Reviving Synodal Models: Insights from the 2024 CEAP Developing Diocesan and Congregational HEIs Forum

May 14, 2024

The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), with the support of the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC), has revived the 2024 Developing Diocesan and Congregational Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) Forum after a six-year hiatus. This event took place at Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle on April 25-26, 2024, promoting synodal models in Catholic higher education.

The forum aimed to offer practical insights, encourage collaboration, and strengthen the capacity of small Diocesan and Congregational schools to address contemporary educational issues.


His Eminence Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Jr. emphasized three points during the Opening Eucharistic Celebration. He highlighted synodality as both method and identity, stressed the significance of social friendship in Catholic education, and underscored synodality's role in integrating faith into education for social responsibility.


The Opening Ceremonies began with Fr. Glenn William Z. Relucio, Trustee of CEAP NCR, the host region, welcoming delegates from across the country. Br. Edmundo L. Fernandez, FSC, Chair of the CEAP National Higher Education Commission (NHEC),  expressed joy for the revival of this NHEC event and gratitude to PEAC and NHEC for their partnership. Fr. Joebert Villasis provided historical context from previous forums, emphasizing reflection and collaboration for quality education amid policy changes and challenges.

In the first plenary session, titled "Strengthening Christian Values in the Digital Age," Mr. Ocampo and Dr. Romero discussed the challenges of digitalization in education. Ocampo stressed the need to integrate technology into learning beyond skills. Dr. Romero focused on integrating digital tools while promoting Christian values, aligning with the church's mission in the digital.


The second plenary session, moderated by Mr. Philippe Hernandez, featured Atty. Cinderella Filipina S. Benitez-Jaro representing CHED and TESDA Undersecretary Vidal D. Villanueva III. They discussed policy updates and frameworks for education development, aligned with AmBisyon 2040 and SDGs. The session included dialogue on institutional concerns and solutions for current challenges.


In the third plenary session, Dr. Michele S. Alignay focused on mental health in small Catholic schools. She discussed challenges faced by students and faculty and collaborated with participants on potential initiatives for creating supportive environments and efficient mental health resources within school communities. This emphasized understanding and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, highlighting the importance of relationships and well-being-focused institutions.


Dr. Noel C. Racho summarized how synodality influences students' experiences navigating the digital space, fostering a collaborative environment, and promoting a culture of care.

Following the recapitulation was the fourth plenary session focusing on Operational Vitality: Localizing Global Citizenship: Strategies for Small Catholic Schools in a Globalized World. Dr. Edizon Angeles Fermin presented how small Catholic schools cope with the fast pace of globalization in synodality.


In the fifth plenary session, Dr. Perlita R. Antonio discussed "Maximizing Impact in Small Catholic Schools," focusing on research and community engagement. She highlighted challenges and opportunities and offered strategies for enhancing productivity and engagement rooted in synodal values.


Before the last plenary session, Coro San Benildo shared their gift of music by performing a rendition of songs related to the values of synodality.


Dr. Joel Javiniar discussed "Ethical Tech Integration: Balancing Innovation with Values in Small Catholic Schools" for the last plenary. He emphasized aligning technology with ethical standards and values while addressing the digital divide, fostering an adaptable learning environment.


Fr. Glenn William Z. Relucio concluded the forum by sharing resolutions to shape the future of Catholic Higher Education through synodal models:

  1. Strengthen catholic identity and mission while embracing digital technologies.

  2. Foster synodal collaboration and flexible governance to address the challenges of Diocesan and Developing Higher Education Institutions.

  3. Be engaged in cultivating a culture of a safe and supportive mental health environment.

  4. Capitalize on internalization initiatives and strategies to create global impact. 

  5. Enhance research culture and partnerships to maximize its significance among Catholic Higher Education Institutions.

  6. Embrace ethical technology innovations in upholding catholic school teachings and values.

Mr. Jose Allan I. Arellano, CEAP Executive Director, extended the appreciation of the CEAP Board, and the National Office, to the organizing committees and the sponsors. The Forum was organized by the Advocacy and Information Management Unit (AIMU), composed of Ms. Charina Claustro and Ms. Leslie Villanueva with the support of the CEAP NCR Secretariat headed by Ms. Chris Panaglima, for the NHEC sub-committee on Developing Higher Educational Institutions headed by Fr. Joebert Villasis. The next CEAP Diocesan and Developing HEI Forum is scheduled for 2026 in the Visayas Region.