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Intermediate General Chapter, Nigeria 2016

 

The official photo of the chapter

 

Day 11: Conclusion of the Chapter

 

Day 10: Looking towards Jerusalem

At the daily Eucharist, at which we celebrated the memorial of the Augustinian Japanese martyrs, Fr. Claudio deCamargo, Prior Provincial of Brazil presided with Frs. Angel Escapa, Prior Provincial of Castile and Pablo Gabriel Lopez Blanco, Regional Vicar of Consolation in Brazil concelebrating. In the homily, Fr. Claudio underlined the importance of sacrifice as a source of witness and as an expression of love.

Today, the friars reviewed the revision of proposals that will then move forward, in their definitive version, for the voting.

In the evening session, the Chapter reflected on some particularities of the organization and structure of our circumscriptions in local areas of the world. In a special way, a look at the Augustinian presence in Bolivia with regard to the Province of Holland.

 

Day 9: Looking towards Jerusalem

Once again, the day began for the members of the Chapter with the celebration of the Eucharist. The presider was Fr. Franz Klein, Assistant General with Frs. Paul Graham, Prior Provincial of England-Scotland and Shiju Varghese Kallarakkal, Delegate Superior of India concelebrating. In his homily, Fr. Franz proposed three key expressions: Look forward, make decisions and walk together, exactly as Jesus did looking toward Jerusalem, knowing what awaited him.

In the morning, the members began to review all the capitular proposals on vocation and formation in order to prepare a final text that will be put to a vote.

In the afternoon, the work continued with the proposals on the economics of the Order.

Afterwards, the members of the Chapter went out together for a dinner organized by Fr John Abubaker, Prior Provincial of Nigeria.

 

Day 8: What commitments can we take on for the future?

The members of the Chapter celebrated the Eucharist with Bishop Robert Prevost presiding and Frs. Agustín Alcalde de Arriba, Prior Provincial of the Province of Spain and Fidel Alvarado, Regional Vicar of Chulucanas concelebrating. In his homily, Bishop Robert Prevost drew our attention to all the energy we spend to understand “how important we are” in these times of great changes. We do this in order to establish “who among us is the greatest” losing ourselves in commentaries and useless tensions. And yet, no true foundation for ourselves will be found in these questions, rather it will be found only in the Eucharist.

During the morning, Fr. Anthony Banks, Assistant General, after having summarized the work of the last week, asked the brothers, divided in language groups, to make concrete commitments in the areas of the Order we had discussed.

In the afternoon, we spent some time on the issue of the sexual abuse of minors. This issue, addressed at the last General Chapter, was reviewed once again with attention to the responsibilities of major superiors, steps to assure the protection of minors, and the importance of comprehensive human formation.

 

Day 7: Mass at St. John in Mararaba

Chapter members experienced a very beautiful and special celebration of the Eucharist at St. John of the Cross Parish in Mararaba under the ministry of our Nigerian friars. Certainly the first notable aspect was its duration: few are accustomed to a celebration of three hours. A second aspect, surely, was the vibrancy and the joy that is felt at their liturgy, manifested in the intense participation of all in song. A third aspect was the number of participants. We celebrated with the parish at their 10:00am Mass, though not their principle Mass, there were 2,500 people present. (Their principal Mass is celebrated at 5:30am)! Finally, but not in order of importance, was the warm, fraternal welcome of the friars and of all the people. In this corner of the world, which seems so far from our own, we are doing very well … even here, we feel at home!
 

Day 6: To surpass appearances

In today’s celebration of the Eucharist, Fr. Miguel A. Orcasitas Gómez, Prior Provincial of the Escorial Province presided, with Fr. William Carreño representative of the Province of Colombia and Fr. Marcelo Ramirez Simón, Regional Vicar of Bolivia as concelebrants. In his homily, Fr. Miguel stressed the importance of the heart, be it in literature or spirituality. At times it is misrepresented or confused with other meanings, but we have the task of discerning the reasoning of the heart in the light of the Holy Spirit to recognize the path of God.

In the morning, the Assistants General, Fr. Anthony Banks and Fr. Edward Daleng, asked the Chapter friars to reflect upon and discern our current times, with the great changes taking place in the Order, and to share with one another the signs of hope, present in what is presently happening in our circumscriptions. This can help us read the signs of the times.

The reflection and sharing took place in language groups.

Following the last plenary session on Saturday, we took a pause in our work until Monday. In the afternoon, the brothers visited the city of Abuja: the national stadium, the ecumenical church and finally, a center of local handicrafts.

 

Day 5: Going beyond appearances

In the celebration of the daily Eucharist, presided by Fr. Joseph Farrell, Vicar General, we acknowledged the birthdays of Lizardo Estrada, Vicar of the Apurimac region and of Miguel de la Lastra (HIS) who also concelebrated. In his homily, Fr. Joseph centered his remarks around the question Jesus put to his disciples: who do you say that I am?” On our part, there is the need, above all at the personal level and then as institutions to not stop at appearances, but to go deeper and to understand the true nature of people and events, in order to discover the Truth.

In the morning session, the chapter members were engaged in a reflection, guided by Fr. Anthony Banks, Assistant General, on the economics of our Order. His perspective was not centered on a financial system based on money, but rather on the capacity to consider well all our resources and place them at the service of the common good with clarity and transparency.

The work then continued in language groups.

In the afternoon, the General spoke about the structures of the Order. Once, again, work then took place in language groups.

In the evening, the chapter brothers enjoyed two cultural presentations. There were two dramatic presentations by the youth group of our parish of St. John in Marraba, which were fascinating representations of sin and grace; darkness and light. The other presentation was a marvelous and lively display of regional and tribal dance and song. It was a most enjoyable evening.

 

Day 4: The Formation

This morning opened with the celebration of the Eucharist presided by Fr. Patricio Villalba, Assistant General. The main concelebrants were Frs. Javier Antolín Sánchez, Prior Provincial of the Philippine (Spain) Province and Baltasar Torres Durán, Prior Provincial of the Province of Mexico. Fr. Patricio Villalba, commenting on the readings, encouraged us not to be adversely influenced by the pessimistic wisdom of Quohelet. Rather, though aware of the difficulties we all face, we are called to continue to announce the Good News of Christ.

During the first part of the morning session, our work continued on the Ratio Institutionis (Plan of Formation) in language groups. In the second part, in plenary session, we took time to reflect together on the proposed revision of the text which was first published in the 90’s. The task of revision is, indeed, nearing completion.

In the afternoon, meetings in small groups continued the reflection on formation. We focused this time on some questions: is it possible to begin thinking about more international experiences of formation and thus reduce the number of houses throughout the world? Also, what proposals might be put forward regarding projects and hopes for the important sites of the Order such as the International College of Saint Monica and the Patristic Institute?

 

Day 3: The Call of Matthew

As is now the norm, the Chapter friars began the day with Mass, today celebrating the feast of St. Matthew. Fr. Anthony Banks, Assistant General presided, together with Frs. Paul Graham, Prior Provincial of England-Scotland and Robert Karanja Ireri, Delegate Superior of Kenya as concelebrants. In the homily, Fr. Anthony put a very important question before us: what did the eyes of Jesus see in Matthew, when the eyes of others were seeing only repugnance and betrayal? Which situations in our life today might we be able to call “Matthew”?

Fr. Franz Klein, Assistant General, opened the morning session with a presentation of some statistics of the Order. Among these we would like to cite that at the current period the Order numbers 2,610 friars, the medium age is 53.9 years, the oldest (age of members) is Holland, and the youngest is Papua.

The following presentation was the report of the Prior General on the status of those houses for which the General and his Council are directly responsible.

In the afternoon, after the work in language groups, there was time for discussion in the full assembly.

Finally, there were two presentations from geographical regions of the Order.

The geographical region of Europe: the work of sharing and of unity continues among the various circumscriptions. Of note is the process of union undertaken by the four Spanish provinces. Also of particular importance is the common novitiate for south Europe. The desire for the renewal of the Order is high, despite the fact that in society in general there a sense of tiredness.

The geographical region of Latin America: work continues in the animation of the circumscriptions and in pastoral coordination, with a project of revitalization of Augustinian spirituality. For the future they are studying the possibility of creating a common theological institute and of assuming responsibility for the presence of the Order in Cuba.

 

Day 2: Witnesses in the world

This second day began with the celebration of the Mass, remembering the Korean martyrs. Fr. Luis Marín de San Martín, Assistant General, presided and Frs. Alex Lam Alania, prior provincial of Perú and Jose Guillermo Medina, Regional Vicar of Argentina concelebrated.

Fr. Luis focused on the fact that the Church is not built up by the wise or the hyperactive, but rather by witnesses, persons who have had an experience of Christ in their lives and have ignited the hearts of others who have met them.

In the first morning session, Fr. Anthony Banks, Assistant General, introduced the work with a challenge: we want to change the dynamic of the chapter where usually one waits for directions to follow. Rather, we would like you to be the protagonists of a renewal of the Order, together with your circumscriptions. What can you offer for the good of the Order and of the Church? After having reviewed the material during this session, we should raise our eyes and look far ahead asking ourselves clearly in which areas the Order is prophetic and then to have the courage to mark out a path forward.

The first area proposed by Fr. Anthon Banks was precisely that of vocations: to recognize a call, to welcome that person as a gift from God, to accompany and to discern.
Then followed work in language groups.

In the second morning session, Fr. Joseph Farrell, Vicar General, presented the report on Augustinian Formation: inspired by the Letter to the Romans (chapt. 12) how can we meet this great challenge, that is, growing together in one heart and one soul, aware of being one Body in Christ and possessing many gifts? Can we find the proper balance as we work with our brothers in formation?

In the afternoon, after having listened to the reports from the language groups, there were reports from several regions.

The geographical region of Africa: there are a number of projects contributing to the growth of the Order in Africa. Circumscriptions are helping one another and reaching out to new areas.

The geographical region of Asia-Pacific: work has been focused on the establishment of a common novitiate which opened this year.

The geographical region of North America: for many years now the circumscriptions have been collaborating on various projects. In recent years Chicago has assumed responsibility for Canada. Various commissions are working together and the most fruitful has been that of formation. The Federation will celebrate a convocation of all the friars of the four circumscriptions in June.

 

First Day: Three years after the 2013 General Chapter

Chapter members came together for the first full day of meetings. After the preliminary acts in the morning for the smooth progress of the Chapter, they moved to some substantial items, including the recognition of the Delegation of India as a Vicariate.

Fr. Shiju Varghese Kallarakkal, delegate superior, briefly explained the reality of the Augustinian presence in India, which currently consists of 34 religious, six houses, two parishes and one school. The Chapter members enthusiastically endorsed the new vicariate and decreed that the Superior should have active voice in the Chapter.

Later, the Prior General gave his introductory presentation in which he touched on several very important points and suggested that the members of the Chapter be promoters of a search for the essential elements of our life and animators of a 'renewal' of the Order starting from a spirit of availability that comes from charity.

At noon, the Chapter gathered for the Eucharistic celebration presided by Fr. Edward Daleng, Assistant General, who in his homily suggested an openness to a missionary perspective, both ad intra and ad extra, “we have to look beyond ourselves, beyond our constituencies and bring to our neighbour the spirit of Jesus, who, though rich, emptied himself in humility and became poor to make us rich.”

In the afternoon, Fr. Luis Marín de San Martín, Assistant General, outlined the progress in the development of the program approved by the General Chapter in 2013 for the six year period of 2013-2019.

The Treasurer General, Fr Matthias Hecht, outlined the economic status of the Curia, the Via Paolo VI complex, and other realities of the Order. Finally, the Secretary General Fr. John R. Flynn, presented a summary of the responses from the circumscriptions to the determinations of the General Chapter in 2013.

Upon completion of those reports, several members spoke of special projects in their circumscriptions or on the progress of the apostolates in their province, vicariate of delegation.

 

The beginning of a great adventure

At the DRAAC convention center in Abuja the last of the capitular friars arrived and this evening the Intermediate General Chapter will officially begin.

During the day, in what might be called a “warm-up”, we were able to participate in the opening Mass of the scholastic year at St. Augustine High School. The Father General presided and the Prior Provincial of Nigeria and the Assistant General Fr. J. Farrell gave a brilliant homily to the 450 boys and girls who were present with the parents. He spoke, among other themes, of the value of honesty and its importance in our relationships with our neighbors as Christians searching for the truth, who is God.

In the afternoon, at the traditional Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Chapter was opened. The Prior General presided at the Mass with Fr. M.A. Orcasitas and Fr. J. Farrell at his side. In the homily, the Father General, referring to the passage from Luke 16, 1-13, highlighted the way in which this brings us to a fundamental theme for us as religious and for the Chapter ahead of us: the sharing of goods.

“Jesus says clearly that God doesn’t want servants, but free persons and that the true God can only be served by serving our neighbor […] I want to remind you with this text of what our Father suggests: “we are only administrators of the goods we possess”. Some time ago De Lapierre said: “the only things that are held on to are the things that are given away. That which isn’t given, is lost”. […] One final point on goods: we have come to Africa, to this great country, to see and to observe. I would like our hearts to be touched, wounded, deeply questioned, aware that the world is much poorer than what we can see here”.

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