Last Sunday, 26th November, solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, saw celebrations concluding the 450th anniversary of the arrival of the first Portuguese Augustinian religious in Goa and the subsequent creation of the vicariate, held in Aluva.
Celebrations were presided over by Prior General, Fr Alejandro Moral, accompanied by the Provincial Secretary of the Province of St John of Sahagún, Fr Carlos Alonso, representing his Prior Provincial, the Provincial of Australia, Fr Peter Jones, and the General Councillor for Asia and the Pacific, Fr Anthony Banks. The Prior Provincials of the Philippines, a country with a close relationship with India, were unable to attend due to visa difficulties.
The Jubilee itself began on 10th June, and the closing ceremonies started with the celebration of the Eucharist on the 25th at the Order's formation house. The Mass was very special and heartfelt, with almost all the friars of the vicariate there, as well as some lay people who have been helping with the renovation of the house chapel.
On the 26th, the Eucharist that concluded the Jubilee took place, which in the words of the Prior General was "very beautiful, very well attended, with many lay people and with very beautiful songs." After Mass, there was the presentation of a book that pulls together the story of 450 years of Augustinians in India, written by friars of the vicariate. The Mayor of the city, the Bishop's representative and the Prior General took part in this event.
The presentation of the book concluded with an evening of performance by students of the different Augustinian schools, in dance and song, giving a final flourish to a joyful event.
A bit of history
The Augustinian mission in India began in 1572, when Fr Antonio de Paixao and a group of Augustinian religious landed on the coast of Goa. In under one year they founded the convent of Our Lady of Grace, where a number of Augustinians began to live and be formed for the mission in this Asian country. One of them, Fr Alejo de Meneses, would become Archbishop, serving this diocese from 1595 to 1612, and giving real impetus to the development of the missionary project. Indeed, less than 60 years later, there were 240 Augustinians living and working in India, with several convents and pastoral activities established in Goa.
It is worth noting that one of the areas where the Augustinians had focused efforts from the beginning was in the promotion of vocations and the formation of future Augustinians or priests, creating specialised study centres for this purpose.
In addition to developing vocations and standard evangelising and pastoral work, the Augustinians focused on education, social promotion, and the inclusion of women, helping to plant the seed of India’s education system today.
Some relevant data
Currently, the Augustinians of India form the Vicariate of Our Lady of Grace, which has seven communities and 47 religious, 14 of whom work outside India in other circumscriptions of the Order of Saint Augustine.
At present, in India the Order runs three parishes, two schools, and the different stages of formation for young Augustinians.