We were pleased to welcome to our Sunday masses this weekend (8th April) the Provincial of the Augustinians in Britain, Fr Robert Marsh OSA. Fr Marsh was one of the very first Augustinians to serve at St Joseph's back in 1995, and it was great to have him back with us for the day in his capacity as Provincial of the Order.
He stayed for a cup of tea and a chat with some parishioners after the 11am mass, remarking how pleased he is to see that the parish is still growing and developing. He noticed the significant changes which have taken place in the parish since he served here, including the building of the hall extension.
We are also pleased to welcome the Prior General of the Augustinians, Fr Alejandro Moral from Sunday afternoon until Monday. He flew direct to Broomhouse from Rome, marking the first leg of a routine visit of all the Augustinian parishes in the Province of England & Scotland. Fr Moral will be present at the 9.30am mass on Monday morning and will meet parishioners afterwards. He will then visit the parishes in England throughout the rest of the week.
Sixteen Augustinians, nine friars and seven sisters, are currently doing an eleven-week renewal course in Rome (22 January-7 April 2018), organised by the Institute of Augustinian Spirituality, an arm of the Curia that promotes the spirituality of the Order. The course comprises nine weeks of lectures followed by a pilgrimage to Augustinian sites at Lecceto, Montefalco and Cascia, and a retreat in San Gimignano, over two weeks. Our Parish Priest, Fr Paul Graham, was invited to give them a one-week seminar (ten hours), 12-16 February, on The Contemporary World and Society.
The participants were from nine countries, including two Chinese friars. Fr Augustine Peng is a professed Augustinian belonging to the Vicariate of the Orient, which comes under the Spanish Philippines Province, and is a parish priest, on his own, in Hunan Province. Bro. Huyao Zhang is from northern China and was for a while with four other candidates with the Vicariate of the Orient in the Philippines. When they left, he transferred to the Australian Province, where he is now a seminarian. He speaks excellent English. He said a number of young men from his home area, where there is relative religious freedom, are keen to join the Order.
With sisters and friars from countries as varied as Indonesia, India, China, Nigeria, Kenya, Poland, Hungary, the USA, including a Nigerian friar working in Algeria (Annaba), the seminar sessions provided a number of interesting perspectives on the contemporary world, not just the familiar European and North Atlantic one - a reflection of the changing nature of both the Order and the Church. In fact, the number of African sisters and seminarians in Rome is now very noticeable. Of the seven friars in the first-cycle of studies in St Monica’s, five are from Africa and two from Brazil. And the majority of student priests are from Africa and Asia.
Fr Paul writes:
"This was my third time giving the seminar, and I have varied it each time. On this occasion, I found a greater clarity in my own mind about how as Augustinians we should be relating to the contemporary world. Like Augustine, as exemplified in his own pastoral and intellectual work, we should be critically engaged with the world around us, the position put forward by Pope Francis, especially in Evangelii Gaudium, but meeting with considerable resistance in some quarters of the Church.
A best-selling book in the United States, The Benedict Option, is advocating that Catholics should live at a distance from contemporary western society which is perceived to be amoral, relativistic, and corrupt. The only viable option for devout Catholics, therefore, is to retreat to semi-monastic bunkers of like-minded conservative Christians, in the mistaken notion that this is what St Benedict did in order to save European civilisation in the so-called Dark Ages.
This is not the Augustinian option, which is perhaps best expressed by the British theologian Adrian Hastings: ‘We are faced... with an Augustinian predicament. When the Vandals are at the gates, there are three possible responses. One is simply to despair… of any ultimate meaning in the world or in human history; the second is to withdraw into a private sacral sphere, a closed community, monastic or charismatic, abandoning the struggle for the secular state as irredeemably corrupt; the third is to imitate Augustine himself, take the sombre view, but also the very long one, and retain in hope, but without much evidence, a Christian concern for the ultimate redeemability of the totality of things’ (A History of English Christianity 1920-1985, London, 1986, p.660).
Hastings perceptively observes that a great many seem to be succumbing to the first and second options, not so many to the third, which he describes as ‘the long haul of the genuine Augustinian’. "
The Augustinian Province of St John Stone of England and Scotland are hosting a vocations discernment weekend at our sister parish of St Mary's in Harborne, Birmingham from 26-28 January 2018.
The weekend is open to both men and women aged between 18 and 35. Are you considering a vocation to religious life, or do you know someone who is? Why not encourage them to come and see. Spend some time in prayer, reflection, fun and allow the Holy Spirit to get to work.
Anyone wishing to take part should contact Br Gladson beforehand. For more details, click here.
And as a parish, we continue to pray that the mission of our Province Vocations team will be fruitful. One Mind and One Heart in God.
Congratulations to Br Gladson Dabre OSA, who was ordained Deacon in St Joseph's Broomhouse on Saturday 21st October 2017.
Br Gladson's Diaconate Ordination comes not long after professing his Solemn Vows as an Augustinian, at St Monica's Church, Hoxton. It is his final step before being ordained to the priesthood. Ordination to the Diaconate means he can carry out certain rites in the church, including baptisms, weddings and funerals. Deacons are also eligible to preach, and Br Gladson delivered his first homily with confidence and style, signalling great things to come in the future.
He was ordained by Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, Bishop of Lancaster, in front of a packed church and his fellow Augustinian colleagues. In true Broomhouse style, it was followed by a parish celebration.
Br Gladson has taken up residence at St Augustine's Priory in Hammersmith, where he has been appointed as Vocations Director for the Augustinians in the UK. He will be instrumental in the running of the Augustinian Vocations Discernment Community in London, with the aim of hopefully recruiting more young men to the Order and prolonging their service in their various parishes in the UK.
As a parish, we wish Br Gladson well in his new ministry. We know his role as Vocations Director will involve much travelling back and forth, so are certain he won't be a stranger.
Br Arthur Bolivar OSA, who made his Solemn Profession at the same time as Br Gladson will be ordained a Deacon on Sat 18 November 2017 in St Mary's Church, Harborne. We also keep him in our prayers.