Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!
The Prior General of the Augustinian Order, Fr Alejandro Moral Anton, invited those bishop members of the Order to meet in Rome this past week, so as to share experiences and common challenges, and learn about the Church entrusted to the pastoral care of the Order in different parts of the world.
There were just over twelve bishops present: two from Europe, two from Africa and the remainder from Latin America. It was a thoroughly enriching gathering in the Augustinian Generalate, which is just beside St. Peter’s Basilica.
From a European perspective I was greatly inspired by the life-long ministry and commitment of the Augustinian bishops serving in remote and inaccessible parts of, for example, Peru, where the terrain makes travelling arduous and villages are widely scattered.
They minister faithfully to the people, often high up the Andes, and have devoted their lives to patiently building up the Church as best they can, more often than not with a small number of priests. The Augustinian missionary spirit, I felt, was alive and well as I listened to their stories.
Other bishops from Central America, such as Panama, highlighted the vast movement of populations, passing through Panama with the hope of eventually reaching the United States. The dreadful problems of people trafficking, drugs, exploitation of women and children, highlighted by the bishops made for painful listening.
Concern was also expressed over the abuse of the environment and wilful waste of the rich natural resources with which these Central American countries abound. Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato si, on care for our ‘common earthly home’, was felt to be very timely. Both in Central and South America the Church is doing its utmost to proclaim the gospel in the face of very challenging circumstances.
The Irish Augustinians brought the faith to parts of Northern Nigeria in the 1940’s, and the presence of two bishops of the Order there (who I taught as seminarians) is eloquent witness of how their labours have been blessed by the Lord.
Both bishops also spoke of situations common in many parts of the world, a particular instance being the drift of young people from the countryside to the cities, with the result that tracts of fertile agricultural land lie unattended. Terrorism and indiscriminate killing of peoples of all faiths in Northern Nigeria have left desolation in many areas. One Catholic diocese, Maiduguri, has suffered grievously from the depredations of Boko Haram.
As bishops we shared, we talked, and drew encouragement from one another.
It was appropriate that our gathering coincided with the closing Mass of the Year of Consecrated Life, and we joined Pope Francis and many other bishops in the concelebrated Mass in St. Peter’s (the Holy Father’s homily is here), which was attended by numerous men and women religious from many parts of the world.
The missionary endeavours of the Augustinian Order, distinguished as they are, form but part of the much larger outreach of the Church in so many places and in countless different ways.
Let us remember in prayer all those in the Consecrated Life who have left everything to follow Christ and bring his Good News to the furthest and most remote parts of our world.
As I left Rome and the meeting of Augustinian bishops to return to the Diocese of Lancaster, I felt humbled yet full of admiration for the missionary dedication of my brothers in the Augustinian Order. They helped broaden my vision of the universal Church.
Until next week – may God bless you all,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster