Augustinians in Ireland
EVANGELISATION: Orlagh Meeting. Words from the Provincial…
At our Chapter there was much consideration of the theme of Evangelisation. This discussion took many forms but the main thrust seemed to be that while we are good at catering for the ever decreasing needs of the faithful few who have always come and continue to come, largely devotional, traditional needs which we respect and serve well, we felt more and more isolated in our priories, unable, for many reasons, and not simply age, to reach out to those who casually came into our churches but not for liturgy, to reach out particularly to those who did not come in at all. There was a call for the Provincial and Council to address this issue. This call eventually took shape as a formal proposal which was voted and accepted by the Chapter as policy for the next four years.
Establish and implement a Province-wide programme of adult faith education, inspired by careful listening to the people we serve and grounded in the rediscovery of the teaching and person of Jesus,
After the Chapter we established our working group and with Seamus Ahearne OSA as chairman several very worthwhile meetings have taken place considering this topic. I want to thank the members of that group for the time and thought they have put into this endeavour.
As Augustinians, and I hope you won’t be offended if I say that I consider all of us as Augustinians, some of whom have taken formal vows in the Order and some of whom have not…but that’s another discussion…The task of evangelizing is not only at the heart of what we are called to do, it is one of the very reasons we exist. We are gathered by Jesus Christ to “…love God and then our neighbour.”
Our Rule of life tells us that “The main purpose for our having come together is to live harmoniously in our house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.”
“The purpose of the Order consists in this: that united harmoniously in brotherhood and spiritual friendship, we seek and worship God and work for the service of God’s people. In this way, we share in the Church’s work of evangelization bringing the Good News to the whole world “so that we may thus transform the world from within.” This is our witness.”
From this our Constitutions can say that we must observe the following: Our community life, our very being together serves a purpose:
“To exercise apostolic activity according to the needs of the Church and of society.”
Pope Francis has reflected on this work of evangelization consistently since he became our Pope. Recently he considered the parable of the steward going to the market place at intervals during the day and he asks us whether we will be there ready to answer the call to the vineyard, even at the eleventh hour? He cautions against complacency:
“From there comes the temptation of sufficiency and clericalism, to try to encode the faith in rules and instructions, as the scribes, Pharisees and doctors of the law did during Jesus’ time. We will have everything clear, everything in order, but the people of faith and those who are searching will continue to hunger and thirst for God.”
Whatever about the choice of day and time, (we are all tired I am sure after a long week’s work,) this evening offers an opportunity for us to share our thoughts and experiences in relation to this essential theme. It is an invitation for us to share our own experiences, our frustrations, our successes, our defeats, our ideas, our cracked notions of what might work. I hope we will encourage each other, stimulate each other, help you believe in what you are doing…encourage you as Pope Francis has encouraged the youth to be messy, to make a mess.
One thing I invited the friars to do at the Chapter…do something NEW. I now invite and encourage you to do the same…I am sure you will have the support of the friars and sure, even if not…give it a try. As a teacher for most of my life I spent it trying to stop kids being bold…I’m no longer a teacher…be bold, break the rules, create a mess…isn’t that what Jesus did?
As an Order in Ireland we are dying in our present form, but we will not go without a last shout…it may be the 11th hour but I believe the Master has come into our market place and hopefully with a task for us to complete before nightfall…let’s find it…let’s do it.
John Hennebry OSA