The EAPI Story

The Ortigas Center has become one of the most expensive real estate places of the Philippines. In that very place, in a waste land belonging to the Ortigas family, there was a concentration camp, where the Japanese confined American prisoners from 1942 to 1945, and afterwards the Americans kept Japanese captives. In 1949, the communists took power in China; the Jesuits decided to evacuate their seminarians to a safe place in the Philippines. Fr. Jean Desautels and Albert O’Hara, with the superior of the Jesuits in Manila, Fr. Cullum, leased the site of the concentration camp for 350.660 Pesos a month and bought the barracks for only 20.000 Pesos. They repaired 51 barracks, which were occupied by Chinese seminarians and by the Jesuit scholasticate, which they called Chabanel Hall, in the name of a Jesuit martyr who was not able to learn the local language of Canada... It began as a Language school, to teach Chinese to new missionaries. Fr. Joannes B. Hofinger moved into it on Oct. 26, 1949 and next year, the Philosophy students, so that by 1951, the rector, Fr. Jean Desautels and the minister, Fr. W. Klement, cared for a community of 23 Jesuits professors, 15 priests learning Mandarin (Fr. Parisi, for example, future professor of the EAPI) with 28 scholastics from Europe and the Americas, 28 studying philosophy and theology, and several brothers. The physical conditions were very hard, but they thought that communism would not last and they could go back to China soon! Thank God, the Ortigas family remitted the rental and the tenants could “improve” the premises a little. The young Jesuits left Chabanel in 1960.

In 1955, Fr. Joannes B. Hofinger opened what he wanted to be an Institute of Missionary Apologetics that in 1958 was called the Catechetical Center; this was the bud of the East Asian Pastoral Institute (1961). In 1959 Fr. Charles McCarthy opened Tertianship for Jesuit priests. Both institutions moved finally from the ex-concentration camp in 1965.

From those trying settings, Fr. Hofinger developed an astonishing activity. He lectured all over Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas; he organized the International catechetical-liturgical study weeks of Nijmegen, Holland (1959), Eichstett, Germany (1960), Bangkok, Thailand (1962), Katigondo, Uganda (1964), Manila, Philippines (1967) and Medellín, Colombia (1968). With collaborators such as Fr. Paul Brunner, JoséCalle, Martin Ramsauer, etc., besides his many books, he published the bimonthly review Good Tidings (1962) and Teaching All Nations (1964), plus other minor publications like Amen and the Pamphlets For Training Catechists. All these periodicals would eventually merge into the East Asian Pastoral Review (1980).

They were the years of Vatican II and its consequences, when the Asian bishops and Catholic religious leaders were asking for new ideas, special formation and the aggiornamento that pope John XXIII dreamed of. The Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, appointed then Fr. Alfonso M. Nebreda, a Spaniard missionary in Japan, as the director of the new East Asian Pastoral Institute (15 August 1965). Ateneo de Manila University, through the mediation of the Jesuit Provincials Francis Clark and Horacio de la Costa, offered an apt site in its vast campus. For almost two years, Fr. Nebreda and the Staff lived in Loyola House of Studies. In 1968, the new building was inaugurated. Fr. Nebreda made the Institute really pastoral.

The first course opened on September 1st 1966, with 34 students. Next year they were 69, and the new building was solemnly inaugurated by the papal nuncio in Manila and the first Lady, Mrs. Imelda Marcos. The facilities were adequate, with an air-conditioned auditorium seating 110 and a library with then 12.500 volumes, knowing that the 128.000 volumes of other Campus libraries (Especially The Rizal Library) were available to the participants. Their number increased in the 70s and 80s with over 80 students and declined in the 90; the millennium began with 72, from 22 nations. The course used to last from September 1st until March 31st, with a program intensely pastoral and missionary, with emphasis on Asian culture. At the end of Fr. Nebreda’s tenure (1978), more than 1.000 students had passed by the EAPI, seven had become bishops and many more were superiors of their religious congregations or leaders in Christian communities and Catechetical Centers. Such was the beginning of the EAPI.

During summer, a monographic course used to take place during May or June, where many bishops of Asia took part. Also during the 70s and 80s, lots of aggiornamento courses were conducted by EAPI teams in most countries of the region. The EAPI was in contact with other Pastoral Centers which started popping up after Vatican II, like the Bangalore Center, whose “soul”, Fr. Amalorpavadass was also teaching at the EAPI, or the Mexican American Cultural Center, of San Antonio (Texas), whose founder, Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, was alumnus of the EAPI. The Institute has been active in ecumenical-interreligious dialogue, especially in connection with Inter-Religio of Nanzan University, Nagoya (Japan).

So far, seven Directors have run the Institute. The Staff has constantly renewed its members and visiting professors. Many have past through the EAPI during more than 40 years.

The Staff is composed of Jesuits and non-Jesuits, religious, priests and lay people. It is international and multicultural. The courses are always enriched by visiting professors, such as Michael Amaladoss and Felix Wilfred from India, John Füllenbach from Rome, and many others. The Institute is under the responsibility of the Jesuit Conference of Asia-Pacific, which provides both guidelines and personnel. At the local level, the EAPI is in contact wuith the theological consortium of Manila. Our students can avail themselves of the academic resources of the Faculties of Theology of Santo Tomás University and of Loyola School of Theology, and several other schools.

The EAPI is blessed with a competent Staff, and numerous visiting professors, to satisfy the expectations of the participants in each course.

Felipe Gómez, SJ