The Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies (DWIMS) is the SVD Central Province’s (PHC) institute for mission development through academic studies and actual research. It is an academic and research institution the focus of which is FABC’s triple mission of dialogue with cultures, with the poor, and other religions. These triple mission are consistent with the SVD’s missionary thrust on intercultural life and mission, prophetic dialogue and characteristic dimensions.

  • Fr. Tom Aschemann, as the General Mission Secretary, submitted a letter to the General Council dated 08 April 2003 in which he proposed that the SVD take serious steps toward a good MA program in Mission Studies in Asia, in English, having visited and observed the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) where the SVD’s are in charge of the missiology department. The letter mentioned the seminary in Tagaytay, among others as possible venues to organize a course, commit to it, and work for a consortium of schools who might be willing to support the degree. The letter also mentioned that, during a meeting of mission secretaries, Fr. Joel Maribao, SVD, PHC Provincial Superior, said he has been thinking of “building” a mission institute, for which surprised Fr. T. Aschemann, and that Fr. J Maribao has some money already put aside for it. As a result of that meeting, Fr. T. Aschemman, suggested to the generalate to send an encouragement letter to the province (PHC) to consider this project as an important missionary service to the wider Church.


    Acting on the suggestion of Fr. T. Aschemann, Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD, Superior General, in his letter of 13 May 2003, informed the three SVD Provincial Superiors of the Philippines about the General Council’s discussion of the possibility of giving stronger backing to or strengthening the program of mission studies at the MA or PhD level in the Philippines. More significantly, the letter expressed the feeling that the SVD should be leading in this area, as it is important not only for SVD’s who might study in Manila but also to the ASPAC Zone and to the wider Church in Asia, and even the Universal Church. The letter recommended further discussions on the matter which can be planned for the Visitation in 2004, and encouraged concrete suggestions from the three Provincials as to how the SVD can be more deeply involved.


    As a result of the Visitation of PHC in 2004, Visitator Fr. Michael McGuiness, in his capacity as Acting Superior General in the absence of the Superior General who was on Visitation in PNG, through a letter dated 15 October 2004 to Acting PHC Provincial Superior, Fr. Dionisio Miranda, reiterated the General Council’s support to a program for mission studies at the MA or PhD level at the Institute for Consecrated Life (ICLA) in the Philippines. The letter re-echoed the willingness of the members of the ASPAC Mission Education Research Team (Indore meeting, July 25-28, 2004) to collaborate in the effort by giving block courses and to work with Fr. Edgar Javier, SVD, who is assigned at ICLA. In effect, the letter recommended the resources ( i.e., SVD personnel) of the ASPAC Zone to be tapped for ICLA for the mission studies program.


    In his letter to Acting Provincial Superior, Fr. Dionisio Miranda, dated 11 December 2004, Superior General Fr. Antonio Pernia, officially recommended the establishment of the MA/PhD program for Mission Studies in the Philippines and the possibility to use the already established base at ICLA. The letter encouraged a “world-class program”, for the Church’s mission in Asia and around the world, with the collaboration of SVD personnel of the ASPAC zone who would constitute an outstanding faculty for the mission studies anywhere in the world since they have been long based in Asia. Several names were mentioned: Jac Kuepers (SIN), PhD Missiology; Stanis Lazar (INM), SThD Missiology; Pat Gesh (PNG), PhD Anthropology of Religion; John Prior (IDE), PhD Missiology; Ennio Mantovani (AUS) STD Missiology; and Peter Sam Nguyen (KOR) PhD Pastoral Theology. In addition, still other confreres from Indonesia, India, China, Japan, Australia and PNG have their willingness to collaborate on zonal MER projects. These confreres are theologians, social scientists, Islamologists, Sinologists, scholars in religion studies. The SVD can also collaborate with scholars of other congregations (MM, CICM, etc) in the Philippines.
    The Interprovincial Council meeting of the three SVD Philippines Provinces on 25 November 2005 unanimously adopted, as its joint centennial project for 2009, the establishment of a missiology program. Since Tagaytay was mentioned in the letter of Fr. T. Aschemann, to the General Council, the Divine Word Seminary – Tagaytay (DWST) through its Rector, Fr. Wilfredo Saniel, SVD was appointed to explore the details of such a missiology project.


    Through the request by DWST Rector Fr. W. Saniel for a concept paper, the details of the program of mission studies was initially discussed on 08 December 2005 by PHC personnel headed by PHC Provincial Superior, Fr. Leopoldo Jaucian. In the initial discussion, the issue of the venue emerged: DWST or ICLA? The arguments began to lean in favor or DWST since it is an SVD institution where there can be greater freedom of direction, rather than ICLA which is run by the Claretians and where the SVDs are personnel of its missiology department.<


    In the meeting of ASPAC-MER advisory board in DSWT on 28-29 July 2006, and through a letter of its coordinator, Fr. Stanislaus Thanuszraj, Lazar addressed to PHC Provincial Superior Fr. Leopoldo Jaucian, dated 29 July 2006, it was recommended that a missiology program at the MA, Licentiate and PhD levels be established at DWST. The letter urgently requested that Fr. L. Jaucian write to the provincials and regionals of the ASPAC zone to send missiology candidates to DWST. DWST, which can already grant a degree in MA in Theology, Major in Missiology (with Thesis) and Mission Studies (without Thesis), was expected to upgrade its degree-granting status to the degree of Licentiate, either under the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome or Sankt Augustin in Germany, and the civil or state degrees of MA and PhD under the Commission on Higher Education of the Republic of the Philippines. The advisory board recommended the assignment of at least two (2) resident missiologists in DWST (Fr. Tom Aschemann, Fr. Pio Estepa or Fr. Peter Sam Nguyen) with the support of the SVD personnel of ASPAC zone (as fly-in professors) and non–SVD missiologists in the Philippines to compose the missiological faculty. The board envisioned the strengthening of the DWST’s missiology department which can begin in June 2007 such that successful MA graduates can start their doctoral studies in 2009.


    Due to swift changes in PHC’s personnel and the appointment of the PHC Provincial Superior Fr. L. Jaucian as bishop of the Diocese of Bangued, serious and concrete work only began in 2008, with the organization of an ad hoc committee for the missiology programs by the newly elected PHC Provincial Superior, Fr. Nielo Cantilado, and with the recognition of the DWST’s need to be guided and assisted by a think-tank committee.


    Hence, the suggestion of Fr. Tom Aschemann (08 April 2003) and the encouraging support of Fr. Michael Mcguiness (15 October 2004) to the recommendation of the SVD Superior General Fr. Antonio Pernia (letter dated 11 December 2004), and the endorsement of the ASPAMIR Coordinator Fr. Stanislaus Thanuzraj (letter dated 29 July 2006), Fr. Nielo Cantilado, PHC Provincial Superior, appointed an ad hoc committee headed by Fr. Leonardo Mercado, MERO coordinator, to help concretize the offering of graduate courses in missiology (MA/PhD level) at the Divine Word Seminary - Tagaytay.


    It was in 2008 that the graduate courses were definitely identified through the interventions of Fr. Edgar Javier, SVD, who was assigned to the DWST community. It was also through his initiatives that, in 16 June 2009, a formal petition for incorporation of the graduate courses to the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas (PRUST) was made. The UST Faculty Council approved the petition on 3 September 2009. What remains to be completed were the statutes and course programs to complete the documentation for submission and official approval of the Congregation of Catholic Education.
    After a number of revisions on the documentation, the articles of Incorporation of the Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies to the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas was signed on 3 July 2013. The signatories were Rector Magnificus of UST Rev. Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. , the Provincial Superior of the SVD Central Province, Fr. Nielo Cantilado, SVD, and the Director of the Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies, Fr. Edgar Javier, SVD.