Official State of the Province Report

For the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel, Chicago
The Province of St. Joseph, Canada, and
The Vicariate of St. John of Sahagún, Chulucanas (Peru)

Abridged from the State of the Province Report delivered on April 26, 2015

Dear Friends of the Augustinians,

We have recently completed the Visitation of our Prior General, Alejandro Moral Anton, O.S.A. and Vicar General, Joe Farrell, O.S.A. It was a whirlwind tour of our communities in the Midwest and Canada, but it was a joy to have them with us and to have them affiliate 19 new members to the Order during this visitation.  A copy of their report can be downloaded at the link below. But in summary, they truly enjoyed their visit and found our Augustinian hospitality quite good.

They commended our recent work and success in the area of vocations and working together in Federation particularly in the area of Vocations/Formation. They commented on the return of Fr. Bob Guessetto, O.S.A., to formation work in Chicago and the great loss that this is to Santa Monica in Rome, but their commitment to quality Augustinian Formation resulted in their decision to honor our request.  They also asked that we continue to pay attention to our interior life, the sharing of goods and the mission of the Church. They asked us to consider having larger communities and not to allow ministerial commitments to jeopardize our common life.  

We’ve Launched Our 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee!

Eight were affiliated to the Augustinian Order at the Diamond Jubilee Opening Mass at St. Rita Parish, Chicago.

We have also recently launched the 75th Anniversary Jubilee Year for our Midwest Province.  The Gala where we remembered the late Fr. Ray Ryan, O.S.A., and honored Fr. Tony Pizzo, O.S.A., and Deacon Jim Foody, M.D., as well as the Jubilee Mass and Affiliations at St. Rita Parish were a great start to this year-long celebration!  I have heard from many Augustinians, our men in formation as well as lay people who attended these celebrations that they thought they were well-done and great signs of hope for our future!  I share the quote that I used at the Gala from St. Pope John Paul II that was recently referred to by Pope Francis regarding Religious Communities, “You not only have a glorious history to remember and recall, but also a great history still to be accomplished.  Look to the future where the spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things.”  My friends, we look forward to a future of hope, a future of joy, a future of the Augustinians in service to the Church!

Vocations:  Great Interest in Our Order

The reasons for this interest continues to be the person and writings of St. Augustine himself, our focus on community life, and our educational apostolate. I am grateful to Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A.; Fr. Jorge Cleto, O.S.A.; Sr. Ardis Cloutier, O.S.F.; Bernadette DiLucido; and Patrick Murphy for their continued work in Vocation Ministry.  I continue to participate in the two discernment weekends each year, and host candidates in my community. 

While there will only be one new member joining our province in the Pre-Novitiate program this year, Tom Abbott from St. Matthew’s in Flint, it is expected that he will join 4 others from the Villanova Province.  We have many more in initial discernment as is evident by the 15 young men who recently attended the Discernment Retreat, many for our province.  We are working with the Villanova Province and Villanova University to have a concentrated Augustinian Presence on campus and to further develop and enhance our Associate Program.  Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A. will be a big part of these efforts as he will be living on Campus.  He will no longer be Chairman of the Board or Chaplain at St. Rita High School.  I am grateful to him for taking on this new challenge and to continue the important work of Vocations for us and the Villanova Province. 

 Men in Augustinian Formation

The Augustinian Men in formation attending the 2015 Augustinian Gala

This fall we expect to have 14 men in formation for our province. I am grateful to Frs. Jim Thompson, O.S.A.; Jim Paradis, O.S.A.; Joe Mostardi, O.S.A.; and Jorge Cleto, O.S.A., who serve as the Directors of our Formation Programs.  The Federation Commission on Formation asked the Provincials to approve a Formation Gathering for all those in initial formation to come together for fraternity and to spend some time with the Provincials to discuss our future.

Richie Mercado, O.S.A. will be making his Solemn Profession at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago on Thursday, August 27th during the Celebrations of the Feasts of Sts. Monica and Augustine, the Year of Consecrated Life, and our Jubilee Year as a Province. He will continue to live and work at St. Rita Parish and assist at St. Rita High School in Chicago.

We will also be honoring those friars celebrating significant anniversaries of their professions at this Mass at which Archbishop Blase Cupich has agreed to preside:

 60 years of profession

  • Fr. Jerry Knies, O.S.A.

50 years of profession

  • Fr. Dick McGrath, O.S.A.,
  • Fr. John Ohner, O.S.A.
  • Bro. Jerome Sysko, O.S.A.

We will celebrate the significant anniversaries of ordinations at our retreat:

50 years of ordination

  • Fr. Jim Friedel, O.S.A.,
  • Fr. Jerry Van Overbeek, O.S.A.
  • Fr. Fred Taggart, O.S.A.

40 years of ordination

  • Fr. Terry Deffenbaugh, O.S.A.

25 years of ordination

  • Fr. Marty Laird, O.S.A.

Bro. Stephen Isley, O.S.A., will be returning to Chicago this summer and continue his theological studies in the fall at CTU.  Fr. Brian Barker, O.S.A., will continue living at the Cascia Hall Monastery and serving as the Director of Augustinian Mission at our school in Tulsa.  Bro. Joe Ruiz, O.S.A. will continue living and teaching at St. Rita High School.  Bros. Nick Mullarkey, O.S.A., and Joe Siegel, O.S.A., will continue their studies next year and live at St. Augustine Friary. It is hoped that Bros. Carlos Rodriquez and Jack Tierney will profess vows on August 1st at Villanova and begin their studies at CTU and Formation at St. Augustine Friary in Chicago. 

 We will have 5 men entering the Novitiate in Racine in August from our Province: Fr. Joseph Broudou, Bobby Carroll, Sam Joutras, Jeff Raths, and Joe Roccasalva! It is expected that they will join 4 from California, 3 from Villanova (which includes one from Japan), and 1 from Canada for a class of 13!

 I continue to be grateful to God that we have a definite increase in vocations for our Province and Order.  Please keep these men in your prayers.

 Care for Retired and Infirm Friars

The Prior General of Augustinians Visited the Retired and infirm friars in Crown Point, Indiana

The Prior General of Augustinians Visited the Retired and infirm friars in Crown Point, Indiana

This continues to be a priority. Bellesini Friary at St. Anthony Home in Crown Point, Indiana is our main site when men need assisted/skilled care.  We currently have 4 men in assisted living and 2 men in skilled care there.  We also have one man at Mercy Circle in Chicago and one at Montereau in Tulsa—each according to their needs. We continue to strive to do our best to be faithful to the Covenant of Care approved at the Chapter of 2010. I am grateful to the Prior of Bellesini Friary, Bro. Jerome Sysko, O.S.A., and the Care Community for all of their efforts to assist our men in need of care. 

 Federation of Augustinians of North America

Fr. Michael DiGregorio, OSA (left); Fr. Kevin Mullins, OSA (Center); and Fr. Bernie Scianna, OSA currently lead the Federation of Augustinians of NOrth America

We continue to move along this long road of collaboration. I will be Prior of the Federation until Spring of 2016 when one of the new Provincials, Fr. Michael DiGregorio, O.S.A. of Villanova or Fr. Kevin Mullins, O.S.A. of California will be elected.  We also have a new Executive Director, Fr. Gary McCloskey, O.S.A., who continues to move us forward in our efforts.  In the past year, we have decided to have the Formation Gathering for all men in formation, and we have decided that first professions will be done together at the end of this gathering.  We are investigating the site of the novitiate and exploring the possibility of the M.Div./Theologate at Villanova University. Again, no decisions have been made at this time.  We are also in the process of doing strategic planning for the future together.  I am encouraged by the renewed efforts of the Federation. 

 Augustinian Advancement:  Continued Great Progress

Our Galas have been great successes, initially surpassing all the goals that we had set.  We have averaged a net profit of $100,000 per year, but in the midst of this capital campaign, we had a slight decline in revenue this year. Many of the attendees have already given a significant gift to our campaign! We will have our next gala to conclude the Jubilee Year on April 22, 2016 when we will have a Special Remembrance of the late Fr. Ted Tack, O.S.A., and honor Fr. Mike Slattery, O.S.A., and President of St. Rita High School, Ernie Mrozek.     

Augustinian Gala: Number of Guests

Augustinian Gala: Sponsored Tables

Augustinian Gala: Augustinians Attending


84% of attendees in 2015 were also there in 2013 and 2014.  The variance in net profits for this year is not only because of major commitments to our capital campaign, but four major sponsors from out of town were unable to attend.

The capital campaign, Continuing Our Journey of Faith, is in its final phase to raise funds for the Fr. Ray Ryan O.S.A. Trust (for vocation and formation needs) and for the Journey of a Lifetime Trust (for retired and infirm friars).  It has raised $2.8 million in gifts and pledges thus far.  We will need the cooperation of all our Augustinian Family to make this campaign successful and surpass our goal of $3.5 million by December 2015! 

Other ongoing efforts in Advancement such as the annual appeal, mission appeals, and appeals in our own parishes, as well as the upgrading of communication pieces and our website, continue to be successful.  We have more donors and volunteers and donors including us in their estate planning than ever before!

Augustinian Schools

All of our Schools are doing well overall.  There is some concern about enrollment with the current economic struggles of the middle class, and this is being addressed in many ways including the availability of increased financial aid.  Many of our schools have increased the values of their endowments in order to provide this aid to families in need.  I am very pleased with all of our schools.

Augustinian Parishes

We continue to do good work in the parishes that we administer for the various dioceses, and we continue to supply weekend help to many more parishes.  We are looking for creative ways to work with Bishops when we can no longer provide a Pastor but have men willing and able to provide sacramental ministry. One such arrangement is at St. Matthew Parish in Flint. As of July 1st, it will no longer be an “Augustinian Parish,” but part of a cluster of four parishes with a diocesan pastor.  However, our three friars will remain living in community at the rectory and will assist with sacramental ministry in the cluster of parishes. 

St. Rita Parish in Racine was notified that we are exploring options for the site of the novitiate. When they heard this, they were deeply concerned that we might leave the parish, and therefore the Trustees requested a meeting with me to discuss proposals for the daycare program and building concerns to see if we can come to an amicable decision for all.  I am grateful to Fr. Rich Young, O.S.A. for his willingness to leave his teaching assignment at Providence Catholic at the semester in order to take on the responsibility of Administrator at St. Rita in Racine.  This is a temporary arrangement until we come to some decisions about our future there.

The Augustinian Community in Racine, Wisconsin in April, 2015

We are also in dialogue with the Diocese of Joliet and the Archdiocese of Chicago regarding the possibility of some of our elder friars serving as Associates in parishes near our Augustinian Communities.  This way, they could continue to live in community while receiving a salary for pastoral ministry in a nearby parish without administrative responsibilities. I foresee a continued reshaping of this ministry within our Province and in collaboration with the other Provinces of the Federation. I am grateful to those who are willing to explore this creative new way of us doing Parish Ministry.    

Augustinian Missions in Peru

Our Vicariate in Peru continues to do well.  They have opened a new school in Trujillo and have purchased land for the building of facilities for the upper levels with financial support from the three U.S. Provinces of the Federation. The first phase of building will commence soon, and they hope to open on that campus in 2017.  They still need support in order to complete this project.  Also a new novitiate began in January 2015 at our house in Lima.  There are currently six circumscriptions from South America that are part of this program, and it is expected to go up to nine in the future. This is an excellent use of this house! 

The Augustinians Serving in the missions of Northern Peru, 2015

The dialogue with the two other vicariates in Peru regarding enhanced collaboration and eventual unification into a Province continued with a retreat of all members.  Sadly, one of the Peruvians from Apurímac, Vertura Mirand, O.S.A. died during the retreat at the age of 49.  He was one of the first members in the common formation program and was very much in favor of this current endeavor.  May he rest in peace, and guide this process with his prayers from heaven.   We should be very proud, as a Province, for the great success of the Diocese and the Vicariate that is on its way to being a Province under native Peruvian leadership!

Augustinian Canadian Province of St. Joseph

The Canadian Province, now completely under the Midwest Province, continues to have two communities with the help of members from Chicago, Cebu, and Nigeria.  Fr. Ronnie Custorio, O.S.A., from California has assisted for a few years, but has returned to California. I am grateful to a lay board in Canada that assists with temporal matters up north—several of them were affiliated to the Order during the recent visitation.  Ninian Marsh, O.S.A., and Blaise Pelrine, O.S.A., are now in a care facility near Marylake because we are not able to provide care for them in the monastery.  Leo Cameron, O.S.A., continues to reside in a care facility, Augustine House, next door to the parish in Delta. 

In Conclusion…

I would like to express my gratitude to all of you who continue to support me in the ministry of leadership to the Province and the Order.  It is this support, encouragement and affirmation that allows me to have the energy and enthusiasm to continue to be of service to our Augustinian Community. We have made much progress together and with your continued help and God’s blessings, we can do much more!  I have great hope for our future together and ask that you pray for me as well as for vocations!

Fr. Bernie Scianna, OSA

Our Mother of Good Counsel… Pray for Us!

Sincerely in Christ and St. Augustine,

Very Reverend Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D.
Prior Provincial of Chicago, Canada, and Chulucanas, Peru
Prior of the Federation of Augustinians of North America (FANA)


Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy has been working with the Augustinians in fundraising and communications since 2010. He began working with the Augustinian Vocations office in 2015. He also holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management.