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Augustinian Youth Encounter promises what "a week full of surprises"

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

From 25th-30th July, just one week before World Youth Day, Lisbon will first rock with the sound of EJA.

Hymns and psalms will soon be ringing out in the streets and on the terraces when our Augustinian youth descend on the Portuguese capital. Final preparations are being made, and plans finalised as they get ready to take on a packed schedule of Mass, prayer and processions. Each one finding support, sharing faith, and making lifelong friends over a snatched sandwich, stifling a shared yawn as the party goes on, coming together in Lisbon in a spirit of joy-filled faith and then sending their prayers back out to every corner of the globe.

This latest Augustinian Youth Encounter promises what "will be, without a doubt, a week full of surprises, of activities; and we hope, above all, a week full of encounters. First of all, with Jesus, who is the one who calls us together and gives meaning to what we do".

Or so said Fr João Silva, general coordinator of EJA 2023, speaking to the Province of St John of Sahagún and the communications office of the General Curia. This time, there will be about 360 participants and the organising committee is "expectantly" awaiting the arrival of each one of these young friars and religious men and women from 20 across the Augustinian world.

"The inherent richness that exists in such a different and multicultural group, always united in Christ in the style of St. Augustine, always exceeds our expectations", Fr. João continued, pointing out that the largest contingents to EJA this time around will be coming from the circumscriptions of California, Czech Republic, Panama, Chile, Caribbean and Australia.

As well as enjoying the city of Lisbon itself during the week, they will also have the opportunity to visit the sanctuary at Fatima. Mofreover, they will have the chance to experience first-hand the unique experience of "living the dream of the first Christian community and of Augustine, our father: one heart and one soul oriented towards God."

"Let us work together in the Order for the youth, as they strive to reach God"

Fr Edward Daleng, General Councillor for Africa and member of the organising commission, told us that "each Augustinian Youth Encounter is unique, full of one-off experiences". He went on, “I am blessed to have Fr Lam and the other members of the commission helping me carry out this precious task." When asked about the previous EJA and the legacy that remains from there and then, Fr Edward acknowledges that "Panama was a critical moment for us. Now that Europe has become the existential periphery that Pope Francis speaks of, we have been gifted this opportunity to show our hospitality and fraternity".

Regarding the work being done by the commission and its team in Lisbon to make everything perfect for their guests, Fr Daleng recognises that "although the Augustinians in Portugal are, in reality, small in number, they are doing very important work. The generosity of their efforts is to be applauded."

"If I had to express just one wish for this EJA, it is that we can continue to work together as one in the Order supporting our young people to reach God P. Daleng

When asked if he had one ambition for this EJA, Fr Daleng said that "if I had to express just one wish for this EJA, it is that we can continue to work together as one in the Order supporting our young people to reach God. I ask all Augustinian friars who will be in Lisbon for EJA, accompanying the youth, that they perform their tasks with care and enthusiasm. It’s not as easy as it sounds: it is a matter of bringing Christ back into their hearts because He is the hope of young people and of society. Today, more than ever, young people with good values are needed”.

As for the Order’s participation in the subsequent World Youth Day the following week, the general councillor absolutely believes that the Augustinians "want to be with Pope Francis and the rest of the Church to show our support for him. His youthful spirit, his way of engaging and involving them, gives us much. We are encouraged by his example to give young people the responsibility to courageously accept their role in the Church and in society."

"Taking hold of Christ, rising up in Him"

For his part, Fr Alexander Lam, assistant general for Latin America and member of the commission, told us how the Order decided over the last twenty years that the EJA would go hand in hand with World Youth Days. "The Order wanted to do this because it is linked to the Church, because it is part of our foundation: to be at its service. This is a sign of unity with the Pope, with his teaching and his apostolic service.

When asked about the opportunity to renew the presence of young people in the Church, Fr Lam emphasised the crucial role of this type of event. "We are in tune with the pontifical motto. We want the young people of our parishes, schools and apostolic works to have an experience of encounter, of fraternity and of renewal of the Augustinian charism which will allow them to have a new experience of communion and service with the Church".

To "take hold of Christ and rise up in Him". And, always, "hand in hand with Mary". "This is what the EJA offers us, to live in unity, in diversity from the love of Christ and being a witness of communion where the young people live and work".



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