The formal structure of the Church consists of parishes. This is where people live; where contact is made; where key moments in life are celebrated. Religious/Augustinians come into the Diocesan administration when they work in parishes. Augustinians must be very clear that the only reason they get involved in parish life is to add something different. They cannot come in to prop up a system or simply to maintain the status quo. What do we do? What do we add? What is different?
We bring in the communal dimension which has to mean a team ministry approach. We bring in a partnership process which changes the dynamic. We loosen the whole clerical model and the hierarchical approach. We work together and work with others. We value the experience of everyone and let the colour of their lives show.
This is not arrogant but most people will remark on the humanity/warmth, homeliness/approachability of Religious. We are much more inclined to have open-doors, open-tables and open-hearts. This doesn’t take from the diocesan people (who are more deferential/hierarchical) but rather acknowledges the fact that usually we have a few around and there is a reality of different people and different ways of doing things and a shared history of coming from different places and countries. Religious by the fact of working together (living together) have to make more of an effort to work out relationships. They enter then into the struggles that most homes face. Religious bring a history of spirituality which is usually less formal and is often very earthy. That matters deeply. We are then involved in the process of evolving ministry which is essential today.
Paddy O Reilly and myself work in Finglas South. We work with Salesian sisters and Brigidine sisters. We are very proud of our history here. It is a privilege to be in this community. The spontaneity of our people is wonderful. The living faith is inspirational. We owe much to our predecessors. But we owe most to the people here. We are truly Augustinian here. We are adventurers in faith. We are totally involved in every aspect of people’s lives. The Word is made Flesh. The work of Augustine continues. We are provoked daily to be theologians. We are very free and unbound by conventional practice. We are theologically and liturgically alive. We are social workers, teachers, counsellors, friends, neighbours, team members. We have a role and a place in every home. God and Faith is much bigger than the confines of Church. We are delighted to be in the role. Our commitment is 24/7 and has to be. Our houses are homes for anyone and everyone. We too are at home everywhere. We belong. We believe that we are truly Augustinian in the way we live; the method we use; the imaginative process of working together. God is alive among us and we are grateful and surprised every day. Each day is exciting and privileged.
Seamus Ahearne osa