On August 28, 2016, the Midwest Augustinians published a book to commemorate the Midwest Province's 75th anniversary. The books are being mailed out throughout the month of September and are also available for sale online. Patrick T. Murphy, the book's author and the Midwest Augustinians' Associate Director for Communications, reflected on writing the book over the past year.
In my past six years with the Augustinians, only a handful of the friars and supporters I have met might know that theatre was my course of study in undergraduate school. Studying theatre attracted me because it the craft requires a particular passion and creativity to bring stories to life. Acting and directing helps explore the voices and relationships that make up our human experience. I particularly recall one class where my directing professor declared something that stirred debate among my friends and me: the “great” theatrical works are about man’s relationship with God and the other works are about man’s relationship with man (or mankind). Reflecting back now that the Midwest Augustinians Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Book is published, his words echo a lot of the stories I’ve researched in writing the book.
Through the entirety of our lives on this planet, very few would argue that they have had a simple relationship with knowing God. Some have journeys of intense studies of scripture and theology. Others seek Truth through our prayerful dialogues with God. Augustine himself, the fourth-century bishop of present-day Annaba, Algeria, spent much of his life searching and getting lost. Perhaps this is why so many of us can relate to this man who lived so long ago. My directing professor would probably say, “Augustine’s story is great because it describes so perfectly the human relationship between God and man.”
When I began laying out the order of the Midwest Augustinians Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Book, I knew the story did not start 75 years ago in 1941. Truly, the Augustinian story begins in the fourth century with the birth of Augustine. Because for generation after generation and for centuries to follow, thousands of men and women have followed his footsteps. They followed his footsteps by bringing his Rule to guide their daily monastic lives throughout the Mediterranean in the first millennium. They followed his footsteps through many testing trials: continental wars and even a split within the Church spearheaded by none other than an Augustinian friar responsible for the Protestant Reformation. The story found its way to the New World as missionaries set sail for Peru, Mexico, and eventually a newly developing country we now lovingly call the United States.
It is not until Chapter Five that the book begins discussing the first 25 years of the Midwest Augustinians’ actual Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel. In this chapter, a smaller amount of readers will start to recognize the names of friars, schools, and parishes that first introduced us to the Augustinians. It is here that we start to see how our former minor seminary found its way to Holland, Michigan, after previously being burned down in Wisconsin. It is here that we start to hear the legendary names of Augustinians we see in old frames and books such as Father Francis Driscoll, O.S.A., leaving his post as Cascia Hall’s first headmaster. It is here that we witness how then-Father John McNabb, O.S.A., was summoned to serve 3,000 miles away in Latin America … certainly a place he did not plan to go! It is this chapter that we witness the first American Augustinians venture to serve a new mission only one mile away from the site where the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki only a few years beforehand.
In some of these chapters, we also expand upon that relationship “between man and man,” as my director professor would say. This relationship is illustrated as the multitude of agreements and even disputes between friars; it is also described in friars’ loving relationships with the ones they serve. The book demonstrates how time and time again a bishop needs help and seeks out the Augustinians. Inevitably, the Augustinians decide to pick up and leave a school or parish where they are no longer needed and answer another bishop’s plea to serve where the Church now needs greater amounts of holy men.
However, when the book does reflect on mankind’s relationship with mankind, one particular quote from Augustine comes to mind:
These words are as true today as they were written sixteen centuries ago. Humanity’s lives on this planet are filled with joy, pain, blessings, sins, friendship, and incredibly difficult decisions. However, the Augustinian way of life is to walk this journey toward knowing the Lord—this greatest relationship between mankind and God—together and in community. We rely on each other. We love one another. We love God and love our neighbor. I happily let my directing professor now know that with this book I’ve written just one story now, but its themes include both mankind’s relationship with God and mankind’s relationship with mankind.
It was both a joy and a challenge like none other I have experienced for me to write this book. It was an honor that I will carry with me through the rest of this life. Our Provincial and Editor of the book, the Very Reverend Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D., mentioned to me several times that even today, people are still talking about the “big blue book” that was compiled for the Province’s Silver Jubilee in 1966. He furthermore explained that when I’m 50 years older, approaching the age of 80, people will point to this book and look at our Province for the one snapshot in time that it presently is. In my research, it looked like there were decades of wanting a new book to chronicle our history as a province. I hope that this book can live up to that desire and the standards set before me.
Father Bernie also had one other great idea that I must mention here. As much as our book is filled with the stories that make up our Augustinian heritage, it also contains one appendix bursting with photos from the past and present. Looking back after all the hours of work put into this project, I am glad that Father Bernie encouraged me to put in a few more to capture these stills. I hope that when you review some of the pictures, you’ll agree with that old adage that each picture is definitely worth a thousand words. And if you’d humor me even further, you may also come to agree that each video included in the Diamond Jubilee Commemorative DVD is worth a million words.
The Diamond Jubilee Commemmorative Book has one appendix containing 82 full color pages from our history as an Augustinian Province over the past 75 years.
One other profound honor for me in authoring this book was giving a voice to the variety of voluntary contributions that are throughout the body of the book. This book was made as one grand way to publicly thank the hundreds of donors that contributed to the Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign between 2013 and 2016. For a book that chronicles our history, though, I asked our designer, the aptly talented Javier Solorio, to lay out the main content of the book specifically alongside the copy of each chapter. I have seen countless books that solely list donors in the back in its own section, and I think in most cases, that is an excellent way to illustrate one great grouping of support. For this book, though, it was important to emphasize that our supporters are as embedded on this historical Journey of Faith toward knowing God as the friars are. On nearly page in the book’s eight chapters, you will find some really meaningful words crafted by the diversity of our donors, as they are as deeply embedded in this great history.
The book is now available for sale in both hardcover and digital formats. We have an extremely limited supply of printed hardcovers, though, so if you want one, I encourage you to purchase one sooner than later.
So, please enjoy the story, the kind words from our supporters, and the many resources in the appendices found at the back of the book!