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"Well done my good and faithful servant....
Come, share your Master's joy" (Matthew 25:23):
Anscar J. Chupungco, OSB (1939–2013)
Mary G. Fox  

Former students of Anscar J. Chupungco, OSB, and those he influenced, have reacted to his death with a sense of loss.

"I will miss him deeply," said Ricky Manalo, CSP, whose work and studies on liturgical inculturation were influenced by Chupungco.

Chupungco, studied at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome soon after the Second Vatican Council. His mentor, Father Cipriano Vagaggini, was a framer of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and his professors were active on Vatican commissions or the Consilium for the Implementation of the Liturgy Constitution. In return, he spent his life forming others in the liturgy, in the classroom, as well as through his writings and talks. He served as president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, rector magnificus of the Atheneum of Sant' Anselmo, founded the Paul VI Institute of Liturgy in the Philippines, and co-founded the Maryhill School of Theology in the Philippines.

He died January 8, 2013, at age 73, from a heart attack as he was preparing to celebrate Mass. His funeral will be Thursday, January 17, at the Abbey Church of Our Lady of Montserrat, Manila.

Chupungco's death came just weeks before he was to be conferred both a papal award and an award from the bishops in the Philippines. On January 26, he was to receive the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal, established by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, for his service to the Church, and the Jorge Barlin Golden Cross Award from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

Most likely, he would have accepted those honors with the same humility with which he received the McManus Award at the October 2011 meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. At that time, he said, "The prestigious McManus Award that I receive tonight crowns three decades of my work on liturgical inculturation. I accept it gratefully and share it gladly with thousands around the globe that contribute to the advancement of inculturation envisaged by the Second Vatican Council."

As well as his scholarship, Chupungco's students and others remember his wit, kindness, and humility. Associate professor of liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame Father Michael Driscoll said: "He taught me greatly about good scholarship in humble monastic ways. His contribution to the liturgical movement is huge and his witness to the ongoing nature of liturgical reform will remain with me all my days. I was very saddened to learn about his death, which represents a real loss to the liturgical world as well as of a wonderful friend. I deeply regret that he will not be present to receive the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal and the Jorge Barlin Golden Cross Award on January 26, which were most fitting for him."

Having taught the class on liturgical inculturation at the Pontifical Institute first in 1973 and written Toward a Filipino Liturgy (Manila, 1976), Liturgical Renewal in the Philippines (Manila, 1980), and Cultural Adaptation of the Liturgy (Paulist Press, 1982), among other books, his name became synonymous with liturgical inculturation.

Noting the depth of Chupungco's work in liturgical inculturation, Driscoll said, "For him, the fact of liturgical inculturation was a consequence and extension of the Incarnation. Just as the Word became flesh in Christ Jesus, so the Word continues to take shape in and through the Church in her liturgy and in culture."

Mark Francis, CSV, found that his professor at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute "was learned but unpretentious, invariably kind but never lacking a witty comment. In many ways, he summed up the best of the Benedictine tradition." Upon visiting Chupungco in the Philippines, Francis came to know another side of his former professor. "He revealed an amazing love and appreciation for the natural beauty of the place but also for the people, who were mainly simple farmers. It became even more obvious that his great learning and background in liturgy was being put at the service of the people," Francis said, continuing, "The purpose of liturgical study was . . . to serve the Church and God's people and to accompany them in the liturgy into the presence of God."

Francis, the author of Shape a Circle Ever Wider: Inculturating the Liturgy in the United States (Liturgy Training Publications, 2000), added, that Chupungco "was always aware of the transcendent purpose of the liturgy—to worship God but to also transform ourselves more and more into the Body of Christ and live out the practical consequences of this transformation."

Such awareness of the transformative power of liturgy was apparent in Chupungco's remarks upon receiving the McManus Award. After years of work on the relationship between liturgy and culture, he said that he still asks himself of its relevance in the postconciliar Church: "Does it strengthen faith, does it nourish love, and does it shepherd hope?"

Manalo noted that Chupungco's work broadened his perspective. In the 1990s, while studying at Washington Theological Union, Manalo became aware of the term "liturgical inculturation" and of the person best known in that area of study. "Chupungco's writings helped me realize that my concepts and experiences of Roman Catholic liturgy were very much formed within European and European-American world views," Manalo said. "His writings inspired me to move beyond the institutional boundaries that often overemphasized a European paradigm of worship to the detriment of considering or legitimizing other forms of worshipful expressions."

While a student, Manalo also chauffeured Chupungco when he arrived in Washington, D.C., for meetings. Later, he would visit him in the Philippines. "He was humble, quiet, and wise. He had a genuine spirit and a passion for his Filipino heritage."

Associate professor of Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas Father J. Michael Joncas remembered his former professor as "witty and warm, lecturing in Italian and offering oral exams in at least five modern European languages."

Joncas said that though Chupungco's contributions were many, ranging from scholarship, work in institutions of the Church, encouragement of students, and the area of pastoral liturgy, his legacy extends beyond the public arena. Providing an example, Joncas recalled a kindness when he arranged for his diploma to be inscribed with the names of academic officials. Joncas noted, "In tiny writing under his signature, Father Anscar wrote, 'Rector Magnificus.' I later found out that that gesture was unique to my diploma: he wanted to memorialize the fact that I was the final doctoral student of his tenure as rector of Sant' Anselmo. Such little gestures of thoughtful kindness were typical of Father Anscar and made him the beloved figure that he was. His greatest legacy may be that he was a man of prayer who touched those with whom he worked and prayed with kindness, wit, and respect."

Mary G. Fox
is Coordinating Editor of Pastoral Liturgy®. Pastoral Liturgy® is published by Liturgy Training Publications.
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