International Meeting of Secular Augustinian-Recollect Fraternities. Rio de Janeiro. November 13-16, 2023.

From November 13 to 16, the International Meeting of Secular Augustinian-Recollect Fraternities under the motto “Pilgrims to the Heart”, with 93 attendees from ten countries.

Almost a hundred members of the Secular Augustinian-Recollect Fraternity, together with the those in charge of the Fraternities in the Order and Provinces and various religious advisors, all of them coming from eleven countries, were summoned by the Augustinian Recollect Fabián Martín, counselor General in charge of accompaniment and attention to the Secular Fraternities, to this International Meeting of Secular Fraternities.

The prior general of the Augustinian Recollects, Miguel Ángel Hernández, as he was officially visiting the communities of Asia, was present on the first day through a video message. He encouraged those summoned to share what God does in their lives and to live responsibly and authenticity the vocation received. Likewise, he invited them not to resist the changes and news, allowing the Lord to do a new work in the Fraternity.

On this first day, some work groups and fraternization were organized so that everyone could meet each other and introduce themselves to the Fraternities from which they came. Next, frater Fabián presented the objectives of the Meeting, namely: sharing faith and the joy of living it together; present the experiences, experiences and testimonies of life within the Secular Fraternity; consolidate the Fraternity Itinerary; better understand the lay vocation; and build a synodal response to the new challenges of the Secular Fraternity today.

The Augustinian Recollect Sergio Sánchez, in charge of accompaniment and assistance to the Secular Fraternities of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, took charge of the presentation “Dreams that do come true”, whose objective was to mutually encourage each other to recognize the project that God wants for the Fraternities.

The Eucharist was presided over by Simón Puertas, vicar of the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova, host of the Meeting at its Saint Augustine Site. The motto of the Meeting was central: “Pilgrims to the heart.” He asked that “together we continue to journey along the path of faith, of hand of Augustine and the hand of the other saints of the Augustinian family”, in a journey celebrated in the liturgically feast of All Saints of the Augustinian Family.

This feastday also gave a special character to the night prayer vigil that closed the first day, full of elements of great significance: the paschal candle, the Augustinian litany or the image of Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki, patron saint of the Secular Fraternities.

The next day, everyone went to the famous Sanctuary of Christ the Redeemer of Cerro del Corcovado on pilgrimage. They celebrated the Eucharist and enjoyed the views over the entire capital of Rio, before heading to the Sanctuary of Fátima, where a Marian ceremony was held.

In the afternoon, various workshops were organized through five work groups. And, when dinner was finished, the first part of the “Fiesta de los Pueblos” ( Feast of the Towns) was celebrated, in which the cultures of the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Venezuela, the United States, Peru and Spain were presented.

On November 15, the day began with the Eucharist presided over by the Augustinian Recollect Rafael Castillo, of the United States vicariate of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, who encouraged everyone to share, back in their places of origin, everything learned in the meetings, coexistence and workshops of this meeting.

Gerardo René Gómez (Mexico) and Maricela Valles (Spain) gave the presentation “ Charismatic Identity of the lay Augustinian Recollect”, and they summoned the members of the Secular Fraternity to keep in mind in your daily pilgrimage three wisdoms typical of the Augustinian Recollect charism: interiority, community and ecclesiality.

In the afternoon the group workshops continued and ended with the Rosary of Light. And in the night, The Festival of Nations focused on Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil.

On the 16th, divided into five groups, the tasks focused on these five topics:

  1. Essential elements of the identity of the lay Augustinian Recollect.
  2. Use of Pilgrims training materials and proposals for new content.
  3. Formation of lay people for the Training School of the Order.
  4. Accompaniment by the spiritual assistants of the Fraternity.
  5. The transition from the Augustinian-Recollect Youth (JAR) to the Secular Fraternities.

The conclusions were presented in a plenary meeting to be analyzed and taken into account by the coordinating team. A closing Eucharist and food put an end to the Meeting, which published the following message that we transfer in full.

With our hearts on fire, we journey joyfully in hope

The lay Augustinian Recollects gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the occasion of the International Meeting of Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternities of 2023, we want to express and share with you the following message:

We thank God the merciful Father and the Order of Augustinian Recollects for having given us this beautiful opportunity to live with responsibility, joy, hope and authenticity the vocation we have received.

During these days, we have been able to appreciate in our brothers from other latitudes the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in each one of them. We have confirmed that the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity is a dream come true, a dream that we must protect, that we must constantly care for and feed so that it lasts over time and can be known and experienced by many other brothers.

We propose the objective of this International Meeting to con-celebrate the joy of being children of God guided by the same charisma; share life, experiences, faith; consolidate the process already advanced so as not to always have to start from scratch; understand the beauty of the lay vocation of the Augustinian Recollects; and, finally, build together a response to the new challenges that arise in the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternities of the entire world. Our pilgrim heart knows it is on its way, because we know where we come from, where we are and where we want to go.

With a restless spirit, we began by considering dreams as a horizon and we have realized that we want to continue dreaming the dreams of God in the style of Saint Augustine and the Augustinian recollection. We also understand that if we older people dream, it is the young who are called to prophesy (cf. Joel 2:28).

We are aware that winds of renewal are blowing in the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity and that these changes can bring fears because, in many cases, we have been accustomed to the same as always; maybe because we believed that was the best. But now we have become aware that the best sometimes comes to the detriment of the good and, therefore, we are determined to be the protagonists of the change that is constantly being asked of us in the Church.

We have broken down any resistance to the Spirit of the Lord and we want Him, who makes all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5), to also do a new work in the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity.

We have analyzed our mission in the world, but we do not want to remain external, but rather we have assumed the challenge of going deep into our hearts and rowing out into the sea; We have given ourselves enough time to listen to what each of our brothers had to tell us, with fidelity to the teachings of our holy mother, the Church, and to the teachings of our holy father Saint Augustine.

We have come to the conclusion that a lay Augustinian Recollect is one who, after an experience of personal encounter with the risen Jesus, becomes a pilgrim who:

  1. He pilgrim to his heart, where he recognizes his human misery and discovers the mercy of God. There he meets the Inner Master and, as a result of his conversion, he decides, with a burning heart: to know himself, accept himself and transcend himself.
  2. He pilgrim in community, together with other brothers, professing the faith and feeding on the Bread of the Word and the Eucharist, living with one soul and one heart directed towards God.
  3. He Pilgrim with joy towards other brothers in need of God’s love, and he does so with humility and with full confidence that we are called to be transparent about the tenderness of God in the world; With Saint Augustine we recognize ourselves fascinated by the sweetness of loving and being loved.

We are convinced that we are pilgrims, that our path is Christ, and that this path is the only one that, like Saint Augustine, will lead us to the one who is the only Truth and Life in fullness. We dream of a Secular Fraternity in which, although we have different languages of origin, we all speak the same language: love.

We want to be forgers of a Secular Fraternity that maintains its essence, that feels proud and responsible for being the repository of the Augustinian Recollect charism, but that also generates the necessary changes that allow it to adapt to new times, with docility, without any type of confrontation, but allowing the Lord to mark our steps to become a Secular Fraternity as He has dreamed of.

Meanwhile, in our constant pilgrimage, we commit to generating more and better spaces for fraternal dialogue among our brothers, so that the first thing we share is life itself. Therefore, we commit to:

  • take more care of our praying and sick brothers, whom we have had very present during all these days,
  • promote priestly, religious and lay vocations of the Order,
  • consolidate the dream of having a Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity communicated and integrated among all the countries that make it up through their respective National Councils,
  • tear down any wall that is separating us from our brothers who, feeling the call of our Augustinian spirituality or wanting to continue in it but in another stage of their lives, find in us a series of barriers to integrate into our great family.

Especially to the young people of the ARY, we want you to know that we are here with open arms to welcome you. You, who have discovered and experienced that always restless heart of Augustine since your youth, and have become forgers of a better tomorrow, will always have a special place among us. Now, as part of the great Augustinian Recollect family, and later, when you feel that the maturity of your lives has arrived, as brothers and sisters of the secular fraternities.

We would not like to end this message without thanking the General Curia of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova and all the friars who have accompanied us during these days for their hospitality, affection and total dedication.

We also express our special affection and eternal recognition to the International Team that has organized this International Meeting and who have made it, from any point of view, a success for the glory of God and our beloved Order.

May God our Father, through the intercession of Mary, Queen and Mother of Consolation, Saint Augustine, our father and Saint Magdalene of Nagasaki, our Patroness, shower upon each of you all possible blessings.

In Rio de Janeiro, on the 16th day of November 2023.