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The East Asian Pastoral Institute traces its beginning back to the year 1949 when the Jesuit missionaries were expelled from mainland China and had to find a new home for themselves and the seminarians. They found refuge in Manila, Philippines, in the quonset huts of an abandoned army camp in a deserted area of Mandaluyong. Here they started to learn the Chinese language, hoping that they would soon return to the China mission. This did not happen; so in 1953, Fr. Joannes B. Hofinger SJ, an Austrian missiologist opened the Institute for Missionary Apologetics. Even at that time he strongly recommended that missionaries should have thorough liturgical renewal while at the same time develop an awareness of the church's catechetical or religious education. So in September 1961, when the name changed to East Asian Pastoral Institute, the resident team of Jesuits was already training missionaries from all over the world in the areas of liturgical and catechetical updating and conducting workshops on the missionary aspects of the Church.
In September of 2011, we celebrated 50 years of EAPI's achievements as a centre for new ways of being pastoral workers in the missionary Churches of Asia and Oceania. The institute has consistently responded to the Asian and Oceanian bishops and Catholic religious leaders by providing resources for special formation and the aggiornamento in the spirit of Vatican II. It was and still is the Asian hub for theological renewal, updating, experimentation, and exploration.
The multicultural residential environment has been a unique feature of the EAPI. Fr. Calle, one of the founding fathers, proudly contends that this was the first time that priests and sisters, lay men and lay women were being formed together for mission by living together in one location over several months. For many participants, this is the first time for them to cross the borders of gender, culture, race and spirituality. Furthermore, over the last 30 years, the laity has also been recognized and celebrated in the Institute with courses which are specially designed for the lay in leadership positions.
Although there have been changes in the content of the programs due to pastoral needs and changes in leadership, the East Asian Pastoral Institute has continued to implement the original dream of the founding fathers, which is to “prepare, form, train, and help missionaries and those dedicated to all kinds for Christian activities as priest, lay and religious over the world”.
The East Asian Pastoral Institute began the 2014 leadership programs with a full house and a waiting list. All 85 participants rooms were occupied with lay, religious, and clergy coming from 16 nations. The growth was due to more people coming from the priority countries of China, Vietnam, Myanmar, and East Timor, but there was also an increase in the numbers from Oceania, South Asia, and even places like Zimbabwe, and Namibia in Africa.
Since its establishment, the EAPI has strived to adapt the content and pedagogy of its programs while keeping faithful to the reforms instituted by Vatican II, even if the number of participants joining the program fluctuates. The programs began from a catechetical focus to updating of theology and pastoral renewal. Recently, demands for pastoral courses focusing on leadership courses are increasing.
Even though people still seek for EAPI's traditional programs on renewal and sabbatical, they are also interested in the new programs like the Pastoral Leadership and Management for Mission [PLMM]. Of the six residential programs, the PLMM attracts the highest number of participants to the EAPI.