school is known for its strict discipline, academic standards and involvement in social issues.