‘On Global Filipinos:’ Fordham dean on preparing future leaders to serve in faith

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Priest and scholar Faustino ‘Tito’ Cruz, S.M. Photo: Fordham University

Priest and scholar Faustino ‘Tito’ Cruz, S.M. Photo: Fordham University

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

Faustino Manaligod Cruz, SM., broke new ground last year at Fordham University, the Jesuit University of New York, by accepting the role of Dean and Professor of Practical Theology of the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE).

A priest of the Society of Mary, Marists, he has served multilingual and multicultural institutions in the United States for more than 30 years as a priest, teaching scholar, and administrator. He has provided strategic, fiduciary, and transformative leadership for various educational, faith-based, and community sponsored initiatives.

In an interview with Fordham News, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham remarked, “In Father Cruz we found both a scholar and a priest with a deep commitment to pastoral care. He brings to the dean’s position an incisive mind and a steadying presence. Therefore, I expect the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education to flourish and grow under his leadership.”

Tito, as he prefers to be called, earned an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in theology and education from Boston College, and master’s degrees from the Graduate Theological Union and the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California. He also completed post-graduate studies at Boston University School of Theology and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research focuses on the role of faith communities in addressing the pastoral needs of immigrants and underrepresented communities. He is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines Asian Institute of Tourism.

Before moving to New York City, Father Tito served as associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of practical theology at Seattle University, another Jesuit university. Previously, he was executive vice president and academic dean of the Franciscan School of Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, functioning as its chief academic and chief operations officer.

When asked why he has chosen to become an academic administrator, Father Tito said: “Children don’t usually say that when they grow up, they’d like to be a dean someday. This role is not one for which I had aspired. When I first became dean in 2005, my faculty colleagues had challenged me to claim more fully the gifts that apparently I had already shared, such as the ability to listen, inspire, build community, discern, imagine, organize, decide, and allow others to lead. There is not much difference between being pastor of a Catholic inner-city parish—a role I assumed for six years prior to pursuing doctoral studies—and being dean of at a Jesuit university. I have been most effective as a leader whenever I have felt a genuine call to serve in faith. And as an immigrant, saying “no” is not an option, when I have been invited to participate in making decisions that critically affect the lives of migrant communities and others to whom I’m accountable, such as students, employees, and faculty of color.”

Under his leadership, GRE has promoted more intentionally a global vision of graduate education that prepares women and men from more than 30 countries as professionals in the fields of religious education, spiritual direction, pastoral counseling and spiritual care, and faith-based leadership. It has recently signed memoranda of understanding with the Catholic University of Croatia, De La Salle University Manila, and the Formation Institute of Religious Education at the Ateneo de Manila University. It has also explored opportunities for partnership with the Office of Catholic Education of the Diocese of Hong Kong and the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Hybrid and online digital education, of which GRE has been a leader for more than a decade, has facilitated these global partnerships, seamless classroom experiences, and academic exchanges. Furthermore, by offering up to 50 percent tuition waivers to faith-based leaders, teachers, clergy, religious, and lay pastoral ministers, GRE continues to support a very diverse student population from many religious and spiritual traditions.

Since new initiatives require funding, GRE has implemented creative fundraising strategies. From a five-year average of $6,000, it has already raised nearly $250,000 this past fiscal year in endowment and annual gift funds, in strong partnership with the university’s office of development and alumni relations.

Keep an eye on Father Tito. He will be climbing higher mountains, in a manner of speaking. For more information about Fordham University Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, go to https://www.fordham.edu/gre.

CEO and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis is writing a column for The FilAm monthly newspaper. Her interviews will also appear in our online magazine.

One Comment

  1. When I met Loida Nicolas Lewis, I sensed how deeply spiritual she is. It makes sense that she chose to write about Fr. Faustino M. Cruz, who has discerned and graciously responded to his calling as a priest, a scholar, an academic administrator and spiritual director with deep commitment to Catholic/Christian Faith. He makes me proud as I am a product of both Jesuit (under Hijas de Jesus) and UP education. Fr. Cruz and Ms. Nicolas-Lewis are such exemplary Filipinos/Filipino-Americans that we can aspire to emulate.

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