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Fr Márzio, Secretary General of OALA: "We feel called to be signs of hope and committed"

The Secretary General of the Organization of the Augustinians of Latin America and the Caribbean, Fr Márcio Antonio Vidal de Negreiros, tells us in detail the points discussed at the last assembly held in the Province of Michoacán at the end of April

The Organization of the Augustinians of Latin America and the Caribbean (OALA) celebrated 54 years of history and mission in April of this year. On this occasion and in this context, fraternally hosted by the Province of Michoacán, the XX General Assembly of OALA was held in Moroleón, Mexico, from the 24th to the 28th of April. Participating in this General Assembly were the Major Superiors of the circumscriptions of the Latin American and Caribbean continent, the Basic Delegates of the Provinces, Vicariates and Federations, the Prior General, the Secretary General, the Assistant General for Latin America, the Secretary General of OALA and the members of the Board of Directors; as well as some guests, such as Monsignor Luis Marín de San Martín, Father Miguel Ángel Keller and Mrs. Hersilia Flye, representative of OALA for the Latin American and Caribbean continent, the Secretary General for Latin America, the Secretary General of OALA and the members of the Board of Directors. Hersilia Flye, representative of the Laity of Latin America, and Father Tony Pizzo, Prior Provincial of the Chicago Province.

How does the OALA work?

Every four years the Augustinians of the continent meet to evaluate the activities and projects developed in the various areas and technical commissions. They also elect a new Secretary General and a new team of coordinators who make up the so-called board of directors of the Organisation. At the same time, this meeting is an occasion to plan new lines of action in the different fields of the Augustinian apostolate.

The main objectives of OALA are based on a threefold mission, as indicated in the Statutes.

In the first place, the Critical Mission by which the global presence of the Augustinians in Latin America is reviewed. The Critical Mission consists in foreseeing the great currents of society with a prophetic spirit in order to enable the Order to better serve and adapt itself to the irreversible changes. It is at the same time a denunciation of what is preventing us from being faithful to our radical liberating vocation.

Secondly, the Mission of Animation in the regime of communion, trying to sow, to stimulate, to support, to align our whole life to the living relationship with the Church and with the local churches.

Thirdly, the Mission of Coordination, uniting forces, uniting all the brothers and sisters of Latin America and the Caribbean beyond the limitations and juridical circumscriptions. And all in order to serve the common task of the Church, to which we have been called, keeping the balance between our internal family communication and the incarnated communication that our Church and our specific environments demand of us.

Starting from this triple mission, the coordinators of the areas of Education, Initial and Ongoing Formation, Urban and Missionary Ministry, Youth and Vocational Animation, Justice and Peace and the technical commissions of History, Communication and Spirituality and Continental Animation, choose proposals and projects of action which should be integrated and promote the dynamization of the Augustinian apostolate in the diverse areas where we are present.

What have these last few years been like for OALA?

The last four years have been marked by the challenges that arose out of the covid-19 pandemic, and which hindered the implementation of many planned projects and activities. On a positive note, however, the pandemic did accelerate some changes and technological advances that enabled greater proximity through meetings, gatherings, courses and celebrations carried out online, removing distances and borders. After the most critical period of the pandemic, it was possible to carry out some face-to-face activities and realise some of the planned actions.

In this 20th Assembly, various reflections and themes were presented that speak of our life and mission as Augustinians. Among these issues on the table were the mystical reality of the Augustinian communities, the work in communion, the decrease of common acts in many communities and the predominance of the apostolate and the mission which, at times because it is extensive, generates tiredness and a lack of common discernment.

Also on the table was the openness to live synodality in the face of the individualisms that constrain us, always accepting the challenge of walking together and in permanent openness towards the laity.

On the "concern" for the lack of vocations and lay people in the Order

The reality in the Order - which is no different in Latin America as a whole - reveals the fragility of some circumscriptions and communities. This poses a challenge in the search for a renewal of religious life. We are concerned about the decrease in vocations and the strong changes in values. These are challenges for formation. The strengthening of the professoriate is necessary to guarantee an authentic experience of community life and to get to know St. Augustine and his works better. Another theme reflected upon in the light of the Synod of Bishops was the elements of synodality present in the Order and the way forward in the area of communion, participation and mission in Latin America.

Similarly, a reminder was made of the historical process of the Project for the Revitalisation of the Order in Latin America and a vote was taken for the continuity of the process with a new structure, proposal and methodology. There was also a space for presence, representation and reflection on the reality, structure and organization of the Secular Augustinian Fraternities (SAF) in the continent. Statistical reports were also presented on the functioning of the Fraternities and the Augustinian laity who are linked to the Order.

It is worth mentioning that the creation of a new area for the accompaniment, animation and strengthening of the Secular Fraternities was voted and approved, as well as the creation of a new technical commission to strengthen, animate and increase Ongoing Formation in the continent.

As happens every four years, the General Assembly of OALA elects a new Secretary General and a new Board of Directors who are in charge of gathering the reflections, the feelings of the assembly, the prepositions voted and the projects proposed, and prepares a plan of action to be implemented and developed in the period that is beginning. To this end, the new board will meet in July in Quito, Ecuador, where OALA's headquarters and historical archives are located. In this first meeting, the lines of work will be defined, various dates and events promoted by each area of action and technical commissions will be organised, a new work proposal and methodology for a new project for the revitalisation of the Order will be presented, and the statutes will be revised.

Listening attentively to the Gospel

As Augustinians present in Latin America and the Caribbean we continue to listen attentively to the Gospel and to the signs of the times, renewing our commitment and fidelity to the evangelical preferential option for the poor and the marginalized, for the youth and for the laity who walk, support, collaborate and participate in our charism and mission. We feel called to be signs of hope and committed, from our community apostolate, to the great causes of our time: justice and peace, care for creation and the defence of life where it is threatened.

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