The Province of Cebu organised an Augustinian Youth Encounter from 15th to 19th November 2015 as part of the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Augustinian Missionary expedition in the Islands of the Philippines. The theme of the Encounter was “Proclaiming the Word, Empowering the Poor and Sustaining the Mission.” Many young people drawn from various schools (elementary, colleges and University) and parishes run by the Augustinians of the Cebu and Orient circumscriptions, the Augustinian Recollects, the Assumptionists, the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation, the Augustinian Sisters of Divine Mercy, the Augustinian Sisters of Divine Love and the Augustinian Sisters “Misioneras” participated in this event. Young people from Indonesia were also present.
“Read the Gospel, pray with the Gospel, because in the Gospel Jesus manifests the Mercy of God,” so says Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón, the Prior General of the Order of Saint Augustine, emphasizing the centrality of the Gospel and of the Holy Scripture in this Hoy Year of Mercy. He invites all to a reading and to an entering into the sacred texts. “The Kingdom of God is the Mercy of God and it is the Love of God and it is the Compassion of God,” so explains Fr. Moral, which recalls the invitation to conversion: “Jesus invites us during this year to open our hearts to conversion, to the mercy of God.” The Prior General recalls the teaching of Saint Augustine, the invitation to draw ourselves within ourselves in order to cultivate a spirit of interiority, to know ourselves better, to know our hearts better, to open them completely to the mercy of God. The love of God, emphasizes the Prior General, “must lead us to live more profoundly Augustinian communion. It is not possible to live our Augustinian communion if there is no mercy, if charity does not exist… Our communities are not simply human communities where we gather together as friends. We are gathered together because we have been called by God and therefore, as Saint Augustine says, it is not enough to share material goods – we do that because in this way communion becomes more profound also through material goods – but it is necessary to live charity because without charity we are not able to construct community.” Fr. Moral concludes with a strong invitation to live in this Holy Year the Mercy of God in order to cultivate the communion of the Order and with our brothers and sisters. With a message of greeting for the coming Christmas festivities, he says, “God takes on human flesh, he becomes man: this is the act of love and of mercy and of compassion of God for humanity. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2016.”
As part of the journey towards the Jubilee of Mercy undertaken by the Order of Saint Augustine, Fr. Jose Ignacio Busta Ramirez, addresses the theme of the link between mercy and truth. The prior of the Collegio Internazionale Santa Monica in Rome emphasizes the joy to which Pope Francis calls us: “Above all for the great gift of mercy and therefore to live according to the Christian faith that is always a call to joy” because joy is to know that one is called by God, loved by God. In the Bible, mercy and truth are intimately connected. Saint Augustine in the Confessions speaks of truth concerning the choice to establish one’s life on the truth of God: “this means letting oneself be transformed by the Gospel, because of this one is not able to conceive of mercy without the truth of God, which helps one to reach the highest goals, sustained by grace, by His word, and by the love that transforms”, affirms Fr. Jose Ignacio. In this year of mercy all of us are called to discover the wonderful power and strength of pardon, which is transformed by grace so that it makes us happier, because we know that God helps us to build our lives on His truth and to remain in the truth of Christ, in the Gospel, and it helps us to give courageous answers in these particularly difficult times. “We live in an age of new martyrdom and of new forms of martyrdom. Let us not lose either hope or joy and let us not give in to the temptation of finding ways that are different from that which the Lord has pointed out”, exhorts Fr. Busta, who reminds us how mercy is always tied to the truth because it involves the transformation of the human person according to the plan of God.
On Friday, November 20, 2015 after some weeks of serious decline in health, Fr. Michael Wernicke OSA passed away in our Monastery St. Augustine in Würburg, Germany. All who knew Fr. Michael acknowledge his gentle character and his profound knowledge of the history of the Order. For many of us he is remembered as a good brother and friend. He was a student of St. Monica, Rome, who, after initial studies, pursued a PhD in Church History at the University of Bonn. Fr. Michael served the Province of Germany in various roles. In 1977 he was elected Assistant General during the second term of Prior General, Fr. Theodore Tack. Six years later he served a second time as Vicar General under Prior General Martin Nolan. All of us who knew him will remember his special style of presenting the history of the Order. He always knew a little anecdote or some small story about the ordinary human lives of any historical situation he was discussing, which made his presentations very colorful. It was a pleasure to follow him!
Let us pray for our brother Michael and ask him to pray for us.
Present on the congress in Cebu, Philippines, are 58 participants from every Continent. The participants also include Augustinian Recollects, Augustinians of the Assumption, Augustinian Sisters of La Consolacion, Augustinian Sisters of Divine Mercy, Agostinas Misioneras, and Oblates of the Recollects and of the Assumption. This conference is being held in association with a meeting of 600 Augustinian youth from Asia. The work of the conference will be reproduced in written form in the middle of next year.
On 9-11 November 2015, 6 newly elected major superiors of the Order met in Rome with the Prior General and the General Council of the Order. The 6 major superiors are: Ki-Hoon Salesio Lee, the Superior of the Delegation of Korea; Shiju Varghese Kallarakkal, the Superior of the Delegation of India; Kevin Mullins, the Provincial of the Province of California; Antonio Lazan Pun Lay, the Superior of the Vicariate of Iquitos, Peru; Jose Guillermo Medina, the Superior of the Vicariate of Argentina-Uruguay; Pedro Casiño Acevedo, the Superior of the Vicariate of the Orient, Philippines.
These meetings provide all the friars with the opportunity to share information, concerns, challenges, as well as the many good works that are being accomplished in these circumscriptions. As Alejandro Moral Antón, the Prior General, shared with the group, all of those in the Order who are called to the ministry of leadership are called primarily to a ministry of service and to a ministry of building up community life, fraternity and enthusiasm for service to the Church and to the World. As all of the members of the Order face the challenges that they meet in their own local circumscriptions, they also can celebrate the many good works being accomplished around the world by our brothers and sisters.
The Augustinian Order’s path of preparation and formation for the Jubilee Year of Mercy goes forward. In the video, Fr. Edward Daleng Daniang, OSA, the president of the Order’s Commissions for Youth Encounters and for Evangelization and Pastoral Ministry, looks at the theme of evangelization in the light of the next Holy Year.
“Evangelization is an essential part of the vocation of the Church and the People of God: we are called to give witness to the love of God”, emphasizes Fr. Daleng. He points out the example of Christ, who in his earthly existence did not turn away from the company of sinners, but rather sought out occasions to offer them the mercy and compassion of God the merciful Father. Fr. Daleng also reminds us that this time of grace, which will shortly be upon us invites us all to live in the grace and the mercy of God. Moreover, we are called by means of this Jubilee to a spiritual rebirth so that all the faithful can experience new life in Christ and new life in the Church.
Saint Augustine was touched by the grace of God and his life was changed by the mercy of God. As Bishop, he worked tirelessly so that this love would be experienced by all. He also worked for unity in the Church. As Augustinians we want and we must value this spiritual treasure and open this treasure to every woman and man in this special moment of the life of the Church: “this is a time of grace and all people can live the love of God through us in our communities.” In order that this can truly bear fruit, we must have the certitude that we are forgiven by God, that we are loved by God. This powerful force renews us so that we can live the same feelings with our neighbor, thus sharing with them the joy and the beauty of the Gospel.
Only in this way will our work of evangelization be fulfilled and bear fruit!
The members of the International Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral Ministry met in Rome between 8th and 9th October 2015. The meeting of the Commission focused on the examination of the material produced early this year and sent out in the month March 2015 to the various circumscriptions around the Order to aid friars to reflect on the pastoral apostolate as Augustinians.
The feedback received was very poor because many did not respond. Consequently, the members of the Commission explored a strategy that is very practical: to encourage the organisation of regional and local conferences/workshops for a more active sharing among the friars in the various circumscriptions.
After the first video of the Vicar General, Fr. Joseph Farrell, it is now the turn of Fr. Anthony Banks, OSA, to be entrusted with the responsibility of the Circumscriptions of the Order present in Asia and Australia. Fr. Banks, a New Zealander, is responsible for the Order’s Secretariat of Justice and Peace: “Saint Augustine made it his own the cause of the human person, not only for solidarity or for asceticism; but also for justice. And this is the mature fruit of our Augustinian fraternity to promote and to share.” Those responsible explain: “Our Order gives testimony of solidarity everywhere and is present and for this reason embraces the fate of the weakest and neediest concretely and permanently. This is the motive by which the preferential option for the poor is undertaken.” In the video, Fr. Banks recalls, under the aspect of justice and peace, some central concepts for the Order in relation to the Jubilee Year. Beginning with the writings and the sermons of Saint Augustine, we read about the necessity for justice for the Church and for the world. This is also the basis for the first spreading out of the Order, after the Grand Union in 1256, when the Order of Saint Augustine was born and went forth, based on the immediate needs of the people, for their need for certainty and support. Urged on by the Augustinian charism, this Jubilee event is an occasion to reflect on and to examine the situation of the world in order to see, act, judge and make decisions so that a positive change can be brought about. Augustinian presence means that both religious and laity in accord with the values of Saint Augustine, and in an education based on love, causes community to grow and to work together in order to find answers and to identify those elements in society that are challenges which must be confronted both socially and culturally. This is why, as an Order, “we must be full participants in the Year of Mercy, as a real opportunity to reexamine our true mission.”