In September 2016, Augustinian leaders from across the world are congregating in Nigeria for the international Mid-chapter for the Order. The Mid-chapter serves as a time when provincials and other leaders can meet and evaluate the progress that the Augustinians are making on their six-year goals. Below are remarks from the Very Reverend Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D., who is the Prior Provincial of the Augustinians in the Midwest United States, Canada, and Northern Peru:
Hello From Abuja, Nigeria, Africa!
First of all, thanks for all the prayers and good wishes that I received from many of you! I must admit, I was a bit skeptical about this trip.
I arrived safely on Sunday morning after a full day of travel. We were greeted at the airport by some of our seminarians and taken to the Retreat Center where we will be in meetings for the 190th Chapter of the Augustinian Order! All of the leadership of the Order from around the world is gathered here for the next two weeks. I was happy to see that the Center was more than I expected. We each have a private room and bath. It has an AC unit and a fan, and WiFi ... when the electricity works! The infrastructure here has the electricity going off several times a day, but thank God it comes back on again (sometimes rather quickly and sometimes it takes a little longer). The hospitality of the Sisters who run this place, the Nigerian Province and especially the young men in formation is terrific! While I'm not always sure what is actually being served for meals, it rather resembles chicken!?! And while the compound that we are on is nice enough, just outside the gates is an extremely poor neighborhood in a third world country.
After an optional outing to celebrate the Opening Mass for one of our schools which I attended we had the Opening Mass for the Mid-chapter: the first to be held in Africa! The Prior General, in his homily, spoke about being stewards of the goods we possess, and that we must remember that all that remains is what is given away; what is not given away is lost. He continued on about the mutual sharing of goods which is part of our very identity, and encouraged us to let our hearts be touched, hurt, and deeply questioned by the reality that we see here, and that he hoped that this Chapter will help us convert our hearts to stand together with the poor and to be compassionate, administering our assets so that we can indeed share with the truly needy. He also mentioned our very own Fr. Ted Tack, O.S.A., who always reminded us that our mission is community, common life, and that common life cannot be lived without the mutual sharing of goods. Finally, he asked us to open the eyes of our hearts to recognize that we are walking Him, Who is the Love that never has left us, and to proclaim this Love to all with the fruits that this Love is working in us and in our communities when we share with our brothers.
In the first session of the Chapter, we were told that only one member, the Vicar of the Antilles, was not able to receive a visa. Five Provincials/Vicars were unable to attend, but sent delegates. The General Council wished to give them a vote, and the Chapter concurred.
A presentation was given by the Delegation Superior of India who requested the elevation of India to the Status of Vicariate which the Chapter approved and therefore gives them the right to vote in this Chapter.
I was elected to be one of the Moderators, along with John Hennebry of Ireland and Jose Guillermo of Argentina. These along with the Prior General, Assistants General, and Secretary General make up the Steering Committee of the Mid Chapter.
It was announced that the main themes of this Chapter are Vocations, Formation, and Finance. We will be working on updating the Ratio Institutionis, and also hearing reports from Circumscriptions from around the world. Some initial points of interest besides India being raised from a Delegation to a Vicariate was that England will be moving toward being a Province of suspended government under the Irish Province, and that Kenya, while rich in vocations and good works and have their first native Delegation Superior, is 100% dependent upon the Order for support.
The Prior General gave his opening talk where he spoke of his dream where Brothers where together in simplicity and humility committed to the Order and the Church! He thanked the Provincial of Nigeria for hosting this historic event and asked that we be aware of the emerging reality of the Order growing here even while it remains a place of contradictions and poverty. It is a place of values of sharing and solidarity that perhaps developed countries have lost. He also thanked Bishop Bob Prevost, O.S.A., for his presence here with us during this Chapter.
He said that our priority as Augustinians must be: To Live in Communion with Unity and Charity. If we do not do this, we cease to exist. We must be a Witness of Community!
He then spoke of his visits with the Communities around the world thus far. He is pleased with the collaboration among circumscriptions that work in Federations or Unions and on inter-circumscription projects such as common novitiates. Three recent ones are in Peru for 9 circumscriptions, Panama for 5 circumscriptions, and Philippines for Asia Pacific. He also thanked the Provinces who support a man in formation from a poorer circumscription at St. Monica's in Rome. The three USA Provinces all contribute one scholarship per year. He mentioned that we will be discussing the Augustinianum during this Chapter and that there has been changes in Augustinian personnel with some of the older friars no longer able to teach. He also mentioned that there is a new President. He spoke of the personnel and financial challenges of having so many places directly under the Curia. He mentioned that he has had good audiences with Our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He also mentioned a very positive gathering of the General Council with Pope Emeritus Benedict, who they thanked for his service and his inclusion of Augustine in many of his homilies and talks as well as giving us an Augustinian Cardinal.
I will send another update at the end of the week. For now, continue to pray for us here and be assured of our prayers for you.
Sincerely in Christ and Saint Augustine,
Very Reverend Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D.
Prior Provincial of Chicago, Canada, and Chulucanas,Peru