"There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, a treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too.’ (Lk 12:32-34) It is true: we are a small flock, a small cohort, but with great concerns and ambitions. We are not the largest province in the Order; at this stage, we may even be the smallest (...) But if there is one thing that we have noticed these past few days, and in fact over recent years, it is that our heart is bigger than our number might suggest; there may not be many of us, but we make a noise."
With these words, taken from his final homily, Fr José Ignacio Busta, Provincial of Our Lady of Grace, addressed the friars who had gathered for their Ordinary Chapter in Santiago de Chile from 24th-27th October. The Chapter was presided over by Fr Alejandro Moral, Prior General of the Order, with the General Councillor for Latin America, Fr Alex Lam, in attendance. Fr Ignacio spoke warmly of his Augustinian brothers in the province as always being "oriented towards God" and in search of "holiness".
The chapter began with the re-election of Fr Ignacio as provincial, for his second consecutive mandate. Along with him, a new provincial council was also elected, composed of Fr Enrique Catalán, Fr Giuliano Viveros, Fr Samuel Jara and Fr Juan Carlos Ayala. At the same time, the Secretary and the Bursar, Fr. Yuliano and Br. Gonzalo Rebolledo, respectively, were also elected.
Strengthen community life to awaken new vocations
The Chapter’s work revolved around the typical business of a Chapter, but with the clear intention of underpinning the importance of community life. "We need to better fortify community life before we can better develop our mission, especially in our encounters with those young people who study in our schools and come to our parishes. I think these are good contexts in which we can address the matter of vocations," Fr Alejandro told us after the Chapter.
Similarly, the Assistant General shared his insight that, "the main aim for the period ahead is to strengthen interior life, community life, so that we can be witness and, in this way, attract new vocations." The importance of vocations is such that the new leadership has set as its primary objective for this coming four-year period to strengthen the pastoral channels necessary to encourage young people to respond to the Lord's call to the priestly life.
Fr Lam went on to tell us that the general atmosphere during the Chapter was one of "great encouragement and hope" since "even though the number of brothers is small, there is tremendous enthusiasm to be able to offer their service to the Church and to the Order."
Collaboration across circumscriptions: the key to strengthening the Province
As the Provincial of Chile cited during his homily, one of the key aspects of the Order in this territory for the last 50 years has been the continuing mutual support between the different Provinces in the region - Bolivia, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela and Bolivia - and the ongoing search for shared areas of encounter and collaboration: "To walk together and help each other in our mission as Augustinians" was and is for Father Provincial a key theme for the growth of Our Lady of Grace.
"It has been a very pleasant week,” confirms the Prior General, “The brothers are young and in good health, and I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality and welcome throughout the Chapter."
Solemn professions to round off the Chapter
Finally, on Saturday 28th October, the solemn profession of Brother Edilberto Becerra and Brother Félix García took place in the parish of The Good Shepherd in San Pedro de la Paz (Concepción), presided over by F Alejandro Moral, in an atmosphere of deep ecclesial joy.
Before Fr Alejandro and Fr Alex started their journey back to Rome to meet with the General Council, Fr Ignacio passed on his special thanks to them for being present at the Chapter during such a pivotal time for the Augustinians in Chile: "For the closeness, the advice, the prudent and steadfast guidance, and the sense of co-responsibility so critical to our life, thank you".