.- On Aug. 28, Pope Francis will say Mass at the “chapter” of the Order of Saint Augustine, a meeting of the group's leaders which will elect a new head as well as set out their aims for the next six years.
The Pope will head the Eucharistic celebration at the Basilica of Saint Augustine in Campo Marzio to launch the chapter, which takes place every six years, lasts for about two to three weeks and will start this Wednesday, the feast of St. Augustine.
“The Pope was very devoted to Santa Monica (St. Augustine's mother) and often visited the tomb of Santa Monica to pray,” Cardinal Prospero Grech, an Augustinian friar, said in an Aug. 26 statement.
Around one hundred Augustinians from all over the world will gather in Rome to elect their new prior General marking their one hundred and eighty fourth chapter.
The head of the order is expected to be chosen between seven to 10 days after the launch of the chapter, during the first week of September. Until he is chosen, the vicar General Father Michael Di Gregorio, who is second in charge, will preside over the meetings.
The newly elected prior General will then lead more meetings for about one or two weeks to decide on the Augustinians' new aims and initiatives until their next term in 2019. The current head, Father Robert F. Prevost, has been serving for twelve years after he was re-elected in 2007.
“In the last one hundred years, the Prior General has never made three consecutive terms, but the re-election of Fr. Prevost is not impossible,” Antonello Sacchi of the Augustinian general curia's press office told CNA.
The Augustinians are present in 50 countries across all five continents. One of the reasons the chapter takes several weeks is because the realities can differ greatly from country to country and the goals for the next six years should be set accordingly.
“For example, the reality in Asia is very different to the reality in the United States,” said Sacchi. “And in the United States, vocations to the order are increasing tremendously.”
The Order of Saint Augustine was founded in 1244 aimed at living and promoting the spirit of community as it was lived by the early Christian communities. It is based on the teachings of the Bishop of Hippo Augustine, who lived during the fourth and fifth centuries. The Augustinians, who include both men and women, follow the rule of “living together in harmony, with one soul and one heart on our way to God.”
According to Cardinal Grech, the number of vocations will not be a top issue of discussion for the group since the order “consists of quality, not quantity.”
“Let us start with this question, what does the Church need today in our country, wherever we are?” he said in his statement. “We must give this response as a community.”