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Renowned Filipino liturgist dies at age 73.

Former students of Benedictine Fr. Anscar Chupungco, a renowned Filipino liturgist who died in early January, say his wide-ranging academic contributions were matched by his personal kindness and influence on the students he taught.

Chupungco, a former president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome and consultor to both the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), died Jan. 8 in the Philippines. He was 73.

Also a former head of the liturgy commission of the Philippines bishops' conference, Chupungco had been set to receive the conference's highest award, the Jorge Barlin Golden Cross, on Jan. 26. He had also been set to receive the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, a papal honor given for distinguished service to the church.

Speaking to NCR Jan. 15, Fr. Jan Michael Joncas, a widely published U.S. liturgical composer and liturgist who was a doctoral student of Chupungco's at the liturgical institute, said his former mentor had left a wide legacy in many different areas of work.

Topping the list, Joncas said, was Chupungco's work integrating local customs and traditions into the Catholic Mass and his establishing in 1993 the Paul VI Institute of Liturgy in the Philippines, a center for forming liturgists to serve throughout Asia.

But Chupungco's focus could also be very personal, said Joncas, an associate professor of Catholic studies and theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

Mentioning that the Paul VI Institute is located in a somewhat rural section of Malaybalay City, Joncas recalled stories of the Benedictine priest using homilies to speak directly to farmers who had traveled to the institute for Mass.

"Even though [Chupungco] had all those high positions, it never kept him from preaching and liturgical formation for just the simplest faithful who came to worship at the monasteries where he served," Joncas said. "That's really pretty stunning."

Ordained a priest in 1965, Chupungco was appointed in 1973 as the first Filipino member of the faculty of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, which is run by the Benedictine order.

Among other awards, Chupungco received the McManus Award, the highest honor of the U.S. Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in 2011. In a speech accepting that award in October 2011, Chupungco criticized the state of liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council.

Liturgical reform, he said, "is being put to task by a movement known as the 'reform of the reform.' It carries an agenda that can have a regrettable impact on the liturgical gains of the council."

"Dark clouds are forming ominously on the western horizon," Chupungco said. "They move hurriedly and decisively toward the direction of the sun that burns radiantly in the sky. They cast upon it their somber shadows to hide it from view."

He concluded: "In reality, however, the dimness is caused by the passing clouds. I am confident that these cannot put the clock back to yesterday's evening hours."

Like Joncas, Viatorian Fr. Mark Francis, another liturgist and former student of Chupungco's, remembered the Benedictine's focus on individual connections.

"His great learning and background in liturgy was being put at the service of the people," Francis said in an interview with Pastoral Liturgy, a publication of Liturgy Training Publications. Francis, a former superior general of his order, is a regular lecturer at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

"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."

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is]
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Title Annotation:WORLD; Father Anscar Chupungco
Author:McElwee, Joshua J.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 1, 2013
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