October 21 – Profiling of proposals prior to their approval

As has been customary, the day commenced with the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharistic celebration. Fray José David Niño Gómez presided the mass which was offered for the special intention of the Recollect Augustinian Youth and in grateful memory of St. Laura Montoya, a Colombian Catholic educator and missionary and foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St. Catherine of Siena.

 The first session in the morning included the approval of the Actas (Minutes) of the previous days, revision of some provisions of the Ordo Capituli particulary on the manner of presenting and voting for the proposals of restructuring, thus, giving way to more opportunity for dialogue and improvements.

 The rest of the morning was spent to group work by commission, focusing this time on the revision of its own proposals as well as those forwarded to it from other groups.

In the afternoon, the presentation of proposals by the Commission of Charismatic Identity and Governance, still in its first redaction.

Fray Pablo Panedas introduced to the Capitulars the DOCUMENTARY, “Augustinian Recollects in the Global World”, which makes a review on those very prominent places where the Recollects exercise their evangelizing ministry.

Finally, written modifications to the proposals of the commissions were distributed in the Chapter Hall. After receiving the papers, the commissions proceeded to their assigned places to continue their work.

 

October 22 – All prepared for the Monday’s voting sessions

A Saturday, this day was tagged as one of the most intense days of the 55th General Chapter with the meetings of the commissions, plenary sessions both in the morning and in the afternoon, and last meeting in the evening in order to finalize the details before voting starts on Monday.

The day opened with the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours and the celebration of the holy mass presided by Fray Lauro Larlar, and for the special intention of all the “Mother Monicas”.

The commission meetings dwelt on making the finishing touches on the groups’ respective proposals as well as revising those from other commissions. Later in the Chapter hall, the discussion on the first redaction of proposals to be presented by the Commission on Restructuring would take place, addressing, among others, the issues on the reconfiguration of secretariats and other organs of governance and administration of the Order.

In another plenary assembly, the Final Message and the motto of the Chapter were analyzed as these will serve as reference point for the Life and Mission Project of the Order.

Having closed the third week of the ongoing General Chapter, it is augured that the coming week will see everything put in place. It will be a moment that will signal the start of the voting phase in order to approve the proposals of every commission. Another important moment will be the election of those holding the positions in the General Government, with the Prior General as head for the next six years.

 

October 23  Relaxing on a Sunday

Note: Our parallel sources informed us that the Capitulars went to Ostia Antica and marveled at the remnants of ancient Ostia as a city during the 6th cent BC. They recalled that it was here where St. Monica died in the 4th century A.D.

 

October 24  Decisive moments unfold

In the morning of the first day of the last week of the Chapter, voting started for the various proposals formulated by the commissions. The first set of proposals presented and subjected for voting were those of restructuring, which includes the configuration of the provinces of the Order and the organs of the General government and administration.

In accordance with the Ordo Capituli, there are two types of votes: 1-when it deals with election; 2-when it deals with the approval of a theme.

If it deals with election of any religious to occupy a position, in or outside the Chapter, the voting is made through a piece of paper in which the name of the nominee is written.

  1. If it deals with the approval of any issue proposed to the assembly, voting could be made through a piece of paper, electronic system, ballots, or any equivalent means.
  2. The themes proposed for the consideration of the assembly are voted on using the words: YES / NO / IM (IUXTA MODUM, or YES with modification).
  3. The themes proposed for the consideration of the assembly will be approved only when the absolute majority is reached.
  4. IM (IUXTA MODUM, or YES with modification) votes are counted as positive; but when a proposal has reached the absolute majority required with such votes, this proposal will be returned to the respective commission or to whoever proposed it for revision.
  5. Those who give “YES with modification” votes should present in writing their proposed changes to facilitate the revision.
  6. The revised proposal will be presented again in the Capitular assembly. In this case, the capitulars will only vote on either YES or NO. The proposal will be accepted if the absolute majority is reached; otherwise it will be discarded.

THE GENERAL CHAPTER APPROVESTHE INTERNAL RESTRUCTURING OF THE ORDER

In the afternoon, the Chapter, guided by a sense of Order, has approved the internal restructuring of the OAR. In order to achieve an authentic Augustinian Recollect experience, boost the fraternal life in common, undertake the mission entrusted to us by the Church, and be where we are most needed, the 55th General Chapter has decided to organize the Order into four (4) provinces:

PROVINCE 1: the merging of the Provinces of St. Augustine and St. Nicholas of Tolentine

PROVINCE 2: the merging of the Provinces of Consolation and Candelaria

PROVINCE  3: the merging of the Provinces of St. Joseph, St. Rita of Cascia, and St. Thomas of Villanueva

PROVINCE  4: Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno whose presence will be extended in a new country in Asia

October 16

The Capitulars took a refreshing trip to Gennazzano, a town in the Province of Rome that lies at 1,230 feet above sea level. They visited a famous church and entrusted the 55th General Chapter to the loving care of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio (Our Lady of Good Counsel).

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They also had the opportunity to visit the chapel where the remains of Blessed Stephen Bellesini, a friar of the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine, lies. An apostle of the youth and education, he was for a time a Novice Master, and later was transferred to Gennazzano, home to the miraculous fresco of Our Lady of Good Counsel, for whom he had a great devotion.

The Capitulars entered the sanctuary through the Holy Door, celebrated the holy mass, and closed the visit by praying at the image of the said miraculous Lady.

October 17

Towards the end of the previous week, the different commissions guided by the light of revitalization labored to expound the proposals that shall guide the future of the Order in the forthcoming years.

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Implied in these were the renewed lines of actions and structural changes that require strong basis in our proper and universal norms i.e., those of the Order and of the Church. Consequently, there was a need for an expert in Canon Law who will help shed light on various possibilities. This task was especially entrusted to a commission that made a report during the morning session. Fray Ricardo Daniel Medina OAR, a canon lawyer and one of the advisers of this General Chapter, replied to the questions that the Capitulars raised concerning the different possibilities in the configuration/restructuring of the Order.

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The afternoon session was dedicated to the works of the commission. The members continued to focus on defining their respective proposals, commenting and assessing those of the other commissions. It was a matter of methodology that enriches and concurs the decision taken by the Chapter. Observably, the day’s schedules were enthused by the inspiring words of Cardinal Braz de Aviz who presided the holy mass.

October 18

In the morning, the DECISION PHASE began. In accord with the Ordo Capituli, the commission secretary will report to the plenum the proposals approved by the commission.

During the presentation of each proposal, the other commission secretaries as well as the vocals (i.e., the Capitulars) will have the opportunity of making their observations, of opposing, or of completing it. After a proposal has been thoroughly discussed, the commission is given ample time to weigh the opinions heard and to take those that create positive impact.

Afterwards, the commission will present again in the session hall those proposals that have been discussed and revised. The commission secretaries and electors can now air briefly their opinions regarding the proposed ordinances. During the discussion, each proposal is subjected to voting. If there is another alternative text proposed by another commission or by any of the electors, the text of the presenting commission is given preference and must be voted on first.

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If an ordinance is approved by absolute majority of affirmative votes, the said proposal will form part of the Life and Mission Project of the Order. If a proposal attains the absolute majority of votes, thanks to IM (Iuxta Modum or Yes with modification) vote, the said proposal will be returned to the commission. This commission will study the suggestions and approaches received in the hall, but it has the faculty to accept them or not, according to its view.

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Whatever may be the choice, the said proposal will have to be presented again to the session hall and to be subjected again to a vote. This time, the vote will only be either Yes or No. If in the new voting the proposal receives an absolute majority, it will be among the ordinances; if not, it will be discarded.

A discarded proposal, however, could still be reconsidered in the Chapter hall if a third of the Capitulars will ask for its reconsideration, and such reconsideration is accepted by absolute majority of the Capitulars. In this case, the commission will again present the proposal in the plenary assembly, following the same mechanics in other proposals.

October 19

Note: There was no specific publication of any particular event for this day. We just surmised that, from experience, the “very engaging” DECISION PHASE continues to sizzle… that is to say, the per-commission presentation of proposals and the ensuing debate and voting characterized the sessions of the day.

October 20

Today marked the celebration of the feast of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki, a Japanese martyr and patroness of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity. On this occasion, the Prior General, Fray Miguel Miró, sent his greetings to the SARF all over the world.

In a special way, the day saw the encounter of 60 Recollects (the Capitulars and the student-priests at Via Sistina) with Pope Francis. The excited visitors were received at the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Palace. Fray Miguel Miró, Chapter President, delivered his greetings to the Holy Father, expressing the renewal of the Order’s vocation in the service of the Church. In the words of the Pope, on this encounter “they have wanted to change and offer to God the life of the Order, with its hopes and challenges, in order that He be the One to give them light and hope.”

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With his warm welcome and gratitude to the Prior General, for the kind words addressed to him, and in the name of the entire Augustinian Recollect Family, the Bishop of Rome stressed that “to seek for renewal and motivation, it is necessary to return to God.” And, transfixed by his love to be able to love and to confront the current challenges, walk with Jesus, in prayer of thanksgiving and interior purification.

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Pope Francis invited the Augustinian Recollect Family “to maintain with renewed spirit the dream of St. Augustine to live as brothers ‘with one mind and one heart’ (Rule 1,2), which reflects the ideal of the first Christians and to be a living prophecy of communion in our world, that there may be no division, nor conflicts, nor exclusion; instead concord reigns and dialogue is promoted.”

The visit included the giving of a souvenir to the Pope: a painting by Fray Jaazeal Estelou Jakosalem OAR, entitled “Embrace of Mercy”, and a special edition of the two volumes of History of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, authored by Fray Angel Martínez Cuesta OAR.

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Fray Jakosalem’s oil-on-canvass painting shows the image of Pope Francis embracing the Christ-child (after the image of Alan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian refugee who died by drowning along with his mother and brother in the Mediterranean Sea, his iconic image brought increased attention and concern about the European refugee crisis).

“Embracing Mercy” symbolizes the Church's “motherly” attitude on the plight of the refugees; and Pope Francis personally lived it as his own advocacy. In the face of this global crisis, the Church embraces the many faces of injustice brought about by poverty, neglect and indifference of rich nations.

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The two tomes written in Spanish of the History of the Augustinian Recollects are the summit of the project started years before and entrusted to Fray Ángel Martínez Cuesta. In the prologue of the Volume 2, the Prior General says that “from now on, the two volumes of this History of the Augustinian Recollects are not only books of the library. In them our history is narrated and they are references for all who like to know our roots and our mission in the Church.”

The gesture of giving our History to the Pope intends to be a renewal of our Order’s commitment to the mission of the Church entrusted to the Augustinian Recollects, and a manifestation of our availability to go where the Church needs us.

Pope Francis personally received the framed artwork "Embracing Mercy" from a Filipino liturgical artist at the Sala Clementina, Vatican City, Rome after the special papal audience granted to the Augustinian Recollects who are participating in the 55th General Chapter last October 20, 2016.

This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father received the sixty members of the 55th General Chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, the theme of which is a prayer of St. Augustine: “All my hope lies in Your great mercy. Command what You will and give what You command”. This invocation, affirmed Francis, leads to being “men of hope, capable of placing all our trust in God’s mercy, aware that we are incapable of facing alone with our own strength the challenges that the Lord proposes to us. We are small and unworthy, but God is our security and joy; He never disappoints us and He is the one Who leads us on mysterious paths with fatherly love”.

In their General Chapter, the Augustinians wished to revise and put before God the life of the Order, with its hopes and challenges, so that it is He Who gives them light and hope. As the Pope observed, “to seek renewal and impetus it is necessary to turn to God, and to ask Him, ‘give what You command’. We asked for the new commandment that Jesus gave us: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another’ and it is what we implore: His love so as to be able to love. … God is always giving us this love and He is always present in our life. Let us look to the past and give thanks for the many gifts received”. We take this historical perspective, Pope Francis emphasised, in the hand of the Lord, because it is He Who gives us the key to interpret it; it is not about no longer making history, but rather discovering the presence of the Lord in every detail, in every step of life. The past helps us to return again to the charism and to appreciate it in all its freshness and fullness. It also gives us the possibility of underlining the difficulties that have emerged, and how they can be overcome, so as to face current challenges, looking to the future. This journey alongside Jesus becomes a prayer of thanksgiving and inner purification”.

The grateful memory of this love in the past “impels us to live the present with passion and with ever greater courage; then we can ask, ‘Command what you will’. To ask this implies freedom of spirit and willingness. Allowing oneself to be commanded by God means that He is the master of our life and that we have no other; and we know well that if God does not occupy His rightful place, others will do so. When the Lord is the centre of our life, everything is possible; there can be no failure, nor any other evil, because He is at the centre, and it is He Who guides us”.
In this special moment, He asks us to be His “creators of communion”. We are called to create, with our presence in the midst of the world, a society able to recognise the dignity of each person and to share the gift that each person is for the other. With our witness of community, living and open to what the Lord sends us, through the breath of His Spirit, we can respond to the needs of every person with the same love with which God has loved us. Many people are waiting for us to reach out to them and to look at them with the same tenderness we have experienced and received from our encounter with God. This is the power we bring: not our own ideals and projects, but rather the strength of His mercy that transforms and gives life”.

Francis concluded his discourse by inviting the participants in the Chapter to uphold with renewed spirit St. Augustine’s dream of living as “brothers with one heart and one soul, that reflects the ideal of the first Christians and is the living prophecy of communion in this world of ours, so that there is no division, conflict or exclusion, but that instead harmony and dialogue may reign”. He commended the intentions and projects of the Order to the protection of Our Lady, that she might guide and protect them, asking them to pray for him and to transmit his blessing to the whole Augustinian Recollect family.

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