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 is the second update 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. (You can also click here to read Father Bernie first update.)
Greetings again from Abuja, Nigeria, Africa!
We have completed a week of meetings with the Leadership of the Order! Thankfully the weekend was mostly free of meetings, but there are always side meetings that fill up some of the free time during the breaks, after dinner, and even on the weekends! Besides the daily brief Steering Committee meetings which I am serving on, I have had the following side meetings during this first week:
- Meeting with the Prior General and Vicar General to discuss some Province business. Fr. Joe Farrell, O.S.A., had already agreed to being at our Convocation [gathering of Augustinians from across North America] in June of 2017, but now Father Alejandro [the worldwide leader of Augustinians] has agreed to be there for the first part of it on his way to Colombia. We also looked at tentative and unofficial dates for our Province Chapter in June 2018 which the Prior General wants to attend. They also asked if the Province would continue its scholarship for a student at Saint Monica's this year [several Augustinian provinces from around the world financially sponsor one Augustinian from a developing country to study at Saint Monica's International College in Rome]. Fr. Edwin from Kenya, who we supported last year, has completed his license in dogmatic theology and will be returning to Kenya. They will propose another student priest for us to consider sponsoring. This is in line with the discussions that we are having at the Chapter regarding Sharing of Good and Being in Communion across the Order.
- Meeting with the three Vicars from Peru and their respective Provincials as well as the Vicar General and Assistant General for Latin America to discuss the progress of the Federation there and the movement towards Unification. There seems to be a few road bumps along the way, but we left encouraging them to address the obstacles and to continue to press forward, recognizing that they have done a great deal of work already.
- Meeting with the new Vicar of India and his Provincial from the Province of the Philippines (Spain) to update them on Father Antony Benedict's process of incardination with the Archdiocese of Chicago.
- Meeting with the Provincial of Nigeria to discuss the eventual return of Fr. Jacob from Marylake Monastery in King City, Ontario, to Nigeria and the possible replacement for him to go to Marylake to assist at the Shrine and possibly to study there. He expressed his gratitude to our Province for sponsoring Fr. Emmanuel during his year in the formation course at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
- Meeting with my Vicar, Father Fidel from Peru (with Bishop Bob Prevost translating), to discuss the project of building the new Augustinian School in Trujillo. We will discuss this at the Augustinian Secondary Education Association meeting in Tulsa and at the Council Meeting in October to see what sources of funding might be available.
Regarding the cultural experiences in Nigeria, we were visited by a group from our parish on Friday evening who performed several different dances from areas of Nigeria. On Saturday we took a tour of the city of Abuja. It is interesting that the main Christian church and main Muslim mosque are just down the street from each other. We visited the Christian church but were not allowed to visit the mosque. We also visited a cultural craft center with little huts where native artwork was displayed and sold. On Sunday, we attended Mass at our Augustinian parish, St. John of the Cross, in Mararaba. It lasted three hours and included a great deal of singing, dancing, and clapping. As we were processing out, everyone wanted to touch the priests or have us bless their children. This included all the way down the aisle and outside where they were line up all the way to the friary. While they were hemming in on all of us, there was plenty of security to keep an aisle open, but you should of seen when the Bishop, Bob Prevost, walked out ... they were all pushing to get his blessing and touch him! We then had a lunch with all the Augustinians and representatives from the different parish groups. On the menu was grilled goat and catfish soup! While I did try the goat, I passed on the soup! The youth group then concluded with a few more skits and songs and dances for us. It was a very joyful and memorable occasion!
We will get back to work first thing on Monday morning and move toward forming proposals from our discussions. During one of the final sessions of last week, we were asked to share moments of hope and advocacy from the various circumscriptions. It was very inspiring to hear what our brothers are doing around the world! Some things that were shared from the United States were:
- Increase in vocations with young men who are bright, personable, and spiritual and also interested in thinking outside of the box like Brother Jack Tierney, O.S.A., who is studying for a degree in Public Policy so as to be able to understand government systems and therefore more able to be an advocate for the poor.
- Fr. Tony Pizzo's work with the poor to try to keep their homes during the foreclosure crisis as well as his continued work with immigration issues.
- The cause for the canonized sainthood of Fr. Bill Atkinson, O.S.A., which has received attention from people with disabilities as a model of hope.
- The Center for Peace and Reconciliation at the St. Rita Shrine in Philly.
- The Augustinian Volunteers and their work with the poor.
All in all, it has been a good experience thus far, but as Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz ... "There's no place like home!"
Looking forward to returning home at the end of the week!
When I travel, I am always reminded of the many blessings that we have at home, but that we so often take for granted!
Please continue to pray for us and be assured of my prayers for you!
Very Reverend Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D.
Prior Provincial of Chicago, Canada, and Chulucanas,Peru