Father Ian Wilson, Assistant General of the Order for Northern Europe, visited the Provinces of Holland and Belgium over the final days of October
The primary purpose of his visit was to attend the provincial assembly, held on the 26th October in the city of Eindhoven. Fr Wilson had the opportunity to accompany the 11 friars who participated in the meeting. "It was a very pleasant meeting where there was time for prayer, to remember the five friars who have died in the Province during the last two years and, obviously, to remember our beloved Fr Paul Graham" (his predecessor as Assistant General for Northern Europe, and whose first anniversary of death will be marked in December).
Following his visit to the Netherlands, where he was accompanied by the Prior Provincial Fr Pierre Stikkelbroeck, Fr Ian was able to share with the General Curia office the main issues that are currently occupying the provincial leaders: firstly, how resources are being administered in support of both domestic and international projects, in particular the funding and collaboration with Belgium expanding the programme of studies on St Augustine at the Catholic University of Louvain; and secondly, the foundation of a new community of religious in Utrecht, which is planned to coincide with the reopening of the church of St Augustine which, after years of renovation work, is now anticipated to be on 3rd December 2023.
Reviewing seven centuries of history in Belgium
Two days later, and now in Ghent, the Assistant General was able to visit the historic convent of St Stefanus, founded in 1295. There, he was able to meet with Fr Martin Davakan, Provincial of Belgium, and the friars of the convent in a relaxed atmosphere of deep fraternal communion, as reported by the Province’s communication team.
The following day, Sunday, 29th October, after morning Mass and lunch, the Augustinian Fathers visited the friary of St Thomas of Villanova in Heverlee, Leuven. While there, he spoke with the students and novices about the formative itinerary they are mapping out, later reporting that, "there are nine in all, coming from Sudan, Togo and Vietnam. There are currently 46 friars in the Province." The day ended with a delightful stroll through the city and some relaxation time with the rest of the friars of the community.
Ian's last two days on Belgian soil were spent at the sanctuary of St Rita of Cascia in Bouge, Namur. "Plans are afoot to expand the shrine in the near future. It was very heartening to see so much movement of the faithful and such an active praying community," Fr Ian said.
After returning to Ghent for a final meeting with the Provincial and his Council to discuss the main challenges facing the circumscription, the Assistant General met the family of Marianne, administrative secretary of the Province and director of the Thagaste Centre in the city. Marianne and her husband, Gert, graciously welcomed the Provincial, his Council and the Assistant for a very lively family dinner during which the friars were able to share their thoughts on seeing Van Eyck's masterpiece, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, earlier that day...
"Belgium is a young circumscription which, led by Father Davakan and his Council, has put in place a good formation programme and which also has a clear vision of what this new and dynamic Province can become in the future," noted the General Councillor. "To my mind, they are building on an already rich Augustinian heritage, and they left me sharing their ambition and with a strong sense of hope for the Order in this part of Europe."