ICUSTA members celebrate 25 years under the inspiration of Saint Thomas Aquinas
On July 20, representatives of some of the 29 institutions that constitute the International Council of Universities in the Spirit of Saint Thomas Aquinas (ICUSTA) met in order to commemorate the 25th anniversary of this initiative. The ceremony held at the UST Santiago celebrated the six founding universities as well as its promoters, emphasizing its educational mission in the 21st century and its widespread presence on an international level.
The celebration began with an inaugural mass and, afterwards, Mauricio Echeverría, Executive Director of ICUSTA, gave an introduction explaining the mission of the network and of the institutions of higher education “that adhere with conviction to the ideals and teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas and have the commitment to promote in the service of humanity the passion for truth, and trust in reason and knowledge, as well as, to transmit to faculty and students the forma mentis or Thomistic way of doing research and learning.”
Later, the National Rector of the Universidad Santo Tomás, Jaime Vatter, acknowledged ICUSTA’s concrete contribution in the development of its member universities and of society. He stated, “Since its creation in 1993, the International Council of Universities in the Spirit of Saint Thomas Aquinas, has enabled us to strengthen and foster academic cooperation, enriching the endeavors of each one of our universities, thanks to the diversity of cultures and environments brought in by the various universities which comprise the network.”
While, Gerardo Rocha Haardt, on behalf of the Angelicum Foundation, noted the relevance it has had for the University to be part of this international council, especially for the spirit inspired in Saint Thomas which is currently instilled in students and academics in various parts of the world.
Further, awards were given at the anniversary to the founding institutions as well as some people who participated in 1993 in the creation of this network.
The following persons were distinguished: the National Chaplain of the Universidad Santo Tomás, Chile, Reverend Father José García Patiño; the President of the Angelicum Foundation, Carla Haardt; the former Rector of the Universidad del Norte Santo Tomás de Aquino, Tucumán, Héctor Partridge, the Chancellor of the Universidad FASTA, Mar del Plata, Reverend Father Aníbal Fosbery, and the former Rector of the same university, Juan Carlos Catalano.
Carla Haardt affirmed, “The network of ICUSTA shines light, particularly the aura of Saint Thomas, on the distinct universities around the world which belong to it. Here, various programs of student exchange have arisen; there was the opportunity of greatly helping the University of Mozambique, and in the meetings of the member universities new ideas and projects are always discussed. It is very moving for me, 25 years have passed and still this idea of union remains active”.
Later, the Honorary Pro Rector of the Universidad FASTA, Héctor Partridge, stated that ICUSTA continues meeting and expanding its goals. He added, “under the illumination of the thought of Saint Thomas, we try to fulfill what the gospel says, ’be the light that illuminates,’ and to build bridges between our own universities and thus creating fraternal relations with the world. It is interesting to see that after 25 years the work continues, because it is a work not of men but of the Spirit, of the Lord, who wants this to be fulfilled.”
Subsequently, the representatives of the universities which have participated as co-founders of ICUSTA since its beginning were acknowledged: Universidad del Norte Santo Tomás de Aquino and Universidad FASTA in Argentina, the Pontificia Università San Tommaso d’Aquino (Angelicum) in Italy, University of Saint Thomas in Houston and Universidad Santo Tomás in Chile.
The University of the 21st Century
The ceremony concluded with the participation of Lydia Jiménez, President of the Directive Council of the Universidad Católica de Avila and member of the Council of Honor of ICUSTA, who gave the lecture entitled, “The Devaluation of Reason: Urgency for Thomistic Thought at the University of the 21st Century.” On that occasion, Jiménez referred to reason as the faculty of the spiritual soul, the meaning of rationality and of existence. Afterwards, she indicated the mission of universities and their role in times when these institutions are often considered as merely a means of forming human capital.
She stated, “at the university it must be understood that Philosophy and faith do indeed benefit, and a lot; they serve without being servants except of the truth; they serve because ‘to reign is to serve.’ To defend this is not about holding that the University should claim knowledge for the sake of knowledge. […] It is about transforming the world and themselves. Truth is theoretical-practical. It is to know in order to do and to work, always for the common good. Truth indeed benefits, and a lot. The University has to show this.”
Thereafter, Jiménez spoke of the relevance of the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas for the University of the 21st century, for example, to reconcile rationality and meaning which is found in his writings, to strive for university autonomy and to promote an education in which its institutions are governed by cooperation and interdisciplinarity.
She stated, “It is not about only teaching contents, but also about giving tools with which the learner himself can actualize his potential. It is about, in the end, helping him to be prudent, adequately deciding in any given situation, while looking towards the next end and, above all, towards the ultimate one. The educator is not there in order to teach all the solutions to the multiple problems which are raised, but rather to enable him to solve them. To acquire virtues is the end of education,” concluded Lydia Jiménez.
Thomism in Higher Education
Since its origins, one of the objectives of ICUSTA has been to promote academic and student exchanges, social volunteer work and initiatives among the distinct member institutions of the Council. Among its achievements are highlighted projects of social aid and student support, such as the Gerardo Rocha Global Solidarity Fund and the Saint Thomas Aquinas International Exchange Program.
Furthermore, for 15 years, an online multidisciplinary course on globalization has been given, with the participation of professors and more than 100 students from 9 countries. Additionally, ICUSTA has supported the foundation and the development of higher educational institutions in disadvantaged countries, especially on the continent of Africa.
It should be noted that the 25th anniversary of the International Council of Universities in the Spirit of Saint Thomas of Aquinas (ICUSTA) will be celebrated at various stages throughout the year, culminating with a great international meeting at the University of Saint Thomas, Houston, in May of 2019.