Filipino Jesuit Father Catalino Arevalo SJ, recognized as the Father of Asian Theology, passed away on January 18 at the Jesuit Health and Wellness Center in Manila. He was 97 years old.
Born on April 20, 1925, Father Arevalo entered the Society of Jesus on May 30, 1941. He was ordained a priest on June 19, 1954, and professed his Final Vows four years later on August 15, 1958.
A year after his Final Vows, he was sent to teach at Woodstock College in Maryland, the oldest Jesuit seminary in the United States that existed from 1869 to 1974. He was the first Filipino to teach there.
He was also the first president of the Loyola School of Theology in Manila from 1968 to 1971. He continued to teach courses on the Eucharist and Holy Orders, Christology and Redemption, Ecclesiology, Mariology, and Theology of the Spiritual Exercises until 2010.
A well-known theologian, Father Arevalo was the main author of the final document of the first Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) in 1974 in Taipei. This landmark document called, “Evangelization in Modern Day Asia,” helped to set the theological orientation of the Federation.
After his trip to Latin America in 1970, Father Arevalo began to give lectures on liberation theology. He was among the first do so in the Philippines. That year he served as a “peritus” (expert) at an Asian bishops meeting that would evolve into the FABC.
Father Arevalo was instrumental in the foundation and development of FABC. He was the first Asian on the Holy See´s International Theological Commission, and the first convenor and founding member of FABC’s Theological Advisory Commission, which he chaired from 1985 to 1999.
In 2009, FABC honored the Jesuit priest with the “Father of Asian Theology” award in recognition of his services to the Federation. Earlier in 1998, Ateneo de Manila University conferred a doctorate honoris causa in Humanities on Father Arevalo, citing his more than 9,000 pages of theological writings “with an Asian emphasis”.
In his acceptance speech at the Ateneo de Manila, Father Arevalo credited former Philippine Provincial Father Horacio de la Costa SJ for envisioning Filipino and Asian theologies that “address the problems of the real world while being and walking with all men to the kingdom of God.” He noted that “doing theology [is] an engagement in changing society.”
Father Arevalo was also a recipient of the Ecclesia et Pontifice in 1997 for distinguished service to the Church. The late Jaime Cardinal Sin who conferred the award described him as the “Dean of all Filipino theologians and Godfather of hundreds of priests.”
Indeed, Father Arevalo was a mentor, brother, and friend to generations of priests, religious and lay people, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and the late Philippine President Corazon Aquino.
Father Danny Huang SJ, former Philippine Jesuit Provincial, wrote: “While I am saddened by his passing, I am also happy for “Fr Revs,” who has wanted to go home to the Lord for some time.” He described Father Arevalo’s courses on Ecclesiology and Holy Orders as “transformative,” and said that it was the elder Jesuit who inspired and encouraged him to pursue graduate studies in theology.
“How different my life and Jesuit ‘career’ would have turned out had it not been for Father Arevalo,” said Father Huang. “I thank the Lord for the gift of this brilliant, passionate, at times difficult Jesuit brother and mentor.”
The funeral Mass will be held on January 22 at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Church of the Gesu. He will be buried in the Jesuit cemetery at the Sacred Heart Novitiate. – from the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific