Guadalupe Centre, Union City, NJ.

The missions, social projects and solidarity actions are a constant in the action of the Augustinian Recollect Family. The Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine has always lived in mission, since its very birth was motivated by the opening of the first evangelization missions in the Philippines in the 17th century. Since then, he has carried out his evangelizing activity following the mandate of Jesus in the places today called “frontiers”: there where it is necessary to defend the dignity of human life, social justice, equal opportunities, the defense of the most vulnerable.

Migrations are some of the biggest and also darkest realities of globalisation. Sometimes for economic motives, on other occasions because of war, discrimination, or injustice, a good proportion of humanity lives far from home, with consequences for individuals and their communities in the fields of psychology, work, economy, religion, and society. It affects millions of people in every place, whether countries of departure, of transit, or of arrival. It presents challenges which the Church accepts and faces with a spirit of charity.

A migrant is someone in a very difficult stage of his or her life: their roots are up in the air, full of homesickness, in need of dignity,, work, and recognition, they are far from families and from their social, cultural, and linguistic surroundings. They also confront indifference, incomprehension, coldness, and sometimes exploitation, prejudices, and social exclusion.

For years, the province of St Nicholas of Tolentino has looked after immigrants. It has been in touch with Spanish migrants in Germany, Latinos in the United States, Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, Africans in Spain; Filipinos in Taiwan, Chinese in Spain. There are also internal migrants from rural areas to great cities such as Manaus and Fortaleza in Brazil, Mexico City, or Madrid, in the La Elipa neighbourhood from its beginnings and also looked after from the parish of St Rita since the 1960s.

The Province of San Nicolás has had three ministries dedicated to serve immigrants; two with Hispanics in two regions of Anglo-Saxon culture: the Latin American chaplaincy in London (United Kingdom) and the Guadalupe Center in Union City, Diocese of Newark (New Jersey, United States); and one for Chinese Catholics residing in Madrid, Spain.

a) Centro Guadalupe, Union City (New Jersey)

In 1911 some Augustinian Recollects were sent to study in universities in the United States, establishing the first presence of the order in that country. The first community, belonging to the Province of Our Lady of the Candelaria, was set up in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1917. By 1943 the Order had expanded and formed a new Province, that of St Augustine, which in 2018 will be uniting with the province of St Nicholas of Tolentino to form a new province.

The history of the Augustinian Recollects in the United States has gone hand-in-hand with Hispanic presence. The irruption of immigrants exceeded the boundaries of the Catholic Church in the United States, with its European roots. The recollects, from a Latin culture, were needed in various places. After long discussions, in its Provincial Chapter of 1969, the bi-cultural, bi-lingual Province of St Augustine, took the decision to dedicate itself chiefly to the Hispanic apostolate. In that same year, the Province of St Nicholas came to Texas and New Mexico, and, later, to New York and new Jersey. This geographical situation illustrates the link between ministries and the reality of immigration.

On 11th December 1999, the Guadalupe Centre was opened in Union city, on the Hudson River, a communications centre and exit for the Lincoln tunnel which unites Manhattan with New Jersey and Newark airport. It was a long-awaited event in a diocese where the Catholic Hispanic population is of crucial importance.

La Diócesis aprobó en 1989 el plan “Presencia nueva”, que incluía un centro para la integración de los líderes hispanos en las responsabilidades pastorales y sociales de la Iglesia. Fue una apuesta del entonces obispo, Theodore Edgar McCarrick, animado por su obispo auxiliar David Arias, agustino recoleto español, encargado del apostolado hispano hasta su retiro en 2004. Su pertenencia a la Orden determinaron que fuera elegida la Provincia de San Nicolás para hacerse cargo del nuevo Centro.

In 1989 the diocese approved the “New Presence” plan, which included a centre for integrating Hispanic leaders into the pastoral and social responsibilities of the diocese. It was an initiative of the Archbishop at the time, Theodore Edgar McCarrick, with the encouragement of his auxiliary bishop David Arias, a Spanish Augustinian Recollect, and the person in charge of the Hispanic apostolate until his retirement in 2004. His belonging to the Order made sure that the Province of St Nicholas would be chosen to take responsibility for the new Centre.

An agreement was signed in 1997 and the Augustinian Recollects started to run the parish of the Holy Family Parish and the Guadalupe Center.

They took over a former school that was refurbished throughout 1998, with eight classrooms, a cafeteria for 80 people, an auditorium, three conference halls for between 70 and 80 people, a library and a Spanish-language video room, and dormitories for 72 visitors. On the flat roof there was space for a stroll and for relaxing.

The Hispanic Catholic immigrants looked after in the Guadalupe Centre were Cubans (40%), Colombians (25%), Peruvians (15%), Ecuadorians (10%), Mexicans (3%), Spaniards (3%), Puerto Ricans (2%), and Dominicans (2%). Some 20% of them had problems with their legal status in the United States.

Acting together with the Hispanic Apostolate Office of the Archdiocese of Newark, the Centre hosted the Institute for Pastoral Formation with courses in theology, the Bible, catechesis, Church history, morality, patristics and teaching and practical aspects of pastoral work. The province provided professors from formation houses in Spain and Mexico. In addition, the Guadalupe Centre worked in conjunction with Hispanic formation centres throughout the United States.

The Guadalupe Centre complex included a Spirituality Centre with a capacity for 72 people on retreats, conferences, and meetings, Marriage Encounter groups, Cursillos of Christianity, schools of evangelization, charismatics, youth groups, and catechists.

The leadership of the Centre set the programme for activities. Among the problems identified were economic difficulties, which in the end would be the main reason for the closure of the Centre, and the lack of solid formation among the beneficiaries. Bur whilst it operated it was a reference point and a social catalyst for Hispanics

It was also a means for strengthening the province of St Nicholas in the United States. In 2001 the province opened a four-storey building, from which to look after the Guadalupe Centre, two Union City parishes (Holy Family and St Augustine), vocations work, the residence for aspirants to the Order and the headquarters of the Augustinian Recollect Secular Fraternity.

In 2013 the economic crisis, and the diocese’s lack of resources forced the Centre’s closure and the end of its activities. It brought to an end the province of St Nicholas of Tolentino’s co-operation in this field of the formation of Hispanic leaders in the Diocese of Newark. Nevertheless, the Province continued serving Newark in the two parishes of Holy Family and St Augustine.

Whilst the spiritual needs of Spanish-speakers has always demanded the greater part of the energies of the Recollects from the time of their arrival in the United States, the renewed emphasis on the Hispanic ministry is a result of the growing needs of the Hispanic population in the parishes, especially in Southern California, where the five parishes run by the Augustinian Recollects have an migrant population that can’t be ignored.

Two of these parishes, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Pilar, located in Santa Ana (Diocese of Orange), have Hispanic majorities, chiefly of Mexican origin. In Our Lady of Guadalupe, for example, all liturgical celebrations are in Spanish. Each Sunday, more than 18,000 people pass through the doors of these two parishes.

The parish of St Benedict and the parish of Christ the King are located in the Los Angeles area. They serve a big Mexican population, but here there is a presence of other people of different nationalities, Filipinos for example.

The parish of Mary, Star of the Sea in Oxnard serves a predominantly immigrant population: 50% Mexicans, 40% Filipinos and the rest from many other cultures, including Samoans, Koreans, Vietnamese, and Europeans.

In Suffern (New York), the monastery of Tagaste serves the Hispanic population of the area in a special way. There is a very diverse group of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Colombians, Peruvians, Guatemalans, and Spaniards. In the Recollect community they come together for their Sunday masses in Spanish, for meetings, youth groups, and celebrations of patron saints from their home countries.

There has been a notable effort of cultural adaptation and respect for people’s diverse practices. The feast of our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated with novenas and major events every December, as well as the posadas, for the Mexicans; in some of the parishes the Simbang Gabi and the Santo Niño are celebrated every year for the Filipinos.

Various social programmes have been set up, and these benefit especially the migrant population. The parishes provide foodbanks and co-operate with different Catholic social organisations offering legal , medical, educational, and work-related support. English classes are also available, as well as activities to favour integration.

Many immigrant parishioners are involved in social campaigns, such as pro-life action, environmental issues, and the rights of immigrants. This sort of activity normally takes place in conjunction with the diocese where the parish is located.

The bilingual ability of the religious (Spanish, English, Tagalog) favours the care of spiritual and social needs. The provision of religious services in different languages ensures that these parishes are full of life. You can hear people greeting each other in various languages, creating a rich cultural interchange of support , and also everything that reflects one’s own culture, such as food, music, and folk dances.

With regard to the parishes in Texas, the close presence of one of the most complicated national frontiers, and which has the greatest daily number of people crossing, between El Paso (Texas) and Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua), means that the task of the Catholic parishes has special and unique elements. The country is a kaleidoscope with dozens of cultures and languages that live together in peace and harmony, and the Catholic Church in the United States cannot be otherwise.

Latin-American Chaplaincy, London

In the capital of the United Kingdom the Hispanic emigration is relatively recent and diverse, with an economic motivation. They calculate that there are some 300,000 people, many arriving as tourists and students and who stay after the visa runs out.

London is divided into two Catholic dioceses, Southwark and Westminster. In both a large number of Latin Americans crowd together and are seen to be in predicament: they don´t have anyone who speaks Spanish. The Church turned to the Province of Saint Nicholas, who had for thirty years had houses in the country. They set up the Latin American Chaplaincy with Spanish religious and other British or Irish who had studied in Spain.

At the beginning the activity in the Chaplaincy was unsettled. Five parishes in the territories of both dioceses took in their meetings and celebrations. The chaplains made use of the network of public transport the houses, hospitals and prisons.

Very quickly the Chaplaincy took form and the Vicar of England, after years of reflection and discussion, decided to prioritize this ministry. There was a restructuration to attend to it from a stable base, in the same way as the other twenty national chaplaincies in London. The parish of Saint Anne´s, in the district of Vauxhall, in the diocese of Southwark, seemed to be the appropriate place as a permanent base: of multiethnic population, with good communication, ample facilities and a parish school included.

There are three factors that bring together the Latin Americans in London: language, culture and religion. Although they come from eighteen countries and different cultures, they feel the same about the local culture. With the overwhelming arrival of immigrants the necessities have become urgent, and especially that of information: places to meet, work availability, schools that accept their children, hospitals where they can be attended to, how and where to live their catholic faith, legal rights…

The Chaplaincy is set up as an ecclesiastical structure that supports them in these needs. It allows them to have place of reference to go to, which eases their group identification and their insertion into the larger society. One of the challenges is to maintain their own identity, more so when there are no times or places in which it can be expressed.

Each year, on the 12th of October, they celebrate Day of the Americas, with the participation of local political representatives and embassies; it also has been a custom the participation of religious authorities of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino. A festival which is united with religious celebration, that marks the annual encounter of those who during the rest of the year meet in smaller and more remote groups.

The Chinese chaplaincy in the Archdiocese of Madrid

The Augustinian Recollects opened their doors to the Chinese Catholic community on 25th September 2007, when the first Mass in Chinese was celebrated in the St Nicholas of Tolentino crypt in the Madrid parish of Santa Rita. The celebrant was the Augustinian Recollect José Yan Tao. The requests of several Chinese faithful, and the possibility of looking after them in their own language with native Chinese religious, gave impulse to this apostolate, starting from humble beginnings. At Christmas of that year another Chinese Recollect religious joined them, to work for the faithful coming from his home country. He was Juan Maria Guo Kunpeng.

The initiative worked, and the number of the faithful wanting to celebrate their faith and receive formation in their own language in Madrid grew. After several years of ongoing contact and increasing pastoral services, on 11th October 2012 the Archdiocese of Madrid officially set up the Chaplaincy for Chinese migrants within the Ecclesiastical Province of Madrid.

The principal centre is in the place where it had all started, the Augustinian Recollect parish of Santa Rita. There was an outpost in the parish of Christ the King, moved in 2016 to the parish of Our Lady of Solitude, in the Madrid neighbourhood of Usera. 55,000 Chinese live in Madrid, 6,000 of them in Usera, a real Chinatown within Madrid, transformed into a miniature replica of Chinese social and commercial structures, where any of life’s necessities can be satisfied without having to speak a word of Spanish.

In 2012, the Augustinian Recollects Juan Gao Haichang and Manuel Piérola Mansoa were appointed chaplain and assistant chaplain, respectively. Piérola is Spanish, but he lived 50 years in Taiwan. Gao continues the work of his two predecessors in taking care of the Chinese Catholic community in Madrid. Since 2015, the chaplaincy pastoral team comprises the Augustinian Recollects Guillermo Zhang Weilan and Juan Yang Zhenxi.

The chaplaincy responds to both social and pastoral needs. Apart from living and celebrating their faith, the Chinese within the chaplaincy can learn Spanish, ease their integration and improve their inculturation, express their personal feelings and feel themselves supported and listened to. It’s a fact that among the most serious difficulties experienced by the Chinese immigrant are loneliness, personal anxieties caused by family separation or work problems, and marital difficulties.

The chaplaincy runs various programmes to enable the faithful to live their faith. On Sundays, there is catechesis for children and for adults, music practice, pre-marital courses, Bible workshops, and occasional psychology sessions for couple with marital problems.

A variety of services are also offered, such as accompanying people to ensure they can be understood when they go to visit health facilities, translating documents, giving legal advice and guidance concerning social services, government help, and dealing with bureaucracy. Those in greatest need receive economic help. Finally, healthy leisure time is also promoted with community-building activities such as excursions, pilgrimages, and other events.