VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis plans to offer Mass on Aug. 28 for the Order of St. Augustine’s general chapter in Rome, where the religious order’s leaders will meet, elect a new head and outline their aims for the next six years.
The Holy Father will lead the Eucharistic celebration at the Basilica of St. Augustine in Campo Marzio to launch the general chapter, which begins on the feast of St. Augustine and lasts between two to three weeks.
“The Pope was very devoted to St. Monica (St. Augustine’s mother) and often visited the tomb of St. Monica to pray,” said Cardinal Prospero Grech, an Augustinian friar.
Around 100 Augustinians from all over the world will gather in Rome to elect their new prior general, whose election is expected to happen the first week of September. The current Augustinian head, Father Robert Prevost, has already served 12 years, having been re-elected to that post in 2007.
“In the last 100 years, the prior general has never made three consecutive terms, but the re-election of Father Prevost is not impossible,” Antonello Sacchi of the Augustinian general curia’s press office told CNA.
Until the new prior general is chosen, Vicar General Father Michael Di Gregorio, who is second in charge, will preside over the meetings.
The newly elected prior general will then lead the rest of the meetings over the next one to two weeks to decide on the Augustinians' new aims and initiatives until they gather again in 2019.
The Augustinians are present in 50 countries across all five continents. Sacchi explained that the general chapter takes several weeks because the order's realities can differ greatly from country to country.
“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 St. Augustine was founded in 1244, and it is aimed at living and promoting the spirit of the early Christian communities. It is based on the teachings of St. Augustine, the bishop of Hippo (in modern-day Libya), 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. “We must give this response as a community.”