As you know Irma was a very strong hurricane, category five. This last month was extremely hot and very humid. Even Cubans were finding it difficult to breath. At the beginning of September the national TV began to warn the population about the arrival of Irma, a huge hurricane of great magnitude. Here they have an excellent meteorological institute that is really up to date and that informs the people almost every hour about the development of the phenomenon. We were told, before its arrival, that most probably it will cross the whole country, so everyone had to be ready to face the event. We seldom have hurricanes in the province of La Havana, but this time it was different.
Irma arrived in Cuba, in the south, on the 4th of September and went through the Provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguin the following days. Here, in our house, we have now a prenovice from La Havana and two aspirants, one from Santiago de Cuba and the other from Holguin. When these last two phoned home they were told that their regions were not greatly affected. In the province of Holguin we have as well a community in Puerto Padre and several chapels and mission houses in the adjacent countryside. Fr. Miguel Angel was alone in Puerto Padre when the hurricane went over them. Our Delegate, Fr. Aldo, who kept phone contact with him, was told that our house in Puerto Padre was not affected, but the strong wind eradicated trees and blew up aluminium roofs. We have no precise information about our chapels and mission houses in the countryside but surely they should have been affected.
The most affected provinces were those of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila. In Chambas, in the province of Ciego de Ávila, we have a community, chapels and mission houses and some of them, especially the zone of Florida and particularly the littoral part of Punta Alegre were greatly affected. Fr. José Alberto, the parish priest of Chambas and councillor of the Delegation, informed our Delegate that he, F. Paco and the new elected bishop who will be consecrated on the 30th of September were on the spot with Caritas to evaluate the situation. Due to this situation and in order that our brothers could organize the church aid it was decided to suspend the first annual retreat of the Delegation which was to be held here in La Havana, from the 23rd to the 28th of September.
As far as we are concerned, here in La Havana, we took all the necessary precautions to avoid damage and destruction. We were informed by the TV that Irma will hit La Havana and Pinar del Rio only through its tale and then it will divert itself to Miami. And so it was. We began to feel the first effects on Friday in the late afternoon: strong wind, clouds and some tiny rain. On Saturday we woke up with a sunny sky, and the wind was not that very strong. But in the afternoon we had strong wind, clouds and rain. Around 8.00pm part of the electricity was already gone. The worst was during the night between Saturday and Sunday, hitting strongly the central part of La Havana. Irma entered our city through the Malecón (the Strand) with waves rising up to ten meters causing floods in the littoral parts of the city , wind blowing about 260 mph eradicating trees, electricity poles and the newly installed lamps. Wind continued to blow on Sunday´s morning accompanied with some rain. In order to avoid unnecessary inconveniencies for our parishioners, Fr. Aldo, our parish priest, decided to suspend the 11.00am parish mass. Around 3.00pm all was over. Now we are coming back to normal and once again Cubans are in the streets chatting, singing and none of them lamenting about Irma destructive effects. Streets are being cleaned, electricity, at least in our zone, has been totally restored, schools have resumed their course and shops have once again opened their doors. We are now waiting for José, but people do not seem to be preoccupied, since it is only category two. We will wait and see … but surely there is no way to give up our enthusiasm to serve humbly the Church, the Order and the Cuban people.
Fr. Lucian Borg OSA.
We join in prayer our brothers from the Augustinian Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of Mexico after one of their parishes, the parish of St. James (Parroquia de Santiago Apostol) in Ocuilan, State of Mexico was destroyed by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that jolted the central part of the country earlier today.
As of posting, the total number of fatalities nearly hit 225 people, with most of them coming from the states of Morelos, Pueblas, and Mexico.
The epicenter of the eathquake was near Atencingo in Puebla state, about 120km (75 miles) from Mexico City, with a depth of 51km, according to the US Geological Survey.
Inspired by a request from Pope Francis made during his pastoral visit, a young Augustinian Sister has taken up the great adventure in which she will uncover the beginnings of the Order of Saint Augustine in Peru.
A group of young people from Madrid, Spain and St. Augustine's College, San Diego, USA made a pilgrimage of 'Camino de Santiago' organised by the International Youth Commission of the Order. The walk began from Villafranca on 4th August 2017 and concluded with arrival in Santiago de Compostela on 12th August 2017.
Most of the participants who met for the first time, shared experiences together and a strong bond of friendship was created. Unity and communion sustained them all through as they came to a better understanding of themselves as pilgrims in life making effort to reach the common destination. On arrival, they took part in the Eucharistic celebration for pilgrims presided by the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, His Grace Most Rev. Julián Barrio Barrio who reminded all pilgrims to live according to the Gospel without fear or shame. He also stressed that the world of today needs authentic and courageous Christians like St. James the Apostle.
The Camino was a wonderful and spiritually rich exercise which the participants appreciated as it will remain a part of their faith and life story.
Special thanks to the Prior General for his letter of encouragement and closeness (sent and read) during the pilgrimage, to all the participants, their parents and the Provinces who assisted to make the Camino possible.
The International Augustinian Education Congress took place at Villanova University from July 24-28, 2017. More than 150 participants from over 50 of our Augustinian Centers of Education attended the Congress with representation from 25 different countries. The theme of the Congress was Augustinian Pedagogy: A Passion for Education.
Most of the congress was hosted on the campus of Villanova University in the USA, with visits to Malvern Preparatory School and St. Augustine Parish in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning and afternoon.
The congress included spoken presentations, networking opportunities, liturgical celebrations, delicious meals, and creative workshops. Each of the workshops provided opportunities for interaction between the presenters and participants. Each participating center of education was able to share information about their Augustinian school with other participants. At the conclusion of the congress, many people commented on the valuable opportunity the congress provided to meet so many colleagues in education and to learn from each other how we teach and learn in our centers.
Congratulations and thank you to all who participated in this congress and to all who serve in the ministry of Augustinian Education.
Here is a link for more information and pictures Congress Page
Today, Saturday, 29 July 2017, the news was announced that the Holy Father, Pope Francis has named our brother, Fr. Helizandro Terán Bermúdez, OSA, of the Vicariate of Venezuela, Province of the Philippines (Spain), the Bishop of the diocese of Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela. Bishop-elect Terán Bermúdez was born on 7 June 1965 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. After having completed his studies in the Colegio Gonzaga de Maracaibo, he began studies at the Universidad Cecilio Acosta, but interrupted his studies in order to enter the Seminario de los Padres Agostinos in Caracas in 1987. After completing his pre-novitiate in Ocotal (Nicaragua) in 1990, he entered the novitiate (1990-1991). After professing first vows in 1991, he began his theological studies and in 1995 he received his Baccalaureate in Theology from the Pontificia Universidad Salesiana (Rome). He professed solemn vows on 22 December 1994. He was ordained to the priesthood on 9 September 1995 in Caracas, Venezuela. He then completed his studies at the Universidad Cecilio Acosta, in 1996, with the Licentiate in Integral Education. In 1996, he went to Rome and having studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University, he obtained his Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology in 1998. He received the Baccalaureate in Philosophy from the Pontificia Universidad Salesiana (Rome) in 2000, and in 2005 he received his Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome). In 1999, he became professor in the Faculty of Theology at the Universidad Andrés Bello in Caracas, holding the chair in Theological Anthropology and the Mystery of God. In 1999, he was elected as Counselor and Secretary of the Vicariate of Venezuela (1999-2002). He was also a part of the Augustinian Commission for the Revitalization of the Order of Saint Augustine in Latin America. He taught at the Colegio San Agustín in Caricuao, beginning in 2000. In 2006 as professor and doctor at Universidad Andrés Bello he held the chairs of Relevation, Credibility, and Sacramental Theology. Also, in 2006, he was named the rector of the Colegio San Agustín of Caricuao and has continued in that post until the present. In 2010, he was elected as the Major Superior of the Vicariate of Venezuela (2010 to the present).
On behalf of the entire Order, I wish to extend our sincere congratulations to Bishop-elect Helizandro Terán Bermúdez as he is called to serve the Church in the episcopate, and let us all together offer him our fraternal support and remembrance in our prayer s for him as he undertakes this new ministry.
P. Alejandro Moral Antón OSA
Recently, a Conference was organised by the Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral Ministry for the European circumscriptions. The event took place from 19th to 23rd June 2017 at San Gimignano, Italy titled: “Intercultural Experience of Pastoral Ministry in a Changing Europe. New Forms of Evangelization in the Order.” Some participants were from the Anglo-Scottish, the Italian, the Maltese, Polish and Spanish Provinces as well as the Abbey of Brno. The participants made a trip to San Leonardo and also to Lecceto. It was successful.
Pope Francis is known to be a strong advocate of support for refugees and displaced persons. He famously called on catholic institutions to open up churches, monasteries, schools and formation houses to refugees and displaced persons. Our Prior General Most Rev. Alejandro Moral OSA has equally echoed this call of the Pope in his letters, in the light of the global humanitarian crisis afflicting many regions of the world. The list of the affected countries is endless.
While the task at hand may seem so daunting as to push one into inactivity, Nigerian Augustinians took this call of the Pope seriously and opted to set up a skill acquisition center in Maiduguri Borno state.
The center called Augustinian Vocational and Technical Institute (AVTI), was commissioned on 8th June 2017 by the Nigerian Augustinian Provincial, Fr. John Abubakar, OSA. The center has six departments: computer application, tailoring, catering, knitting, hairdressing and shoe-making. Other departments like carpentry, metal work and auto mechanic would be added in future. Already. 400 refugees and displaced persons have enrolled for the programme. It is a tuition free programme and the participants would be giving starter packs at the end of their six month training. This is the contribution of the Nigerian Augustinian Province to fighting poverty and empowering the vulnerable members of our society.
The Meeting of the Governing Committee of the Institute of Augustinian Spirituality was held in Rome May 24-26, 2017. Participating in the meeting were the following friars: Luis Marin, (President), Joseph Farrell, (Vice President), Pasquale Cormio, (Treasurer), Luis Guzman and Jude Ossai. By means of the internet, Robert Guessetto was able to participate in the meeting also. During the meeting, there was an evaluation of the most recent spirituality course, which was offered in Spanish, as well as the preparation of the next spirituality course, which will be offered in English. Also, various initiatives and activities for the coming year were approved. The Prior General greeted the participants in the meeting and thanked them for the work being done by the Institute. He also encouraged them to continue the work undertaken for the good of the Order.
The meeting was held in Bogota, Colombia from 14 to 17 June. This very well organized gathering included intense days of formative, celebrative, cultural and festive aspects in which friendships and fraternity were deepened. It was truly a gift from God that the Assistant General, who is also a member of the International Commission of the Order for the Laity, attended the meeting. We wish to thank the Province of Colombia for their generous participation, to thank the speakers, to thank all who collaborated to make the congress a success. Also, we wish to thank our lay Augustinian brothers and sisters for their dynamism and participation. Let us continue to live our Augustinian charism, giving our joyful witness in the midst of the world. May God bless us all.