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3 Priests in the PH Who Are Also Accomplished Scientists

Can you really have more than one purpose in life? Let these men show you how!

It is quite unusual for many to hear about stories of people who have more than one vocation in life. More so, it is not every day that we meet a priest who is also a man of science.

Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, and Fr. Miguel Selga have broken down stereotypes with their stories of accomplishment in both Christianity and science. Living their lives as priests and scientists, these men are viable proofs that it is possible for anyone to achieve their goals, so long as they put their mind and heart into it.

Can you really have more than one purpose in life? Let these three men show you how!

Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ 

Photo from National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines / Flip Science PH

President of the Ateneo de Manila University from 1993 to 2011, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres is a Jesuit priest who obtained his master’s of science and doctorate degrees in Mathematics from Stanford University in California. 

Founder of the Mathematics Society of the Philippines, a founding officer and former president of the Southeast Asian Mathematical Society, and co-founder of Kapisanan ng mga Siyentipikong Pilipino, Fr. Nebres focused on providing quality education in Philippine schools. 

He helped assemble a group of top universities to create Ph.D. programs in Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. He was also behind a team under the Department of Education tasked to improve elementary and secondary education in schools located in the poorer parts of the country. (Read: This 18-year-old Yolanda Survivor Wants to Make Science More Understandable to Save Lives)

In 2008, Fr. Nebres’ contributions to Philippine science was acknowledged at the national level as he was among the 50 Men and Women of Science recognized by the Department of Science and Technology. 

Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” Villarin, SJ

Photo from ChrisLyn Blogspot

Fr. Jett Villarin finished his Bachelor of Science in Physics (magna cum laude) at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he has served as its president since 2011, succeeding fellow Jesuit and scientist Fr. Nebres. In between studies to prepare for priesthood, he pursued higher learning in science. He completed a master’s of science in Physics from Marquette University in Wisconsin, and his doctorate in Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. 

Global warming is his particular area of interest and expertise. A book that he edited, Disturbing Climate, was conferred the National Book Award (Sciences) by the Manila Critics Circle and honored by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

NAST also recognized Fr. Jett as a National Outstanding Young Scientist in 2000. In 2007, he was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a team of scientists who won the Nobel Peace Prize together with Al Gore. (Read: 5 Filipinos Who Made Names in NASA and Space-Related Fields)

A member of the advisory board of the Climate Change Commission in the Philippines, Fr. Jett is a lead reviewer of the UN Convention of Climate Change and has participated in the UN Consultative Group of Experts for Developing Countries. 

Fr. Miguel Selga, SJ

Photo from Ateneo Physics News

Born in Barcelona, Fr. Miguel Selga is a Jesuit priest who relinquished his Spanish citizenship when he was sent to the US to study theology, astronomy, and meteorology. One year short of acquiring his American citizenship, he was suddenly assigned to Manila to replace an outgoing priest in the Jesuit conservatory. 

Working for the Manila Central Observatory in 1915, he eventually became its director in 1926 and remained so until 1946, when the observatory was destroyed in World War II. (Read: Three female astronauts who’ll inspire you to go after your dreams)

Fr. Selga is known for his Selga Chronology, meticulous cataloging of all the typhoons, earthquakes, and astronomical events that took place in the Philippines. For his contributions to Philippine meteorology, he received an honorary degree of doctor of science from the Philippine Women’s University in 1955, and an award from the UNESCO commission of the Philippines a year later.

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