Augustinians celebrate 30th year as Philippine province

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MANILA, Jan. 13, 2014—The Order of St. Augustine of Sto. Niño de Cebu in Central Philippines will celebrate its 30th foundation anniversary as a province on Jan. 15. 

Themed “Filipino Augustinians @ 30: Living in Community, Serving God in Freedom under Grace,” the event will formally open with a holy mass to be presided by Fr. Eusebio Berdon, OSA, prior provincial. 

The Augustinian prior general in Rome, Fr. Alejandro Moral Antón, OSA, in a message congratulated his Filipino brethren, at the same time, challenged them to extend their ministries outside of the country. 

“[The] circumscription is now one of the most numerous in the Order, and certainly it is the one that has the most friars in formation,” the prior general acknowledged. “In response to this blessing, we must respond with serious and well-organized work, both on the level of vocations and of formation. It is necessary to have formators suitable for the work.”

He also noted that the “greatest and most current challenge for the Order is the development of the Order in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“Keeping in mind the socio-economic and demographic circumstances, it appears to be that this gigantic part of the world, is becoming, is already, the part of the planet most suitable for our evangelization,” Antón said.

“We cannot forget this; we cannot leave it for later; the time is now, in our midst,” he concluded.

Year-long activities are set to commemorate the third decade of the Philippine Province. Among the first activities is an ongoing exhibit on the history of the province, which runs until Jan. 26 at SM City Cebu. 

The exhibit, aside from the province’s history, showcases paintings and a number of significant artifacts under the custody of the Augustinian province. On display is the 1965 pilgrim image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu, which was commissioned as a replica of the original icon during the latter’s canonical coronation in 1965. 

The first group of Augustinians in the country originated from Spain and Mexico under the leadership of the Fr. Andres Urdaneta, the great Augustinian circumnavigator. They arrived in 1565, and found in a scorched hut the image of Santo Niño, which was given by Ferdinand Magellan and the chaplain, Father Valderrama, to Queen Juana, wife of the Cebu chief King Humabon, in 1521. 

On that actual site, where the image was found, came to stand the church and convent of the Augustinians in the islands. From there, they fostered devotion to the Child Jesus, which has grown deeper and deeper into the Filipino identity, especially in the Visayan region. 

With enough Filipino friars, the indigenous province was solemnly inaugurated on Jan. 15, 1984, the feast of Sto. Niño de Cebu, with a celebration presided by Fr. Martin Nolan, OSA, prior general, in the Basilica del Sto. Niño de Cebu. 

The new province has then been tasked to administer several known institutions, such as the Basilica del Sto. Niño (Cebu), University of San Agustin (lloilo), Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod (Negros Occidental), Guadalupe Monastery (Makati), and San Agustin Center of Studies (Quezon City), among others. 

As forerunners of cultural patrimony in the Philippines, having been the first infrastructure builders in their mission towns, the Augustinians are also set to organize seminars and workshops on cultural preservation. 

For the whole year, they are also set to organize festivities towards three grand events in 2015: the 450th anniversary of the rediscovery of the Santo Niño icon, the marking of the 450 years of Augustinian presence in the islands, and the 50th year of the elevation of the Santo Niño Church into a basilica minore. 

For queries about the year-long activities, call 255-6697 loc. 400 or e-mail rmreoma@yahoo.com or decebu@gmail.com. (Levine Lao)

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