Youth Representatives go to the Third Congress for Augustinians Laity in Rome
From 11 - 17 July Megan Barzaq, Anna Hornby and Claire Webster attended the III Congress for Augustinian Laity in Rome. It was a conference for lay people working in any field within the Augustinian family and there were 150 people present from many different countries. It was a busy week with talks, presentations, discussions, a day trip to Cascia and of course gelato and beer in the evenings. Here, below, are some accounts of how they enjoyed the experience:
The first thing that struck me about the Lay Congress in Rome was how under-represented the youth were. So much so that as youth leaders, the twelve of us present from different countries were constantly referred to as “the youth”, whereas our work with the Augustinians involves the guidance and teaching of persons much younger than ourselves. Even those present on the Commission did not fully represent all the groups present at the Congress. However, this was taken into consideration for the next meeting in six years’ time.
Other than this the Congress was relatively successful. Dr. Joseph Kelly of Merrimack University gave us a talk on what it means to be the Body of Christ. One thing that many people took away from his talk was that no matter how “behind” we are in our prayer, if things get too much for us, don’t worry. As part of the Body of Christ, someone else is praying for us. This person could be a million miles away or right next door.
Bishop Giovanni Scanovini OSA of Orvietto also gave a talk and celebrated Mass with us in Cascia. His talk was about the importance and the value of being the Body of Christ in the world today. The day in Cascia was inspiring and uplifting as it brought to light the importance of reconciliation as well as the unity which we experience with prayer and devotion to God.
Three times during the week we heard from international lay groups by means of a Round Table. People spoke about family life, Augustinian fraternities, international Augustinian youth movements and the work that the Comission does to support the Friars and laity alike. It was interesting hearing how similar and different each country was in their activities, gatherings and style as well as the cultural richness we each bring to the Order.
We all came away from the Congress willing to support each other and eager to elect the next International Commission that will continue the work and organise the next Congress in 2018.Megan Barzaq
Arriving in Rome it was good to feel the heat beating down, even better to arrive at the door of Santa Monica's, it really felt an honour to be part of the Laity Congress so close to the Vatican and I was looking forward to the discussions that we would have. We registered and were made ready for the next 5 days of the congress.
We had a number of talks and roundtable discussions that would lead us into the working groups we were in for the week. We discussed the topics of Family, Laity and this year had a discussion on the Youth of the Church. I found my group interesting as I was one of the only younger people there. Whenever we discussed ‘youth’ I was looked to, I had to gently remind the group that as I approach my 25th birthday I regrettably (for me!) can no longer come under that category but rather as a youth leader I come into contact much more with our youth than some of them seemed to. It was however highly encouraging to have so much emphasis on the young people in the Church, being one with the Church and not an outcast group to be singled out but to be built up, nurtured and trusted to be an integral part of the Church.
We discussed how we felt we could be ‘The body of Christ’ in the world today as members of the laity, with empowerment from the religious we felt we could achieve this through prayer, community and charity. It is also important to know that we are not alone and that when we fail others are holding us up in prayer and love and their own charitable actions. Because we are one body in Christ.
Through the Congress on a personal note, I am happy that we have managed to forge links with the Philippines in what could prove to be an exciting volunteer programme for young people and that we have strengthened our bond with the Irish community and hope to bring a group of our youth over to the retreat centre in Orlagh, helping to build up both theirs and our youth groups.
I’d like to thank the Augustinians for continuing to support us and for giving me the opportunity to be part of this conference and the conference in El Escorial for Youth Animators last year which was an experience we built on this time around.Anna Hornby
To Be the Body of Christ, In Today's World was the theme of the week and I was certainly empowered to play my part in that throughout the week and afterwards. I most enjoyed being with 150 other Augustinians that I had not met before and having the opportunities to chat and share with them the work that we all do and more importantly, why we do so. It was exciting to meet people and immediately have something in common and the be able to help each other with encouragement and ideas about how to bring more people into the family.
I also enjoyed listening to Dr Joseph T. Kelley, a professor from Merrimack University in Boston who spoke very passionately about St Paul and St Augustine's writings on the reality of the body of Christ that we are here on earth and how this immediately calls us to unity with one another. It was challenging and thought provoking.
This idea of unity is one that manifested itself regularly in our discussion group which met twice a day throughout the week. The age range of the people at the conference was broad; teens to 70s but those of us under the age of 30 were only a handful. It was obvious to everyone there, young and old that there is the Augustinian lay movement and the Augustinian youth movement and there has been very little communication between the two thus far. The youth movement is of course for young people (teens and 20s) but managed by people in their 20s, 30s and older and so they could really fit into both movements. Thankfully everyone there was keen for this to be tackled as the destinction is completely unnecessary and so much richness could come from the people of both movements communicating, sharing ideas, issues and experiences. It was therefore made explicit that the next Congress for Augustinian Laity will reach out to younger adults especially those working with our young people.
Since returning back to London I have already been in touch with many people I met while at the conference and I look forward to developing these new friendships and working relationships in the trust that great things happen when we unite and work together.Claire Webster