Augustinian order to focus on evangelizing Europe, youth

Rome, Italy, Aug 30, 2013 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Augustinian order is working on devising ways to evangelize secularized Europe and young people during the next few years, said members at the group’s meeting in Rome.

“Since we’re spread out in many different countries with many different governmental organizations, it’s important for us to stress our unity and the way we want to work together and present ourselves to the wider Church,” explained the order’s vicar general, Father Michael Di Gregorio.

He told CNA that the order aims to establish a new program for the next six years “to deal with issues that are relevant to us in our daily life, our ministry, to confront challenges as a religious community.”

As vicar general, Fr. Di Gregorio is currently leading the order’s “general chapter” in Rome until the new prior general is chosen.

Today is the second day of the order’s general chapter – a set of meetings that takes place every six years in which their head is elected and the new goals for the following years are established.

The gathering included an Aug. 28 Mass with Pope Francis at the Basilica of Saint Augustine in Rome.

Fr. Di Gregorio said that the Augustinians felt “greatly privileged” to have participated in the Mass, which he described as “very simple…but a very warm experience,” adding that the Holy Father “was very generous and hospitable to us.”

Setting goals for the next six years, the order will be particularly focused on evangelization in various regions of the world.

“We are trying to strengthen the mission in Cuba, and especially in Europe,” said Father Pedro Luis Morais on Aug. 30.

Fr. Morais told CNA that the previous general chapter several years ago had focused on extending the order of the Augustinians to different countries, including Korea, Vietnam and Czechoslovakia.

Now, the order wants to “focus on being closer to the people, especially to the young people, to be a sign of Jesus Christ and transmit the Gospel,” he explained.

These efforts must take into account cultural aspects of life in the modern developed world, noted the priest, who was born in Gijón, in Spain’s province of Asturias.

He added that the Augustinians will also be “trying to reorganize the order in some countries in Latin America, like in Brazil.”

Fr. Morias, who works in Madrid and was elected to represent Augustinians from Spain in the general chapter, took part in the Aug. 28 Mass with the Pope.

“It was really exciting,” he said. “That time with the Holy Father was for me a special moment of intervention from God in our lives.”

“He has invited us to be restless and to come out of ourselves,” he said. “To not be so centered in our own problems and to go to others and discover what their problems are because we need to somehow give them the message of salvation.”

He stressed that that “we need to take that Augustinian restlessness to our life so that we can be restless towards others,” adding that this task “is difficult” to put into practice.

“My main job is now in a residency for university students,” Fr. Morias explained, “and I’m also asking myself many questions” about how to put the Pope’s words in practice “concretely.”

At the same time, he reflected, “I need to transmit the spirit (of the chapter) to my brothers who have stayed in Spain.”

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