Tag Archives: Master of Science in Social Work

MSPM: Another story of endless possibilities

Today is Labor Day as celebrated in many countries worldwide. In my other blog, I shared some researches on the historical significance of this day to commemorate the economic and social achievements of workers. Inspired by the Pauline epistle to the Corinthian, I titled it Our labor will never be in vain.

However, it is not only the historical significance of the Labor Day that inspired me to blog. Equally inspiring is the 1st Conferral Ceremony for Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries graduates held two years ago at Ajuy Christian Development Academy, Iloilo, Philippines. It was graced by no other than the General Secretary of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC), Rev. Job A. Santiago, who was the conferral speaker.

The occasion could have been a day of rejoicing for me as it would be a culmination of my pioneering and voluntary work. I was supposed to give my message for the pioneer graduates. Unfortunately, seven months before the event, I was seriously ill caused by chronic heart ailment, compounded by unusual nerve disorder. However, though bedridden, my message still reached the target audience. It was delivered by my daughter Dazen Dawn.

Entitled MSPM: Another story of endless possibilities, it was published on PADAYON: Our Life journey. I decided to reblog my post in two installments  to commemorate the Labor Day.

“Today, we are witnesses to another story of endless possibilities. Overcoming the tests of times and circumstances, our pastors in North Iloilo and Negros will receive with joy and pride, without necessarily being boastful, their hard- earned certificates in today’s Conferral Ceremony. The choice of the date for this event, which happened to be Labor Day, was more circumstantial than intentional. However, viewed in the context of the long winding road trod by students and faculty to sustain the MSPM program, the date has become doubly significant. With gladness, we can shout on this Labor Day that our labour is not in vain, after all.

The biblical account of the feeding of the 5,000+ serves as inspiration to the MSPM story. Aware of the needs of the time, a boy offered whatever he has to respond to the call for service. He was not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. His voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.

An inspiring story to remind us that our labor, no matter how small and simple, will never be in vain in the Lord. Let me stress this point because it appears that our past experiences of difficulties or disappointments have made us callous and apathetic for change, especially as far as organizational or institutional life is concerned. Sometimes, we cannot even start any good project or movement because we are already overpowered by the difficulties and perceived problems or impossibilities, even before we give it a try.

The MSPM Program has a foretaste of this experience. Since its start in 2007, some downgraded the voluntary effort while others already expressed skepticism of its sustainability, even before it is tested. Worse, there were those who consistently campaign against it when the program was well accepted by pastors, even to the extent of recruiting those already participating in the MSPM program to join the program they promote.

MSPM pioneer students during the Semestral Joint Class in North Negros Baptist Bible College

In our response, we dared the critics to a debate whoever they are and wherever they want. We argue that MSPM has been designed with quality not inferior to what Central Philippine University  offered in Master of Social Work program which was patterned to that of the University of the Philippines- Diliman, yet friendly and affordable for pastors. The faculty are more than qualified. The only difference is compensation because in MSPM, we teach voluntarily, gaining the love and respect of pastors, not monetary profit.

Favorable conditions

Conglomeration of events have been favorable for the design of the MSPM program. A couple of us tried the distance education program of a state college in Iloilo for our doctoral degree which met once a month. Some were also teaching, once a week, in Korean seminary in Iloilo City which offered Master of Arts in Missiology. Moreover, we were inspired by the successful revival of the Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) program in CPU which produced the first graduate, after 30 years. We even opened an extension class with weekly meetings at Convention Baptist Bible College for Negros students.

Those aforementioned favorable trends served as signals for us to entertain the questions: Why can’t we design similar approach for a graduate studies program for pastors? If it was successfully implemented in professional social work courses, why can’t we do the same for pastors? But, how?

My previous sad experience has also served its purpose. When elected as president of Convention Baptist Ministers Association, I continued the term of my predecessor in the committee which was tasked to study and recommend to the CPBC Board cases of pastors undergoing graduate programs from other theological institutions. The arguments were overwhelming against recognizing the degrees from other schools not affiliated with the CPBC and related affiliations. The most that I could do at that time was raised the question: Can CPBC provide alternatives?”

(To be continued)

Pushing beyond limits

Elsie E. Malabon, cum laude, leads the BSSW graduates of the Department of Social Work

The 84th Commencement Exercises of Central Philippine University on April 15 has been inspiring. The Department has produced 12 graduates in the Bachelor of Science in Social Work, one with academic honor, cum laude. Together with 3 others, the honoree was not even expecting to graduate this semester, as some of her subjects were supposed to be offered in the 1st semester classes , a sort of lapses in advising.

But, as it were, I took time to study the complex condition of irregular students upon resuming my position as head of the Department. Thereafter, arranging their load in unconventional manner and semestral offerings so as to minimize the period of their stay. This skill is honed from those unlikely experiences in past life – my exposure in gambling during my youth. Like risk taking and the skills in arranging/organizing cards, mahjong tiles to win despite their weak/losing state. Maximizing all the chances, even pushing beyond limit. There are more who will benefit from this approach on semestral graduation in October and for a couple of years or so.

The Magic Four with their thesis adviser. (L-R) Kareen Jay Diesto, Sr. Aubrey Casimiro DC, Araceli Tondo, the author, and Carol Kay Cortuna-Blando

Equally inspiring is the fate of our Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) graduates. There are four of them who made it completing the Magic 10 to mark the 10th year of the revival of University’s MSSW program. It was in 2002 when we reactivated the program, a couple of years after I finished my Master of Social Work from the University of the Philippines- Diliman. An adventurous attempt, considering the odds, we pursued the move with a simple goal i.e. to produce even one graduate in 3 years time to convince the public that we really mean business this time.

With the strong support of Dr. Fely David, Dean of Graduate Studies, we succeeded to achieve it during the University’s historic Centennial Year in 2005. One of our MSSW pioneering students succeeded to complete the academic requirements and passed the final defense. Subsequently, Mrs. Lolita Camarig, municipal social welfare and development officer of Leganes had joined the commencement march of the Centennial graduates. Thereafter, we produced graduates with non BSSW degrees who subsequently hurdled the board exam, namely: Aujun Labrador, Lunnie Lasquite, and Melody Arandela-Ambangan. Ruby Plagata, another graduate, will soon take the social work licensure examination. Our other graduate is Prof. Maribel Gonzales, former head of the Department of Social Work, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos.

Pose for posterity after the graduation ceremony.The author, flanked by Kareen Jay (L) and Carol Kay (R)

Completing the Magic 10 are this year’s four MSSW graduates. Of the four, two are faculty of the Department of Social Work, CPU, namely: Carol Kay Cortuna-Blando and Kareen Kay Diesto. Both are close to my heart being my students during their undergraduate years; colleagues when they joined the teaching force of the Department; partners in volunteerism and development endeavors.

But organizational changes separated us for awhile until we have the opportunity to work together again. Having something in common both as victims and victors of experts in manipulating people and circumstances, we developed the biblical slogan “overcome evil by doing good.” Renewing our relationship, we committed to resume the interrupted partnership and development including their MSSW degree. Thereafter, I served as their thesis adviser struggling with them through thick and thin until they were conferred with their hard earned degree yesterday.

The other two are personnel of the Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus,namely: Sr. Aubrey Casimiro and Araceli Tondo. The bonding we have may not be comparable to the previous ones. Yet, it is also interesting and equally significant. Adverse circumstances did not hinder their desire to finish studies according to their schedule. Even my serious sickness and subsequent health limitation could not withstand their earnestness to complete the course.

We have experienced pushing beyond limits just to continue our classes. At times, holding reportorial sessions at home due to my limited mobility. In some instances, conducting classes at the University gazebo because I could not make it to the 3rd floor where Graduate School classrooms are located. There was even a time we had classes under the acacia tree beside the Department of Social Work, having no access to the office which used to be an alternate venue for my masteral classes.

But tougher times were just waiting ahead, making their presence felt during thesis writing stage. Aware of my health limitation, we tried to organize their respective schedule to avoid overlapping that would put unnecessary pressures on us both. Despite this, however, unavoidable circumstances compelled us to confront realities that push us beyond our limits.

(More on next post)

MSPM: The miracle of sharing

I always relate the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) experience to the feeding of 5,000 with few loaves of bread and fish. Although our experience pales in comparison to the miracle. It is one of the only two miracles that are recorded in all four Gospels. The other one is the resurrection. Of the four, I like John’s narrative (John 6:5-14) which portrays the role of a boy with five loaves and two small fish. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

Apart from the dominant view on the literal multiplication of the food, some emphasize the miracle of sharing. This view assumes that people have brought with them little food of their own. They just kept them for themselves, hence the scarcity. However, upon seeing the unselfishness of the boy whose generosity was blessed by Jesus, they began to share what they have. Thus, the abundance of food are more then enough for their needs.

In the same way, we also offered whatever we have to respond to the needs of the time. Like the boy, we were not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. Such voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.

When the program started in 2007, some downgraded the voluntary effort while others already expressed skepticism of its sustainability, even before it is tested. Worse, there were those who consistently campaign against it when the program was well accepted by pastors, even to the extent of recruiting those already participating in the MSPM program to join the program they promote.

In our response, we dared the critics to a debate which was never materialize. We argue that MSPM has been designed with quality not inferior to what Central Philippine University (CPU) offers in Master of Social Work program which was patterned after that of UP Diliman. Yet, the program is friendly and affordable for pastors. The faculty are more than qualified. The only difference is compensation because in MSPM, we teach voluntarily, gaining the love and respect of pastors, not monetary profit.

Conglomeration of events have been favorable for the design of the MSPM program. A couple of us tried the distance education program of a state college in Iloilo for our doctoral degree which met once a month. Some were also teaching, once a week, in Korean seminary in Iloilo City which offered Master of Arts in Missiology. Moreover, we were inspired by the successful revival of the Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) program in CPU which produced the first graduate, after 30 years. We even opened an extension class with weekly meetings at Convention Baptist Bible College for Negros students.

The aforementioned favorable trends sparked the idea to design similar approach for a graduate studies program for pastors. The break came when through the pastors’ support, I was elected to the board of Trustees of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) in 2006 and subsequently chaired the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns (TEMC) Committee. By divine guidance, the first document that caught my attention was the CPBC Strategic Plan for 2000-2010 which highlighted the TEMC program. Finding the missing link, I started advocating the program, trying to bridge the gap through voluntary involvement in its implementation. My wife also volunteered to teach in theological institutions in Negros to strengthen the TEMC program.

Studying previous initiatives of various organizations related to continuing theological education, eventually the CPBC Unified Theological Education System (UNITES) was conceived and gradually implemented. Two breakthroughs were undertaken, namely: Formulation of Standardized Curriculum; and the MSPM program.

But why MSPM? As registered social worker and holder of master of social work, I can only offer a degree program within my area of specialization. My exposure to development work and community service has also shaped my holistic perspective. Likewise, pastors who were enrolled in Master of Social Work in CPU encouraged me to integrate social work courses in designing a masteral program for pastors. Comparing the curriculum of divinity and theology masteral programs with that of social work and other masteral programs, the relevance of MSPM appears convincing in terms of meeting the needs of pastors, its practicality and length of time for studies, as well as usefulness to their work in church and community.

The mission of the Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries program is to prepare pastors for leadership roles in church, church-related institutions and community. Specifically, it is geared towards a healthy and balanced pastoral leadership in church and community services. MSPM classes are conducted in provincial centers by volunteer faculty. Students in respective centers shoulder their transportation expenses accommodation. Certificate is issued upon completion of each subject with corresponding grade. This will be used for official enrolment in the aforementioned theological institutions. The enrolment can be done simultaneously while the students are taking up modular classes. Or may be enrolled later.Participating theological institutions are the ones granting the degree after official enrolment.

The program in Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries is a combination of Master of Social Work and Master of Ministry. The curriculum incorporates Ministry Core courses, Biblical Core Courses, and Socio-Pastoral Courses. Both ministry and biblical core courses include the following: Philosophical Foundations of Ministry, Ministry Assessment & Equipping Strategies, Church: Ministry & Mission, Hermeneutics, Biblical Theology, Biblical & Theological Foundations of Discipleship.

On the other hand, the Socio-Pastoral Courses consist of Socio-Behavioral Theories, Group, Community, Social Institutions and Processes, Family Wellness & Pastoral Counseling Models of Ministry and Leadership in the Church & Community, Strategies in Church and Community Mobilization, Seminar in Socio Pastoral Ministries, Social Research, Social Jurisprudence & Local Governance, Pastoral Ministry in Conflict Situations, Administration and Management of Church & related organization/institutions, Community Organization & Social Welfare and Development Services. After completion of academic courses, students have the following options as final requirement: Thesis Writing, Special Paper, or Community Project.

Through sharing of resources, our pastors can earn masteral degrees without necessarily leaving their pastorate or respective work. Indeed, the KATIPAN Hall and MSPM are living testimonies that whenever we start sharing whatever we have, God will work more stories of endless possibilities.

Breakthroughs(Part II): Twin stories of Endless Possibilities

After successful advocacies in social work and non-government organizations (NGOs), I realized how far have I been away from my first love – the pastoral ministry. However, the desire to return to full time pastorate seemed to be next to impossible considering my status. Yet, the recurring thought kept on nagging me: If other loves have maximized my knowledge, attitude and skills, how much more my first love?

Returning to my first love was not that easy. A family man, I could not just leave my employment in the University. As a transition, a week-end work in a local church in Iloilo City became an alternative. In the process, I realized I could no longer recover the lost time and opportunities in working with churches. Hence, the decision to focus on pastors, guided by the belief that whatever developments in their lives will trickle down to the churches.

However, my intention was not taken, without question and reservation. I failed to get the confidence of majority in my first attempt, no matter how clear my platform was. Some were honest enough to express their suspicion on my political leanings. My independent and principled stance also did not get the backing of veteran power brokers in the Convention whose candidate was miserably junked by majority of the pastors in a three-cornered fight in 2001.

The experience did not dampen my spirit. My second attempt was wholeheartedly welcomed by the pastors. In an unprecedented event, I ran unopposed and served as national president of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA) for two consecutive terms in six years. As such, I applied all my past learnings in the context of the CBMA. The best years I have ever given to a particular cause in my lifetime. Years that witness the commitment and dedication surpassing my other endeavors, paid or likewise voluntary in nature.

Subsequently, we made breakthroughs. But I want to focus on the landmarks that are replicable and may interest the readers. The twin stories of KATIPAN Hall and Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries with some elements of the biblical account on the miraculous feeding of the 5,000+. Aware of the needs of the time, a boy offered whatever he has to respond to the call for service. He was not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. His voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.But unlike the miracle which has been associated with extraordinary sudden/quick change, the twin stories underwent gradual process.

KATIPAN is an Ilonggo term for Covenant. In the CBMA context it sums up the phrase Katuman sang Tingob nga Pagsalig kag Binuhatan. In English, this means “realization of collective faith and action.” True to its meaning, KATIPAN Hall has become a symbol of solidarity among pastors. Katipan has galvanized our relationship. It even boasted the morale of pastors who have been stereotyped to be always in the receiving end. Of course, not a few had raised their eyebrows questioning our capacity to sustain the project. Even engineers who volunteered their labor could not help but smile upon learning our start up budget.

The movement started as fund-raising campaign of the CBMA to construct a modest Session Hall at Camp Higher Ground to accommodate the participants for their National Assembly in January 2006. Soon, the design has been improved to accommodate 1,000 people and keep abreast with the development of the Camp as planned by the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches

In the process of campaign and construction, the participants have experienced God’s power and provision as church leaders, members and even the public gave their support. Also they realized the beauty of restoring trust and confidence and the power and strength in unity. Moreover, the project has become an opportunity to meet friends and partners in service both local and international. Funds surplus even completed the construction of basketball court beside the edifice. But the bulk of the donation came from pastors.

On the other hand, the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) is a combination of Master of Science in Social Work program offered in CPU and pastoral ministry courses. The mission of the MSPM program is to prepare graduate students for leadership roles in church, church-related institutions and community. Specifically, it is geared towards a healthy and balanced pastoral leadership, church administration and social/community services.

Modular Classes are conducted by volunteer faculty in provincial centers. Certificates are issued upon completion of each subject with corresponding grade. This is used for official enrolment in the participating theological institutions. The enrolment can be done simultaneously while the students are taking up modular classes. Or may be enrolled later. Three years after the program was implemented, it has produced 23 pioneering graduates from Panay and Negros. They were conferred their degree on May 1, 2010 at Ajuy Christian Development Academy, Ajuy, Iloilo.

(More on twin stories in the succeeding posts)