The passing away of Dr. Feliciano V. Cariño is a great loss to the Ecumenical Movement in general and to the World Student Christian Federation in particular.
Fely was initiated into the Ecumenical Movement through his involvement in the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines in the1960's. He was an organizing secretary then Chairperson of SCMP. As a student when he represented SCMP at WSCF events he made a big impression on the federation's leadership with his perceptive analytical skills. This paved the way for him to take leadership positions in the federation, which in turn equipped him to become a distinguished and eminent leader of the worldwide ecumenical movement.
Fely was an active member of WSCF's China Study project committee and participated in WSCF's 'China consultations'. At a time when China was marginalized within the global scene due to cold war politics, WSCF decided to respond positively to the Chinese revolution. Fely helped the federation in this endeavour. His fearless appreciation of the Chinese Revolution was contained in his trailblazing article "The Unfinished Revolution in Asia and the Rise of China"
His involvement in SCM and WSCF created a strong interest in Fely for student work. While he was a candidate for Doctoral Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, he served as administrative Vice-President (1966-1976) of the University Christian Movement in the USA. Subsequently he served as consultant and secretary for Student World Relations of the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA.
At the WSCF General Committee meeting in Addis Ababa in 1973 Fely was elected General Secretary of the federation, a position he held until 1977. The Addis Abba meeting changed WSCF's constitution to include six new regional structures. It was the task of Fely and the executive committee to raise funds to implement this mandate. It was a difficult task particularly in the context of the aftermath of the student uprising of the late 1960's. The student revolt affected the federation in terms of its image and support of well-wishers. The federation appeared to the churches as a radical outfit difficult to cope with. This perception had a negative impact on WSCF's funding. Fely had to hold the universal and regional interests of the federation in a healthy tension particularly in the context of financial difficulties and ideological differences. As the General Secretary Fely made a gallant effort to sustain the Federation in that difficult period.
Fely was an innovative ecumenical thinker and a teacher par excellence. He was a very much sought-after resource person in the federation and other ecumenical bodies. He was a resource person at the pioneering Asian Leadership Development Centre program (ALDEC) in Japan from April to July 1970. Fely designed and conducted a 3 month course at this program on the theme "Ideology, Political Change and Modernization in Theological perspective." His challenge to the 23 participants had such an impact that at least 8 of them resolved to become ecumenical workers. From that group emerged persons who served the federation and other ecumenical bodies at the highest levels. It is also significant that he met Theresa at this program. Their friendship blossomed into a life-long partnership.
Fely wrote to the ALDEC 1970 participants in a circular letter dated 28th August 1970 demonstrating his humility as a teacher thanking the participants for what he received from them.
“I would like to say first of all how very grateful I am for having had the opportunity of meeting and working with you in Japan. As I look back into the whole experience I realize more than ever how much I have profited from your association, and how much more I have learned from than imparted to you during all of our sessions. I'm not saying this as a form of flattery so much as a very honest recognition of the impact of the experience on me. I have coveted for so long in fact since I have taken over this job to have a relatively lengthy encounter with Asia and therefore find myself so much more at the receiving end after it is all over. Your patience and understanding have not been a small part of what I appreciated most during our time together."
After he completed his term as General Secretary of WSCF Fely kept up his interest in student work. He gave inspiring presentations to the CCA/WSCF joint programs held in 1982 in Hong Kong and 1985 in Bangkok. The first was on "The Challenge of the University Situation to the Ecumenical Movement' and the second on "Some Historical Notes on the Relationship between the Student Movement and the Churches".
Fely gave to WSCF as much as he received from WSCF. He carried a wealth of experience from the federation to his subsequent engagements as a university teacher, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines and General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia. Fely's life story is a model of inspiration to the worldwide fellowship of students, senior friends, officers and staff of the Federation.
We are grateful to God that we have had a friend like Fely in our fellowship.
At this moment of great loss the officers, staff and executive committee of the World Student Christian Federation humbly extend their condolences to Theresa, Suyin and husband. We uphold you in our prayers.
Rest eternal grant unto Fely, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.