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Order of Saint Augustine

"Anima una et cor unum in Deum!" (Regula)

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Thought of Saint Augustine
God has to be searched and invoked in the secret of a rational soul, which is called the interior man.
(De magistro 1)
Whoever seeks joy in himself will be sad, but whoever seeks joy in God will always be joyful because God is forever.
(In Io. Ev. XIV, 2)
In the material world, a foot is one thing, a ladder is another and wings still another. In the interior world, however, feet, ladders, and wings are the affections of a good will, with them, we walk, we climb, and we fly.
(En. in ps. 38, 2)
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The Congress: "Luther and the Reformation: Saint Augustine and the Augustinian Order" is being broadcast on the television service: Telepace (in Italian)

The General Council of the Order, presided by the Prior General, P. Alejandro Moral Antón, met in Rome from November 6 – 16, 2017.

Among other themes discussed were the following:

Chapters: Approval of the Acts of the Chapter and the post-capitular nominations from the Ordinary Provincial Chapter of Nigeria.  Approval of the beginning dates and places for the following Ordinary Chapters:  Province of Belgium (2 April, 2018 in Gent, Belgium), Province of Michoacán (25 June, 2018 in the Centro de Espiritualidad Agustiniana, “Casa Hipona”, Moroleón).

Personnel: Discussions on various petitions for exclaustration, and other particular circumstances.

Collegio Santa Monica: Approval of renewal of temporary vows of the professed students.  Approval of nominations of the “padri student” representatives for the local Chapter.

Houses: The General Council was informed of the request to suppress the house in Benevento (Italy) and the request to erect a house in Mocoa (Colombia).  The Prior General has approved both requests.

Circumscriptions and Communities:  The General Council discussed various themes regarding our presence in Nigeria, Brazil, Italy, Abbey of Brno, Collegio Santa Monica, Pontifical Sacristy, and Sant’ Anna Parish in the Vatican.

Province of Belgium:  The Superior Provincial of the Province of Belgium was invited to meet with the General Council to discuss diverse themes.

Ratio Institutionis: Progress continues to be made regarding the final presentation of the Ratio Institutionis at the General Chapter 2019.  A web page has been developed and friars are encouraged to participate and contribute to the Forum section of the web page.  There will be a Congress in Rome for Formators and the Ratio July 2-6, 2018.

Structures of the Order: Discussions took place regarding the criteria that need to be considered for a possible revision of the structures of the Order.

Information:

  • Anthony Banks:  Meeting of OSAAP in October, Meeting of APAC, Meeting of the Secretariat of Justice and Peace, NYC 23-26 October, Conference for the Treasurers of the Order, Roma, October, request from the Religious sisters of Nuestra Señora de los Martires, for aggregation to the Order, Meeting in Rome for the Forum of International Catholic Organizations, December.
  • Edward Daleng:  Meeting of the Commission for Evangelization and Pastoral Ministry, encounter organized for Europe by this Commission in San Gimignano in July 2017, the next meeting of the Commission will be in Valladolid Spain, 23-24 July 2018, Youth Commission: Youth Encounter in Panama from the 15-20 of January 2019, the commission has met to prepare for this Encounter, Information regarding various themes in Kenya, themes regarding the community in Annaba, Algeria.
  • Franz Klein:   Ordinary Provincial Chapters in Ireland (June 2017) and Holland (October 2017)
  • Patricio Villalba:  Intermediate Provincial Chapter in Chile (September 2017): Meeting of the Youth Commission (with Edward Daleng), meeting of Secretariat for Justice and Peace (with Anthony Banks), information update regarding the process of union of the three Vicariates of Peru; meeting of the Commission for Laity (April 2018) and a possible Congress for Laity in June 2019.
  • Joseph Farrell:  Second part of the visitation to the Province of Villanova, exploratio mentis for the election of the Prior Provincial of the Province of Chicago, various themes regarding the Province of Villanova, visitation of the Province of California in January 2018.
  • Luis Marín: Novitiate for Southern Europe; themes regarding the Province of Italy; exploratio mentis for the elections of the prior provincials of Spain and Malta; themes regarding the Federation of the provinces in Spain, English language Spirituality Course organized by the Augustinian Spirituality Institute; themes regarding the General Archives.
  • Alejandro Moral Antón: Information regarding the meeting of those responsible for the Theological Centers of the Order, 11 November in Roma.

Economy: The Economo General shared information regarding various economic themes, works and budgets.  The Balance sheet of income and expenses from last year and the proposed budget for the coming year were approved.

Communication: The General Council met with P. Michele Falcone regarding Communications in the Order.

Commissions of the Order:  The composition of membership in each commission was reviewed.

Luther Congress: Evaluation of the Congress which took place in Rome, November 9-11, 2017.

The next meeting of the General Council will take place in Rome, January 29-February 10, 2018.

The Economic Commission of the Order has just conducted a Congress for the Bursars of our circumscriptions. The aims of the Congress were to

1. prepare the whole Order to discuss how we might better share our resources across the Order in the years to come
2. consider how we might accomplish the first four Acts of the Intermediate General Chapter, including greater transparency and accountability across all levels of the Order
3. review the role of the Econome in light of modern social realities and legal requirements

The tasks that lie ahead for the Order are considerable and the requirements on our Economes are considerable; after the Congress the Bursar’s have departed with significant information for the future, good dialogue among themselves and have left the Economic Commission with guidelines for the preparation of discussion papers to be looked at by all circumscriptions next year and for the preparation of draft documents for reporting by all circumscriptions at future General Chapters.

It was clear to the Economes that they have roles as managers of investments, as caretakers of the Order’s goods, as servants of the Provincial and Council and a special task as watchdogs over the economic reputation of the Order. Thank God for their dedication!

The next Augustinian Youth Encounter will hold in David and Tolé (Panamá) between 15th and 20th January 2019. It will have as a theme: "Heaven and Earth proclaim your glory, Lord!" drawn from Confessions 10, 6.2. This was part of the discussion which the members of the International Youth Commission of the Order had during their meeting recently in Panamá. Other relevant information will be communicated soon.

A meeting of the young Augustinian friars, residing In Spain and Portugal, of OSAFEP with the Prior General took place 13-15 October at Colegio Mayor Mendel in Madrid. 23 friars participated in the meeting.

The atmosphere was very cordial and fraternal and directed toward a renewed and creative perspective. Three themes were discussed: the creation of the one new Province in Spain out of the four existing provinces; ministry for vocations; the Augustinians in Europe. The worthwhile discussion, both in small-group and plenary sessions produced a number of proposals.

There were also meaningful moments of prayer together. The Prior General, Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón, and the Assistant General, Fr. Luis Marin, presided at the various liturgies.

The General Council of the Order, presided by the Prior General, Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón, OSA met in Rome from September 18-28, 2017.

Among the topics discussed are the following:

Chapters: The Acts of the Chapter and the post-capitular nominations were approved for the following:  England/Scotland, Mexico, Colombia, Ireland, Castilla, Brazil, and the Vicariate of Vienna.  The beginning date and place was approved for the following Ordinary Chapters:  Province of Holland (October 30, Helvoirt, Besinningscentrum); Province of Cebu (19 February, 2018 in the Santo Nino Spirituality Center, Consolacion, Cebu); Province of Spain (24 March, 2018 in the Monastery of Santa Maria de la Vid, Burgos); Province of Malta (First part 4 April 2018 and the second part 23 April, 2018 in the convent of Saint Mark the Evangelist, Rabat); Province of Villanova (10 June, 2018, in the Connelly Center, Villanova University); Province of Australia (2 July in Saint Augustine College, Brookvale); Province of Matritense (9 July, 2018 in Colegio San Agustin, Salamanca); Province of the Philippines (16 of July in Real Colegio Seminario de Valladolid); Vicariate of the Antillas (10 October 2017 in the Seminario de Bayamon, Puerto Rico; afterwards approval was given to transfer the place to the Dominican Republic because of the damage in Puerto Rico caused by the Hurricanes); Intermediate Chapter of the Province of Chile (2 October, 2017, in the Convento de Nuestra Señora de Gracia, Santiago).

Suspended Governance: Approval was given to suspend the ordinary governance of the Province of England/Scotland.  The official name will remain, and the Province will be under the governance of the Province of Ireland.

Various Petitions: Diverse requests and petitions were considered and approved for dismissal, exclaustration, dispensation, along with particular cases and situations.

Nominations: Angelo Lemme: Director of the Pre-Novitiate in Brno; Nestor Bandalan as Treasurer of the Community in the Papal Sacristy; Donald Reilly as a member of the International Economic Commission.

Houses: The General Council was informed of the suppression of the following houses:   Community house in Dar es Salaam (Delegation of Tanzania), Parish house of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Valencia (Vicariate of Venezuela); parish house of Nuestra Madre del Buen Consejo, León and the residence of San Juan de Sahagún, Madrid (Province of Castilla).  The Erection of a new house in Virak, Philippines (Vicariate of the Orient) and of a house in Costa Rica (Vicariate of Panama).

Augustinian Nuns: Various themes were discussed regarding the Augustinian Nuns in diverse Monasteries in the Order.

Decisions of the Intermediate Chapter of 2016: The Council discussed the progress of many of the decisions from the Intermediate General Chapter which was held in Abuja, Nigeria in September 2016.

Meeting of the newly elected major superiors: The General Council met with the newly elected superiors to learn more about the current ministry in these circumscriptions. Those present were:  Andrés Rivera (Province of Cebu), Wilson Posligua (Province of Quito) Vicente Valenzuela (Vicariate of Apurimac) and Matthias Schlögl (Vicariate of Vienna).

Economic Themes: Diverse themes were presented by the Economo general:  budgets for various maintenance projects, new contracts, scholarships for students at Collegio Santa Monica, other economic themes.

Communications: dialogue with P. Michele Falcone about the area of Communication in the Order and the way of presenting ourselves through the various means of Social Communication.  This theme will be treated more profoundly in November.

Information:

*Luis Marin:  Provincial Chapter of Castilla; themes of the Italian Province and the Province of Malta, information regarding the Spanish Federation; the next course in Augustinian Spirituality organized by the Institute of Augustinian Spirituality will be in English; conclusion of the program of renewal for the Monastery of Lecceto, information about activities in Ecuador (ongoing formation) and Peru (retreat; themes of the Archives.

*Joseph Farrell:  The communities that fall under the General Curia’s care; the visit in Nigeria; the Education Congress in Villanova, USA, together with P. Franz Klein; projects and work of the Commission for Initial Formation; Canonical visitation (part 1) of the Villanova Province; themes related to the Monastery of Augustinian Nuns in Nova Scotia, (Canada) and L’Aquila, (Italy).

*Franz Klein:  Chapters in Ireland and the Vicariate of Vienna; Intermediate Chapter of the German Province; Meeting of the Organization of Augustinians in Europe (OAE), together with P. Luis Marin, in Prague; suppression of the community of St. Patrick (Rome); diverse invitations from Dr. Hans-Albert Courtial.

*Patricio Villalba:  Ordinary Provincial Chapters of Mexico and Colombia; Canonical visit to the delegation in Central America; visit to the Vicariate of Bolivia; discussion of the agreement between the Province of Chile and the Vicariate of Bolivia; Meeting of the Major Superiors con the novices in the Novitiate in Lima; Congress of the Augustinian Fraternities of Latin America, in Colombia, together with P. Luis Marin; calendar of the process of unification of the Vicariates of Peru and information regarding the statutes.

*Edward Daleng:  Themes of the Province of Nigeria and of other circumscriptions in Africa; meeting in San Gimignano organized by the Commission for Evangelization, together with P. Anthony Banks; Camino de Santiago with a group of young people; meeting in Panama in order to prepare for World Youth Day and the Augustinian Youth Encounter in January of 2019.

*Anthony Banks:  Themes regarding the circumscriptions in Korea, Japan, West Papua and of the Asia Pacific Regions; reunions of OSAAP and APAC; meeting with Fr. Robert Dueweke, representative to of our NGO at the UN; meeting of the Vocations Commission in Chicago, together with P. Edward Daleng, meeting of the Secretariat for Justice and Peace in New York; update on the document on Poverty, requested by the Intermediate General Chapter.

*Alejandro Moral: Information on the letter sent to the Order commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reform; information on the Congress: “Luther and the Reform:  Saint Augustine and the Augustinian Order”, which will take place in Rome, November 9-11, 2017.

The next meeting of the council will be November 5-18, 2017 in Rome.

LETTER TO THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF THE ORDER
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 500th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE START OF THE LUTHERAN REFORM

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In perhaps a small way, we want to recognize the anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation which started with Martin Luther's public exposition of his 95 theses on indulgences, in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. There is no doubt that Luther promoted a true religious crisis that brought about the rupture of Western Christianity and laid the foundations not only of secularism but also of the process of secularization and the birth of a new Europe. These theses also implied a change in the way Luther understood himself. It was then that he changed his surname, “Luder”, signing it for a time as “Eleutherios” (the free one), and then as “Luther”.

His strong personality, rich and suggestive in its contrasts, the new theology he developed, the consequences of the revolution that he unleashed, all make him a decisive figure in world history and in the history of Christianity. We can affirm that there is clearly a time period before and after Luther.

We cannot forget that Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian. He entered our Order in 1505 and was a member of the Congregation of the Observance of Saxony. He belonged to the community of the convent of Erfurt at first and then the community of Wittenberg. He held various positions of government: sub-prior and regent of studies (1512-1515) and vicar provincial of Thuringia and Meissen (1515-1518). He exercised these services with responsibility and wisdom, making decisions when necessary, without ignoring difficulties and seeking the common good. He was a renowned teacher (for him, his most treasured title was that of Doctor of Theology) and he was accredited as a preacher and was available to render his services when required, as happened with respect to the internal issues (conflict between observants and conventuals) that brought about his trip to Rome in 1511-1512. All sources point out that he was a pious, trustworthy and fervent monk. Until 1521 he always used to sign his name "Martin Luther, Augustinian" and used the habit until 1524, conserving until his death much of the “friar” in his piety and style of life.

It is also true that Luther not only abandoned the Order but abhorred religious life with all his might, rejected ascetic practices and piety, rejected praying the breviary and other obligations, radically altered sacramental theology, condemned the vows and promoted the abandonment and the mass exodus of vowed religious. The damage done to the Order and to religious life in Germany was enormous. Luther was our brother for a time and shared our charism, but he himself stood outside the Order with his choices, his initiatives, and his decisions.

The Order of St. Augustine, to which Luther belonged, has no reason to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation but, yes, to commemorate it. And we do it with serenity, highlighting the positive aspects that it brought about: the revalorization of the individual, the reaffirmed confidence in God, the centrality of Sacred Scripture, the bringing of the liturgy closer to the people, the development of a sense of community, a healthy secularity, and the need for reform, understood as a return to the essentials.

What could the Catholic Church learn from the Lutheran tradition? Pope Francis responds thus: "Two words come to my mind: Reformation and Scripture."[1] That is, the gesture of renewal for a Church that is semper reformanda and always in need of reforming itself, and the step taken to put the Word of God in the hands of the people. We must also learn to avoid that which would be a process of reform and revitalization of the whole Church that leads to a "state" of separation and rupture, and also that approach to Sacred Scripture that leads to subjectivism. For that reason, in the words of the Lutheran theologian, Wolfhart Pannenberg, “the division of the Church in the XVI century cannot be understood as the success of the Reformation, but rather only as the expression of temporal failure; in fact, the Reformation was aiming at the renewal of the entire Church, with reference to its biblical origin”[2]. Moreover, we can say that the breakup of the Church is an expression of failure for all Christians.

Today, in recalling the figure of Martin Luther, we dwell on the man of deep religious intuition, on the herald and preacher of the divine word, on his ingenuity and creativity, on his amazing capacity for work, on the way he used the printing press and the advances of the time at the service of communication, and on his deep piety. "We are all beggars, hoc est verum, this is true,"[3] he wrote on February 16, 1546, two days before he died. He was a sincere Christian and a man of prayer, a good husband and father of a family, a simple and hospitable friend, a diligent guide to the people who requested his advice. With a warm and effusive temperament, and despite the worries and ailments that affected him, he was a model of domestic virtues. We also highlight his inner struggles against anguish and temptation, his direct form of expression, the openness of his soul and the confident way of sharing his intimacy with those who were close to him, and his spiritual sensitivity.

However, we cannot avoid another less gracious side: that which refers to his intolerance. Obstinate and inflexible, passionate and vehement, Luther used biting expressions against those who opposed him, becoming abusive and rude. Often, he was vexatious and offensive, leading to slander. The one chosen by God, the "prophet of the end times"[4], he considered himself to have the truth and, therefore, responded in aggressive terms to any discrepancy. For him, retraction was not possible because he did not assume the possibility of mistake or error. His fixation on the figure of the pope is significant, evolving from reverential obedience to animosity and abhorrence, to eventual hatred in his later years. His exaggerated insults and aggressions toward the Church of Rome (papist, according to the particular terminology) are truly sad. Reading those texts fills us with pain. Today, thank God, times have changed: not only are there cordial relations between Lutherans and Catholics but also, on the path of ecumenism, there are meeting points such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in 1999, to which the World Communion of Reformed Churches has recently joined.

As for his thought, it is impossible to state it here, or even to summarize it. I shall say only that Luther makes concrete his distrust of reason and his rejection of philosophy in his visceral revulsion of scholasticism, of overly structured theological systems, of aristotelianism, of the games of the intellect, of classifications, of sophistry, and of the subtleties of the various schools of thought of his day. All of that distances us from the encounter with Christ and obstructs the genuine faith that is based on Scripture, the Word. God is not a philosophical hypothesis, but is revealed to us and speaks to us in Christ. That is why it requires greater simplicity, abandoning the artifices to go to the source making the encounter possible. And it also requires bringing the Word of God closer to the people, facilitating personal contact and assimilation. From this approach, we can understand that Luther devotes much time and care to the translation and exegesis of Sacred Scripture and to preaching. He showed excellent handling of his vernacular language. His translation of the Bible is of decisive importance, both in the pastoral and in the philological sense. Luther plays a decisive role in his lexical choice and in his style, in which he reflects the vivacity and spontaneity of the spoken language. He is an innovator of the language, which he endows with great accuracy and realism, to the point of being considered determinant in the unification of the German language and in the fixation of the modern German language. Recognized as a preacher, his sermons always had an enormous resonance. Of simple style, concrete and didactic; very practical. He spoke with deep conviction, concentrating on what he said, without getting lost in gesture or theatrics, but using popular phrases and idioms. He was the "Ecclesiastes of Wittenberg"[5], the preacher and transmitter par excellence of the Word of God.

Another essential point in his thinking, in an Augustinian way, is the reality of grace in reference, above all, to justification. In this world of the triumph of indifference, in which we often live as if God does not exist, in which God is reduced to a concept or a norm, Luther returns us to the God revealed in Christ, who is Love and who is concretized in Love. The center of his life and his reflection was undoubtedly the question of God. Tormented in his youth by the theme of salvation, he found his tranquility and joy in the principle of justification by faith (cf. Rom 1:17). Therefore, the Justice of God should not be understood in an active or vindictive sense (a just God who punishes sinners), but in a passive or justifying sense (God who makes us righteous and gives us sanctification). It is not works, however good they are, that obtain salvation, but trust in Christ, the only Redeemer, who is communicated to us by faith. Solus Christus, soli Deo Gloria. The terrible God thus becomes the Father of mercies, and the righteous Christ becomes the unique Savior by way of the cross. Luther feels the inability of human forces, without grace, but radicalizes this doctrine to the extreme. For him it is impossible that the human being can collaborate actively in salvation, because sin remains. Only, by the merits of Christ, are we not held guilty.

Sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide. The consequences of the Lutheran perception lead to the denial of free will, to the dogmatic innovation of the sacraments, to the rejection of the Mass as a sacrifice, to the denial of the ministerial priesthood, to the demolition of the magisterium and of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and to the demonization of the papacy. However, Luther is surprisingly servile to the protestant princes and a passionate defender of the legitimate social and political order, even at a high price. His position in the War of the Peasants (1524-1525) offers a good example of this and is one of the most discussed features of the reformer, as are also two other aspects, present in Luther, which have cast their black shadow on the history of the last centuries: nationalism and anti-Semitism.

The figure of Luther is not easy, but fascinating. It is full of contrasts that hinder objectivity and equanimity, but it offers enormously novel features and is undoubtedly very up-to-date. In spite of the five centuries that have passed, he continues to arouse extreme passions, adhesions and visceral rejections. And in our Augustinian milieu, unfortunately, he remains quite unknown. In the Order, we need specialists in Luther, both in the historical and theological fields. I hope that this commemoration of the Lutheran Reformation will be a wake-up call and boost the studies in this line.

I am grateful for the interest shown and the initiatives that have been taken in the various circumscriptions of the Order, especially in the academic field, with the organization of excellent congresses, study days and publications. The General Council has wished to be involved in this respect and has encouraged the holding of the Congress, entitled "Luther and the Reformation: Augustine and the Augustinian Order", to be held in Rome from 9 to 11 November. I hope this is a starting point.

I want to end with the words of Pope Benedict XVI, pronounced in the Augustinerkloster of Erfurt, during his trip to Germany[6]: "For Luther, theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God. ‘How do I receive the grace of God?’ The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make a deep impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. And insofar as people believe in an afterlife and a divine judgment at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. The question no longer troubles us. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbor – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – Luther’s burning question must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too, not an academic question, but a real one. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther".

May our Lady of Grace accompany us with her love.

Rome,  28  September 2017

P. Alejandro Moral Antón
Prior General OSA



[1] Cf. " Intervista a papa Francesco in occasione del viaggio apostolico in Svezia": La Civiltà Cattolica 2016-IV, 313-324.

[2] W. PANNENBERG, "Die Augsburger Konfession und die Einheit der Kirche": Ökumenische Rundschau 28 (1979) 113.

[3] Cf. LUTHER, Weimarer Ausgabe (WA) 48,241.

[4] Cf. Tischreden (WATr) 5,23,27-24,6.

[5] Cf. WA 10,2

[6] Encounter with the representatives of the Evangelical Church of Germany, Erfurt 23 September 2011

On 23 September 2017, our brother, Helizandro Terán Bermúdez, was ordained in Caracas, Venezuela, as the new bishop of Ciudad Guayana. May the Holy Spirit assist him in his ministry and always accompany him with His grace and His love.

Valletta (Malta), September 14, 2017 - With the solemn Mass celebrated in the former convent church of the Knights of Malta, now the Cathedral in Valletta, the Archbishop Metropolitan Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, presided over the celebrations commemorating the 200 years since the foundation of the Augustinian Province of Malta, which has as its patron saint Saint Mark the Evangelist. During this year various pastoral, cultural and social celebrations have been held that marked the calendar with a celebration of the various activities that the Province engages in today.

Concelebrating with the Archbishop there were the Prior Provincial Fr. Raymond Francalanza and all the brothers of the Province, Archbishop Mario Grech, Bishop of Gozo; Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico, Apostolic Nuncio; Archbishop Pawlu Cremona OP, Emeritus Archbishop of Malta; representatives of other religious provinces and various priests, some of whom received their training at St. Augustine College. There were also the Augustinian Servants of Jesus and Mary, and a large presence of Augustinian lay people and other lay friends, who are close to us in our pastoral realities.

The first Augustinians arrived on the Maltese islands towards the end of the 14th century. After two attempts to become established, finally in 1817 the Province of Malta was born, beginning with three convents: Rabat, Valletta and Victoria. Today the Province has 6 communities, and the ministerial field includes: pastoral-parochial, educational, social and cultural work. Some friars work in Cuba, Brazil and Italy. In the past among the missionary fields were our presence in Algeria, Tunisia, Australia, Canada and the USA. Today the province consists of 39 solemn professed friars, and among its members there is His Eminence Prospero Cardinal Grech.

With this commemoration of the first 200 years of the formation of the Province, which was detached from the Sicilian one, we want to thank God for the history of these years and look forward with courage and with full confidence in God's fidelity, to which we render honor and glory!

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.

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