The venues were the Augustinian regions of Echuca (northern Victoria) in 2001, in Brookvale (Sydney) in 2004, in South Yarra (Melbourne) in 2007, in Coorparoo (Brisbane) in 2010, and again in Coorparoo in 2013.The Fifth National Congress for Augustinian Laity occurred on 11th-13th April 2013 at the Order’s Villanova College at Coorparoo. It was open to all interested persons, and not just to current members of the Friends of St Augustine. Its chosen theme, 'For you I am bishop, with you I am Christian', provided great heart as the participants sought ways to be truly Christian in their personal, local, Australian and global situations. They worked hard to discern the spirituality and kind of Church they hoped for into the future.
Early in the planning process we were drawn to the comment which Augustine made on the occasion of the first anniversary of his rise to Bishop, “For you I am bishop, with you, after all, I am Christian”(Sermon 340). As this quote was considered, Sylvia described the image of a stone being dropped into a pool, saying that the heavier the weight, the deeper it sinks, creating wider ripples. Donald Burt OSA in Friendship and Society wrote, ‘there are ripples of love that flow out in ever widening circles embracing more in the bond of friendship.’ Ripples became part of the image and worked so well.Keynote speakers, Bishop Eugene Hurley of Darwin and Sr. Lorraine Testa a.s.j.m. (Augustinian Sisters of Jesus and Mary) of Melbourne were inspirational as they unpacked the theme, each sharing something of their life journey as they challenged us to be truly Christian. Sr. Lorraine sharpened that challenge as she called us to be Christian in a very Augustinian way
Meaningful liturgy has always been a feature of our Congresses so we all looked forward to many prayerful moments and were not disappointed. Apart from the moving Opening Ceremony and the final Eucharist, we also sang and reflected each day. On Sunday morning we entered into deep silences as we vowed to put into action ideals outlined on the Saturday.
A new initiative at this Congress was the round table segment. Lay and professed Augustinian people from different age brackets and with different life experiences shared what it meant for them to be known as Augustinian. Delegates found the presentation, If Augustine Were Alive Today, given by Paul Maloney OSA (chaplain) added to the overall challenge. He linked some of today’s situations to insights from Augustine.
When it came to group discussion the delegates explored questions and ideas with vigour and spirit. Working in five groups aptly named Ostia, Milan, Rome, Hippo, and San Gimignano the group leaders achieved real outcomes. All discussions were documented so that Leaders at the up-coming Leaders’ Weekend at Greystanes may ponder the results and seek to take the proposals out to the wider community to be implemented in some way or another.
The November 2013 issue of the Friends’ newsletter, Amici, summarised the findings of the Congress as follows:
The 2013 Congress called on all of us to be people who are joyful, who are ready to celebrate their faith, people who use their voices to be in dialogue with others, who remember to be inclusive of all and who are people with a strong sense of perseverance. We were also called to explore the following likely actions whi.ch could bring that future into being. Meditation; faith education; our attitudes and good example in our everyday life; learning methods of interiority; contemplation; reflection; employing Augustinian language; forgiveness; to be inquisitive, nourishing, accepting, informed, connected.
Within the family we are called to be people who walk closely with the young and who appreciate those with age and wisdom. We are called to be prayerful, always trying to create opportunities for prayer within the family.
On the local scene we are called to be people of courage, accepting local responsibilities. We are called to replace any 'us and them' attitudes as we endeavour to be respectful of, and in dialogue with, those of different cultural and faith traditions.
Looking to our place within Australia we are called to create a greater awareness of, and appreciation for, Augustinian spirituality. We are called to stand with those in need, seeking always to find avenues for reconciliation and compassion
On the global scene it was suggested that we all rejoice in, and follow with interest, the ways of Pope Francis.
For greater detail about this Congress go to the June 2013 issue of Amici. Click here.