[Testimony GP2, Rome] "My beautiful experience as a present student in the master (special cycle)"

In this is testimony I would like to express how much I value and treasure the beauty of my experience as a student in the master’s program on Marriage and Family (special cycle) at the Pontifical Theological Institute of John Paul II on Science of Marriage and Family based in Lateran University, Rome

August 12, 2019

Academic excellence

Though I come from a faraway country, the Philippines, I chose to study at the GP2 Institute in Rome due to the good and respectable line up of professors in their field of expertise and the listed courses of the master’s program. In fact, before enrolling, I studied and compared the courses and professors of different European universities which also offered similar master programs. I found the depth of the courses and the expertise of the professors superior at the John Paul II Institute, which is why I finally opted for the GP2.

The other reasons why I enrolled in the master’s degree

I have been working in the academic institutions for three decades, involved in the formation of teachers as well as of young girls and married women. While dealing with students and teachers, I came to realize the capital role that parents and family life play in the formation of youngsters. As the society where I live is getting more secularized[1] —many young people cohabitate without getting married, young married couples separate, there’s an increase in the number of single mothers, etc.— I realized the importance of extending a helping hand in hope of reversing this process. Since education is first carried out in the family, I decided to take this master’s degree in order to help and accompany many families. Besides, the University of Asia and the Pacific’s plan to set up an Institute on Marriage, university where I used to teach, materialized. In fact, I have been invited to teach there this coming January 2020.

What I value and appreciate the most studying at the GP2

Without a doubt: our professors, some of whom studied under St. John Paul II, his ‘disciples’ or his former students. They have a common thread in their teaching: “to teach how marriage and the family belong to the core of truth about man and his destiny; and, second, to show that the revelation of Christ takes on and illuminates the depths of human experience[2]. In this regard, I greatly appreciate how I learned to understand with more depth the Theology of the Body, what love is, the foundation of marriage, the essence of freedom, how to confront bioethical issues, pastoral care... and a long list of essential topics.

Though I had finished a whole program on philosophy and theology previously, that is, before I enrolled at the GP2 Institute, I was surprised at how much I learned on the courses of fundamental moral theology and Veritates Splendor, as well as the social doctrine of the Church in relation to the family. I specially value the positive approach of fundamental moral theology as taught in the GP2, which is understood in relation with man’s calling, with the meaning of life and man’s destiny, and not as rigid list of do’s and don’ts. The variety of readings assigned by the professors of the Institute, the many papers we had to accomplish, the depth of the examination and quizzes, helped me understand and appreciate more the documents of the Magisterium as well as the teachings found in the books of many other authors, some of whom are professors at the GP2 themselves.

Having been assigned to study in depth the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia led me to conclude that the master degree is the best preparation to contribute to the call of Pope Francis on discernment and accompaniment.

Last but not least, I would like to mention how much I treasure the friendship that arose with my classmates of the program.

How I applied what I learned to my pastoral work as a lay faithful

Last June, 2019, having the authorization of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), I was tasked to review and revise the Pre-Cana Program[3] of the Archdiocese of Manila. I was also asked by the Family Life Ministry of the same Archdiocese to formulate a “Post-Cana Program of Formation” for couples who have been married for five years and yet another program for those who have been married for ten years. We call these two initiatives “the programs of accompaniment”. I presented the Pre-Cana and Post-Cana Programs to the 28 coordinators of the 13 Vicariates of the Archdiocese of Manila last July 6, 2019. The revised Pre-Cana Program of the archdiocese has been submitted to the CBCP and the other dioceses, which requested a copy, last July. It will finally be submitted to Cardinal Tagle this month for its full implementation. At the present, I am also preparing lessons for the course on Foundation of Marriage, course I will be teaching on January 2020 at the Institute of Marriage and Family of the University of Asia and the Pacific.

Last words

I deeply hope that my experience may help in some way to review (if that will ever happen) the implementation of the new Statutes and the new Order of Studies of the GP2 Institute. Two weeks ago, while attending the courses in the master’s degree on Marriage and Family (Special Cycle, in Villa Belvedere at Gressoney St. Jean, Valle d’Aosta) we received with great sadness the sudden release of the new Statutes and the unthinkable news of the dismissal of two tenured professors, whose academic chairs play an important role in the implementation of the curriculum of the Institute.

Picture taken after praying at the tomb of Blessed Cardinal Schuster for the GP2 Institute, July 29, 2019

Being a small voice, I can only turn to daily prayers and Holy Mass, so that our esteemed Pontifical Theological Institute of John Paul II on the Science of Marriage and Family will be protected in way that the identity and its former mission are kept intact, despite the additional new mission it has been tasked to carry out. I also pray that the two professors —Mons. Livio Melina (former President) and Rev. Fr. José Noriega—, who are considered pillars of the Institute, highly esteemed internationally and well loved by students and colleagues, be reinstated as professors of the Institute. I also hope that the master program (Special Cycle) is not abolished as the “enormous number of families [including lay faithful and priests] who, having studied at the Institute and participated in the audience, … [are a] sign of the great pastoral fruitfulness of the teaching of John Paul II”[4].

Thank you.

Cecilia A. Pet


[1] PreCana Program is the required series of seminars given to the engaged couples before their marriage ceremony.

[2] The speech of Pope Benedict XVI during the 25th anniversary of the GP2’s foundation

[3] Often, the legislative body of the government would present a bill on divorce, as we are the only remaining country aside from the Vatican City State that has no divorce law. At this moment, two divorce bills are being discussed in the Philippine Senate.

[4] Speech of Pope Benedict XVI on the 25th anniversary of the Foundation of the Institute of GP2.