In September 2016, Augustinian leaders from around the world gathered in Abuja, Nigeria for the Order's General Mid-Chapter. The Mid-Chapter serves as a moment when Augustinians can evaluate the progress made on the Order's global impact on serving God's Church. It occurs halfway through the six-year term of the Prior General (the elected worldwide leader of Augustinians). Significantly, the Augustinians made history this year as they became the first mendicant order to hold a chapter or mid-chapter held on the African continent!
Here are the concluding remarks from our Prior General (the worldwide leader of Augustinians), the Most Reverend Alejandro Moral Antón, O.S.A.:
Dear Augustinian Brothers, Sisters and Laity:
Just a few days ago we concluded the Intermediate General Chapter of the Order, a meeting of two weeks of prayer, reflection and study on the proposed themes: a review of the program of the Ordinary General Chapter of 2013 (the approved determinations, which is the central task of the Intermediate General Chapter); vocations, formation (Ratio Institutionis); economy and the communion of goods; the structures of the Order, (with regard to this theme, the elevation to Vicariate for the Delegation of India stands out). We will send you soon information about these topics and the approved determinations, which will help you to have a more detailed view of what was discussed and the steps taken.
It was the first time that a Mendicant Order held a General Chapter in Africa! Our Order, despite the uncertainties with the issue of visas, or doubts (everything turned out positively) about the possibility of organizing such an event in the African country, took the step, conscious of the significance of the event itself. This event, which was made possible by the unconditional support of the Province of Nigeria from the very beginning. I dare to say the selection of Nigeria constituted for us a good decision and a prophetic gesture.
I emphasize the phrase, "prophetic gesture," because Pope Francis invites us "to be prophets to wake up the world." To be a prophet is what characterizes the religious person and the religious life. This, as the Holy Father says, is a non-negotiable. Rightly, he tells us that we are not trying to renew new utopias but rather to create places where the Gospel values are lived out.
The Order has wanted to be prophetic and has chosen to go out to the periphery. This is the reading of the Gospel that the Pope wishes us to carry out: to go out of ourselves; to go out from our secure structures and to take risks; to go out from myself in order to encounter myself with the brother or sister, in every community, because this continues to be the primary motive of my/our being an Augustinian: the encounter with the other person; to go out from my community in order to bump up against those who are lying by the side of the road. We must not fear to go out. "To go out" is an attitude that must constitute an important element of our being a religious. Without going out from ourselves we cannot have an encounter either with a brother/sister of God.
Africa is the continent of the passion of God. In such a place, one can feel the sorrow of God as well as the love of God. God is always beside his children, but, above all, beside the most poor and needy. Africa is one of the theological places where the presence of God is felt and rejoices. The one who discovers Africa is the one who discovers God, so that those who come there to announce the Gospel do not wish to return to their homelands.
So we also, during these fifteen days that we spent in Abuja, were able to feel the blessing of God. Through the acts of our brother Augustinians, we experienced God's love: deeds of solidarity, of hospitality, of welcome, of brotherhood. It was all an Augustinian presentation of encounter with one another and of kindness toward the members of the Chapter, who represented the entire Order. In this way, the Province of Nigeria has sent out a fraternal embrace to all the brothers of the Order. At the same time, we were able to enjoy special moments in the communities of the Province, which puts us in contact with the people, the laity, with the students of our schools, and with other ways of understanding life and celebrating faith: an encounter with other cultures that can teach us many things and important values.
Africa needs the Order of Saint Augustine and we need our African brothers and our African circumscriptions. God willing, as a result of this Chapter, we will all strive to live our communion more strongly! To live united as brothers, that is what gives meaning to our Order. To live in communion, united in charity, this is a prophetic sign, which as an Order we are able to offer to the people of today, and in a special way in Africa, the land of our Father, Saint Augustine.
My thanks to all the brothers who participated in the Intermediate General Chapter 2016 and my thanks to the Province of Nigeria for their support, their help, their generosity and their fraternity!
Thanks to all the religious brothers, religious sisters and laity, all the Augustinians for your prayers! Without that, without the presence of God, we would labor in vain in announcing the Kingdom, the Gospel.
I also ask your prayers of our Recollect Augustinian brothers who are celebrating their Ordinary General Chapter, as well as our Jesuit brothers who are participating in their General Elective Congregation.
A fraternal greeting to the entire Order on my part and on the part of all the brothers of the General Council.
The Most Reverend Alejandro Moral Antón, O.S.A.
Prior General of the Augustinian Order
Rome, General Curia
8 October 2016
Prot. n. 218/16