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On March 27, 1962, fifteen women religious representing fifteen congregations together with Samuel Wiley, a canonist, met to study the possibility of establishing a women institute to give a sound theological and scriptural education and formation to junior women religious.  After a feasibility study, the group met again on January 24, 1963 and decided to begin the Sister Formation Institute (SFI) in July of 1963 to cater to junior sisters.  Fundamental agreements in setting up SFI was arranged as follows: (1) the school administration will be shared by the founding members; (2) the courses offered would focus on the formation of Filipino women religious in their Juniorate years; and (3) the formation will be holistic, most significantly towards greater spiritual maturity, equipping the young sisters for ministry in the spirit of service and rooted in prayer.


The courses offered were Catechetics, Liturgy, and Scriptures.  These courses were credited by the Bureau of the Private Schools through San Jose Seminary.  The enrolment, after some period of operation, increased significantly. From originally Filipina junior sisters, SFI’s enrollees began to diversify with the coming in of postulants, novices, lay leaders, and foreign students.  In 1965, a group of Vietnamese students enrolled in IFRS, which raised apprehension in terms of English communication. In view of providing better facilities, the administration found it important to provide a bigger space for SFI.  The Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) Motherhouse compound was the chosen site.  A lease-contract of twenty years (25) was signed.

At the societal level, the martial law years (1972-1986) in the Philippines posed another challenge to the institute.[1]  The prevailing socio-political and economic situation brought by the military rule motivated the administration to broaden the orientation of the SFI in terms of its courses and programs.  The social situation that the country faced served as real-time situationer for deeper reflection and contextualization of the theological formation. A more integrated formation was the response of SFI to the contemporary social condition which challenged the religious.  Holistic curriculum was designed and shaped through the inclusion of courses (i.e., lectures, modules, and seminars) on peace and justice.  These were included to strengthen the critical awareness and the socio-cultural situations vis-à-vis the faculty’s and students’ involvement in various immersion programs.  The context engagement of SFI, at that time, spanned from rural to urban poor communities of women, children, farmers and fisher folks, laborers, and factory workers.  Moreover, SFI responded to the challenges that martial law posed through its participation in various task forces, which the Association of Major Religious Superior in the Philippines (AMRSP) now Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines (CMSP) organized.  It was also in this period, as the effect of the social situation, that the institute emphasized the Asian, Filipino, and feminine aspects of its formation program.


The SFI, in its silver years in 1988 as formation institute, continued to respond to the call of the Vatican II document, Perfectae Caritatis, calling for the renewal of the members of the religious institutes.  It opened its doors to a variety of students.  From its original aim to be a formation institute for Filipino religious sisters in the Juniorate, The SFI expanded to cater to foreign students not only from Asia but also from African and Pacific countries. There was a stream of students, including lay church workers, postulants, and novices of religious women congregations. Some religious men, who wished to avail of the contextualized formation program, were also admitted.

With SFI’s new kind of clientele, especially the presence of seminarians and brothers in the student body, the institute was impelled to change its name to Institute of Formation and Religious Studies (IFRS) on April 17, 1991.  The change of name implied the change of the institute’s way of proceeding.  On March 31, 1992 and December 13, 1993, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) authorized IFRS to grant degrees on undergraduate and graduate levels, respectively.  The IFRS continues to expand its vision and mission to respond to the call of the times and this also entailed expanding its physical space.  Its home in N. Domingo Street was returned back to the RVM Sisters on June 20, 1994.  A new home was then found on the grounds of the Carmelite Fathers in Acacia Street, New Manila. The IFRS Incorporated signed a Memorandum of Agreement to lease the space for fifty (50) years.  

The Vision-Mission Statement was also re-stated after reviewing the evaluation study of 1989 to spell out the distinctive features of its features of its formation.

The distinctive feature known as the four pillars was formulated in the year 1995 by the administration and school community during the visioning process.

IFRS from then on has become a formation institute not only for junior sisters in the Philippines but also for Asian women and men.  Its formation program responds to religious women and men in different stages of formation as well as lay church workers.


In the year 2013, the IFRS main administration building was transferred to its new place located in N. Domingo Street, Quezon City.  The IFRS continues to embark on ways to update and expand its formation program to respond to changing needs of the people it serves.  It aims at broadening its horizon by partnering with various institutions both local and international in order to strengthen its networking with institutes whose aims are aligned with the goal, vision, and mission of IFRS.


The IFRS strives to remain relevant in responding to signs of the times.  The institute believes that its continuous development is central in its role as a formation institute, providing a venue for an authentic Christian religious formation in a modern and globalized world.  This Christian religious formation is guided by its Four Pillars. The formulation and articulation of the four pillars as distinctive features in 1995 gave a great impact on the identity of IFRS.

The four pillars are the guiding points in planning and implementing the formation program as well as its activities, both curricular and extra-curricular.  The administration and faculty members make a conscious effort to appropriate the four pillars both in the curricular and extra-curricular activities.  It is pertinent that these are reflected in the syllabi of all courses.


On Going Development

The IFRS continues to strive to offer quality formation and education to its clientele. It undergoes regular accreditation process from the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU).  Since 2011, the IFRS is PAASCU- accredited under the Level 2 status.

The IFRS continues to strive to offer quality formation and education to its clientele. It undergoes regular accreditation process from the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU).  Since 2011, the IFRS is PAASCU- accredited under the Level 2 status.

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