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IFRS and RGS support academic training and spiritual formation of religious and laity

Submitted by: regina
On: 30/07/2010

The Institute of Formation and Religious Studies (IFRS) has been at the service of religious women for decades and the Religious of the Good Shepherd has been part of this effort as one of the founding members of the institute.

Photo: Sr. Corazon Demetillo RGS, (center) IFRS directress, with Good Shepherd sisters from Myanmar Dominic, Felix, Theresa and Magdalena.

Began in 1963 as Sisters Formation Institute (SFI), the institute was founded by the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines (AMRSWP) to provide for the need of young women religious for sound academic training and background in spirituality.


According to the information posted in IFRS website, the “original formation plan was based on the Jesuit curriculum for seminarians of the Ateneo de Manila University. This program has been enriched through the years to equip young religious for their ministry, possessing through their studies a broader outlook, a spirit of service, a solid foundation for prayer, a greater spiritual maturity, and a deeper loyalty to community.”


IFRS Vision


•The Institute of Formation and Religious Studies is an inter-congregational center of higher learning in the Asia-Pacific region, committed  to a contextual, transformational, integrated and inclusive formation and education


•It envisions graduates who are effective witnesses and proclaimers of the Biblical imperatives of love, truth, justice, peace and integrity of creation contributing towards  a just non-discriminatory and participative Church and society in Asia and beyond.



No. of Students: 170 (degree programs)

 No. of Participants:  230-250
 (Continuing Education & Formation Programs)

 No. of Congregations: 110 - 130

 No. of countries:   15-20 countries

Through the years, the Institute has developed. In the 70s, SFI opted for a more integrated approach that included a critical understanding of contemporary societal condition as an important element in theological education. In the 1980s, SFI pursued a more holistic integration of the relationship among theological studies and formation, the understanding of religious life, and the lives of the people that the religious serve.

This prominence of religious formation and its relevance to responsive ministry impelled the Institute to open its doors to religious brothers and lay Church workers, and even to a greater number of Asian students. This move became the seed for the change of name of SFI to IFRS. This change of name ushered in the 1990s a lot of developments: the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) authorized the Institute to grant degrees on the undergraduate and graduate levels in the area of Scriptures, Theology, Women and Religion, and Spirituality; the establishment of the IFRS Foundation, Inc. to become the new group responsible for IFRS; and the transfer of SFI/IFRS from its original site at N. Domingo to its new home at Acacia St., Cubao, Quezon City.

Today, IFRS offers religious formation and theological studies with the following characteristics: Contextual, Transformational, Integrated and Inclusive.


Sr. Corazon Demetillo RGS, directress of IFRS since 2005, said that the institute currently offers opportunities and provides programs for studies in Scriptures, Theology to Women religious. She and the IFRS staff have also succeeded in having the institute accredited with PAASCU (Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities). PAASCU  recognizes schools that meet the standard of quality education.


During the recent AMRSWP Assembly in Tagaytay, Sr. Cora and her team reiterated the four pillars of the institute: Contextualized, Transformational, Integrated and Inclusive. The institute is Rooted in Philippines, Asian and Third-world realities that enable students to gain a deeper understanding of the religious, cultural, social, economic, political and environmental contexts so that the Gospel might be brought to bear as a historical force for the transformational of society.


They shared during the assembly that the IFRS philosophy of STUDENT-ENGAGED LEARNING has been very helpful to the graduates.


IFRS offers the following Bachelor of  Arts in Religious Studies, Master of Arts in Religious Studies, Certificate and Other Programs, One Year Certificate Programs on Theology, Women and Religious Studies, Scriptures, Christian Spirituality, Ecology and Bio-Ethics, Sacred Dances and Creative Liturgy.


One special feature of IFRS is its Social and Community Involvement.


It has also Institutional Partnerships and Affiliations with the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia, (ICLA), East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI), Loyola School of Theology (LST), SVST,FONDACIO, Cenacle Formation Center and, AA English Language Center.

In a letter sent by Archbishop Gianfranco Gardin, OFM Conv. of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life  (CICLSAL) of the Vatican, to AMRSWP, he said:


“I would wish to appreciate you for the pride you take in your Institute of Formation and Religious Studies (IFRS) as a ‘legitimate daughter’ of the Association and for the passion to make your formation programmes a deepening of prophetic spirituality. I am happy that you are earnest about its progress and about fine-tuning of its programmes in line with the prophetic nature of consecrated life.”


Growth and Development

IFRS is moving towards being a Center of Religious Formation in  the Asia-Pacific Region.


It aims 1) to provide assistance to churches and religious in Asia-Pacific region  through  contextualized, transformative, integrated and inclusive formation and education in theology, scriptures,  women  and  cosmic studies 2 )to provide proper venue with living space for relevant renewal, 3)  or continuing formation and education to pastoral workers in Asia-Pacific region, 4) to  encourage and challenge church and congregational leaders to send their members for formal studies, especially women religious and church mission partners       

Sr. Cora also said that IFRS has done Outreach to Myanmar. She said that the first batch of MIRS (Myanmar Institute for Religious Studies) graduates were recognized on June 5, 2010 and the second batch began the courses on June 14, 2010.


To better implement its programs an MIRS Strategic Planning was conducted from June 1-5. It was attended by the Catholic Religious Conference of Myanmar, Sr. Cora representing IFRS and Sr. Ancille Elvena, SSpS. Sr. Ananita Borbon RGS was invited as resource person.


An important project that Sr. Cora and the IFRS family dream is to  have a land and building for IFRS. They have started fund raising through various agencies local and international, tapped congregations supportive of this mission, encouraged the laity, local NGOs and foundations to participate in this project.


As a founding member of IFRS, the Good Shepherd congregation continues it support to the congregational efforts at collaborating with various institutes “to respond to the urgency to nurture new life through holistic and relevant formation that prepares, renews and sustains us for the challenges of today’s realities’ as articulated in the 2009 Congregational Chapter Direction Statement.


During SFI’s initial years, Sr. Evelyn Coronel RGS also served as directress of the institute.


Good Shepherd Sisters in temporary profession from the Philippines and those from other countries have attended courses at SFI, which has developed now into IFRS.



  Good Shepherd Sisters at IFRS

Four temporary professed Good Shepherd Sisters from the East Asia Province are in the Philippines for their theological year and are currently enrolled at the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies  (IFRS).

Photo: Good Shepherd Sisters from Myanmar with Sr. Corazon Demetillo RGS, directress of IFRS 

Like many temporary professed Good Shepherd Sisters from Asia who have come to the Philippines, Srs. Dominic, Magdalena, Felix and Teresa have enrolled in subjects that will lead them to a degree in Religious Education. Among their subjects this semester are Introduction to Theology, Introduction to the Old Testament, Introduction to the New Testament, Gender Studies, Theology of Religious Life, Religious Institutions and Society and Fundamentals of Philosophy.

They find that the subjects and the interaction with religious from various congregations will provide them with a wider perspective about religious life, cultures and the Church. These, they believe, will help them when they go back to their country and share with the sisters and the people they serve.


While in the Philippines, they are accompanied in their academic and spiritual needs by Sr. Teresita Figueroa RGS, juniorate directress of the Philippine Province. They are also grateful that Sr. Corazon Demetillo RGS, directress of IFRS could advice them on the subjects that would be helpful to them.


As of now the four sisters from Myanmar are expecting sisters from Korea who will also be coming to the country for their studies and exposure. Sr. Theresa said, that their studies and their stay at the Good Shepherd Community in Quezon City are beautiful experiences of the congregation’s internationality and good preparation for mission. (RK)