October 1, 2019
The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), which is the national association of the 1,525 Catholic schools in the Philippines, bestowed last September 25, 2019 upon Sr. Josefina G. Nepomuceno, OSB, its highest award, the Pro Deo et Patria (For God and Country) Award during its national conference held in Iloilo City.
"As I acknowledge the high honor given to me, I feel the awareness of how unmerited this award is for all the years that I have dedicated my energies to supporting and promoting Catholic education... I cannot spare myself in using the talents that God has given me and took the opportunities that opened along the way for applying His gifts to the service of the community, church and the country," began Sr. Nepomuceno in her acceptance speech.
Sister Jonep, as she is fondly called, a Benedictine sister of the Missionary Sisters of Tutzing, is the second-ever award recipient who is an educational leader.
She was the president of Angeles City's Holy Angel University (HAU) from 1985 to 1995, and it was during her term that the said university intensified its pursuit of academic excellence and vigorously asserted its Catholic character.
"Sister Jonep has long advocated that the Catholic university is an agent of the Church’s work on evangelization. She has been the human inspiration behind Holy Angel University’s strategic objective of becoming a role model of faithful Catholic education," said current HAU President Dr. Luis Maria R. Calingo.
The CEAP recognizes the noble and significant contributions of the lay and consecrated people to education by acknowledging the awardees’ internal and external manifestation of the love of God and country and their faithfulness to Catholic teachings as part of service to God. The awardees must be seen as models of Christ the Teacher.
According to Ms. Edna Marriza C. Santos, HAU's Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, "HAU is truly blessed having had Sr. Josefina as the University President who translated her love for God by way of propagating the Catholic faith and building a strong Christian Living Education (CLE) program while pursuing excellent institutional performance."
Ms. Santos added that: "She deserves to be the recipient of the 2019 Pro Deo et Patria Award for everything she has done and continues to do for Philippine Catholic education."
Moreover, HAU VP for Student Services and Affairs Robert P. Tantingco recalled that it was Sister Jonep "who set HAU on the road to academic excellence by applying for PAASCU accreditation at a time when no one had heard of it before. It was she who led HAU, as well as the whole city, out of the wilderness of Pinatubo. Days before the eruption, local leaders and businessmen had voted her to lead a multi-sector body to prepare Angeles City for the anticipated pullout of Americans from Clark. When the eruption occurred, she found herself leading the city through the devastation instead."
For her colleagues at the St. Scholastica's College in Manila where she also served as President, former SSC Manila's Dean of Student Affairs Rhodora Angela Fernandez-Ferrer, who is now the executive director of the Private Education Assistance Committee Secretariat after her prior stint as CEAP executive director, said that, "Sister Jonep is a leader who is admirably purposeful, resolute and unwavering – even it meant unpopular decisions. It was clear that it was always the institution’s interest which was paramount, never her own."
For Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, SSC Manila's VP for External Relations who was previously SSC Manila's President, Prioress of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in the Manila Priory and National Chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, "Sr. Josefina Nepomuceno, whom we fondly call Jonep, is an educator par excellence. Whether as teacher or administrator, she has consistently committed herself to a Christ-centered education characterized by academic excellence and social responsibility." While maintaining its traditional striving for academic excellence as part of its service to God and the Filipino people, SSC Manila, whose "education for justice" has been its thrust since 1975, has accepted the Church’s mission of liberation for all people from all forms of injustice and oppression.
"Transformation in Christ is the goal of Christian life and the CEAP has consistently worked to keep that goal clearly in focus in its programs and service. This has been the main contribution of CEAP to the changes required for the ongoing Christian transformation of our society. As I thank the Lord for sustaining CEAP through the years, I also bless you for the grace of having been part of that endeavor," concluded Sr. Nepomuceno in her acceptance speech.
Past recipients of this prestigious award include the late Manila Archbishop Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, D.D.; the late President Corazon C. Aquino (posthumously, 2009); the late Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Tito J. Cardinal Vidal (Cebu, 2010), the late Fr. Anscar R. Chupungco, OSB, STD (posthumously, Cebu, 2013), Fr. Catalino G. Arevalo, SJ (Cebu, 2013); the late Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, D.D., O.P (Davao, 2014); the late Dr. Lourdes R. Quisumbing (Manila, 2015); Ambassador Henrietta T. de Villa and Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales, D.D. (Cebu, 2016), and the first prelate of Mindanao, Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, D.D. (2018, Manila).