Fr. Cellan formally installed as 11th USC President
Together, stars, harbinger, and warriors. These were the words Fr. Narciso A. Cellan Jr., SVD, D.Comm. expounded in his inaugural speech (above) as he was formally installed as the 11th President of the University of San Carlos on Thursday, November 12, 2020 at the Michael Richartz Conference Center in Talamban Campus under strict health protocols. Fr. Cellan has already taken the helm of the University on June 1st after he was elected by the USC Board of Trustees last February 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event began with a eucharistic celebration at 3 p.m. which was celebrated by the Archbishop of Cebu, Most Rev. Jose S. Palma, D.D., S.Th.D. with Fr. Cellan’s SVD confreres as concelebrants. In his homily, Archbishop Palma quoted Pope Francis who said that Catholic educational institutions should offer “education with horizons open to transcendence” which should allow young people to cling to hope, echoing what Fr. Cellan stressed in a media conference held prior to the event. Paraphrasing Pope Francis, Archbishop Palma offered that “you cannot teach without love” and expressed his gratitude to educators on behalf of students who had “educators who loved them.” Alluding to the current pandemic, the prelate concluded his homily by saying that “despite how it appears, this life is still beautiful.”
Fr. Cellan’s family, including his father, siblings, nephews, and nieces, made a video appearance at the end of the eucharistic celebration to thank the Carolinian community and the Board of Trustees for his election as University President. While some of his family attended the ceremony, most of his guests were unfortunately unable to travel from Davao because of restrictions due to the pandemic.
The investiture Mass was followed by the formal investiture ceremony at 4:15 p.m. where the University Mace and the President’s Collar were presented to Fr. Cellan by USC Board of Trustees Chair Carmelita I. Quebengco, Ed.D.-E.M. and former University President Fr. Dionisio M. Miranda, SVD, S.Th.D., respectively. Both Dr. Quebengco and Fr. Miranda performed their responsibilities through pre-recorded videos, and were represented in-person by BOT member Jose R. Soberano III and Vice President for Academic Affairs Fr. Felipe L. Muncada, SVD, Ph.D., respectively.
Dr. Maximo C. Aljibe, Director IV, Commission on Higher Education Region VII, administered the Oath of Office, while Dr. Salustiano T. Jimenez, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Regional Director, Department of Education Region VII, presented the University Seal. Distinctive of a Catholic institution of higher learning, Fr. Cellan also received a crucifix and a Holy Bible, which were presented to him by Archbishop Palma and SVD-Philippine Southern Province Provincial Superior Fr. Rogelio N. Bag-ao, SVD, respectively.
This investiture is not about one person... it is a communal validation of an office that exists not for its own sake but for those whom the office was created in the first place. This investiture is meant to strengthen our communal bond, inspire trust and confidence in each one, and find another reason why we need to be together.
In his inaugural speech, Fr. Cellan likened investiture to putting on a vestment, “to be bestowed with something, which could mean acquiring a new persona and be transformed,” recalling the Biblical imagery of transfiguration. Deflecting the attention from himself, Fr. Cellan added, “This investiture is not about one person... it is a communal validation of an office that exists not for its own sake but for those whom the office was created in the first place. This investiture is meant to strengthen our communal bond, inspire trust and confidence in each one, and find another reason why we need to be together.” Reflecting on his experiences in Africa which emphasized community, he stressed that now more than ever the University needs to face challenges together. “Mtu ni watu. Nobody is an individual. We are all hardwired for togetherness, for solidarity, for communion,” he opined, which is necessary for USC to thrive and florish beyond mere survival in these difficult times. “The battle cry ‘we heal as one’ should be premised on and preceded with ‘we live as one.’”
Building on his theme of community, Fr. Cellan referred to a university as a “constellation of stars... a star-studded place, where every star is shining with another star, thereby making the world brighter and better. Carolinians are expected to shine and radiate a brightness that he/she alone can make.” He aims to “enrich our universe by having more stars around, and allowing more of us to shine even in the dark, especially now in this darkest night of the pandemic.” A musician and a composer, Fr. Cellan sang a few lines of the USC Hymn during his speech to highlight the word harbinger as “someone or something that announces the arrival of another” conjuring up Biblical imagery of a forerunner, a John the Baptist. “But the future is always tricky to discern, more so now because of the pandemic,” he said, alluding to the fear and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. He shared his vision for his presidency of strengthening USC’s togetherness, referring to Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti, subtitled “On Fraternity and Social Friendship.” “No one can shine on our behalf,” Fr. Cellan offered, “we have to do it ourselves. We have to step forward, and we have to do it together because a cluster of candles is much brighter and more vibrant than a lonesome one.”
“No one can shine on our behalf; we have to do it ourselves. We have to step forward, and we have to do it together because a cluster of candles is much brighter and more vibrant than a lonesome one.”
Finally, the 11th University President invoked the modern Carolinian warrior, “the more profound, enduring, life-enriching and hope-fulfilling type,” as he recalled his inspiration when Carolinians stepped forward during the early days of the pandemic to produce disinfectants, sanitizers, face shields, and face masks that were distributed to hospitals, health centers, police outposts, and LGU offices in Cebu and other provinces. “This is the Carolinian way, the USC warrior’s way: smart, brave, selfless. This is the Word alive!” said Fr. Cellan.
School of Architecture, Fine Arts, and Design Dean Ar. Margret D. Rosario, M.T.E., FUAP, who is also Chair of the Organizing Committee for the investiture ceremony, served as the master of ceremonies.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, strict health protocols were imposed on the event. After temperature checks and sanitization, only 150 pre-registered guests were admitted to the massive conference center which normally seats close to 500 people. Guests were asked to confirm their attendance to the event last October 25, 2020 and were issued QR codes, which required information for contact tracing, as well as specific seat assignments in the venue.
The event was streamed live via USC’s official Facebook page for the rest of the Carolinian community and the general public.