Between the 16th and 20th October a group of Augustinian friars gathered together for a few days of retreat at Dar Stella Maris in Żebbuġ Gozo. During these days they had the opportunity to stop for a while from their daily routine and live moments of more silence, prayer and reflection accompanied by Fr Martin Cilia MSSP who animated these days. Fr Martin's reflections presented a clear invitation to reflect on everyone’s present reality, the experience shared with the friars, the centrality of Jesus Christ in one’s life, and the mysteries that bring us closer to Him in our journey of life particulraly in the celebration of the liturgy. On Thursday the brothers also had a beautiful catechesis on the icons of the mysteries of the Rosary located in the Square of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pinu. Friday then the Retreat closed with a eucharist celebrated in the same Sanctuary.

These days were also a beautiful opportunity for the friars from different communities to come together and share the beauty of the Augustinian religious life beyond the daily commitments and everything that usually shapes the days with so much activity. The days of the retreat also provide an occasion for a wonderful and calmer experience of prayer and an opportunity of spiritual renewal.

One of biggest projects as a Province in which probably almost all of as has served in one way or another is the College, and It is my desire to celebrate, through Circular letter, all those friars who over the years and today were or are still part of this experience.

It was practically still in the early years of our Province when the than Prior Provincial Fr. Gaetano Pace Forno led the Province into a new experience. The report of the Royal Commission of 1836, had clearly shown that one of the great deficiencies of the than Maltese Society was that of opportunities for the education of children and in a few years, the English Ruling Government began to open his first schools. Sensible to this reality, in 1847 the Prior Provincial wrote to the Superior General of the Order of Saint Augustine in Rome and shared with him his idea that the Province should invest in a free school for children. The Prior General quickly approved and expressed his satisfaction for the wonderful idea of ​​this social project which he called great and necessary. The same idea was then discussed and unanimously approved in the Provincial Council on August 31, 1848.

October 23, 1848, marks the opening of the first academic year of St Augustine School, which was at the time the first free Catholic School in Malta. Apart from the sensitivity to the real need of the children, there were undoubtedly other factors that motivated this initiative such as the large number of religious who could contribute to this project and the continuous effort of the Catholic Church to remain a valid presence in the Maltese Society, but above all what really strikes us is the fact that in all this it resulted to be a really prophetic project.

Surely it would not have passed from the minds of the religious of that time that this social project will go through so many developments over the years. Among these, it is worth mentioning: the continuous investment in spaces and resources; the challanges posed during the second world war; the decisions made when the religious could no longer cope with all the necessary commitment alone and then the introduction and collaboration with the laity; the expansion of the College; and several other factors. In a note that I found in the Provincial Archives, someone had written that during the years of the second world war the religious did their best to keep teaching the children in some way or another, even if the school doors had to be formally closed. Little did it perhaps cross our minds that we had to relive this story in our time when the Covid-19 Pandemic broke out and the doors of the College were closed again. Thanks to the current leadership, even this time the College committed itself to keep going and was one of the first to move into virtual systems that could continue to deliver learning to children in their homes. This really confirms the famous saying that history repeats itself, even if with far different circumstances, structures, and resources. The most beautiful thing of all is that beyond everything, what really kept repeating itself, is the spirit and commitment in giving the best to our kids.

Today we look at this educational mission and we give thanks to the Lord for everything he has done with us over the years. How wonderful it is to appreciate what was done by those who came before us in a continuous experience leading to all that is still being done today as in one long sucessful story. I would like to acknowledge all the friars who have worked at the College over the years and who are no longer with us today. The Lord welcomes them into his kingdom and gives them the eternal reward for what they have worked so hard. I also acknowledge all those who are still alive and who have worked in one way or another at the College. Surely their time and commitment at the College marked their lives just as much as we beleive that the mark of each one of us remains in the hearts of all students and families who were once part of the educational community of the College. Above all I acknowledge  the friars  who are fully committed in the College today, particularly our Community in Tal-Pieta who, apart from other responsibilities in the Province, animate above all this Educational Mission; the College Rector Fr. David Cortis, the Chaplain Fr. Terence Spiteri and the Prior of the Community Fr. Mario Abela. Thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of all of us, while on your behalf, we all live our presence and service in other services and communities around the islands and beyond.

Although this message is addressed particularly to the religious, I would not like to conclude these few words without acknowledging the growing number of lay people who closely collaborate with us in this mission, particularly the respective Heads and Assistant Heads, and all those who serve in every erea. The beauty of this whole story, both with so many friars over the years, and moreover with many lay people today, is the fact that we manage to bring together so many different characters who are united in one spirit and goal which is the educational mission of the new generation.

Let us ask the Lord to instill his spirit on the entire Educational Community of our College while helping us to continue to invest by any means possible in a structure that gives stability and continuity to this mission of ours.

Fr. Leslie Gatt osa

Prior Provincial

On Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 September, the Augustinian Community of Rabat took part in the Rabat Sacrum initiative which was organized by the Rabat Local Council with the collaboration of several civil and religious entities. The idea of ​​such initiative was first and foremost to give the public the opportunity to see and appreciate the treasures hidden in the Rabat churches, priories and their respective museums. In addition, several musical and cultural initiatives were held in different places.

The Augustinian Community of Rabat for this occasion opened the ground floor of the Priory so that public could appreciate the magnificent building built by the architect of the Order Andrea Belli, in the first half of the 18th century. In the Priory, one could also appreciate the wonderful museum with various artifacts in exposition. Most prominent among them are the four panels of  Sicilian School that form part of a polyptych commissioned by the Augustinian friars in the XV century. This work of art is of great value not only for the Priory of Saint Mark and the Augustinian Heritage, but also for the history of art in our islands.

Apart from the priory one could also appreciate the church of Saint Mark which dates back to the XV century, and was built by the architect Girolamo Cassar who probably used the plan of this church as a test to then build Saint John’s Co Cathedral.

As part of the cultural initiatives staged in different areas, an Organ concert was held in the church by the organist Claire Balucci accompanied by local Sopranos.

On Saturday, October 7, the Augustinian Community of Valletta took part in the Notte Bianca which has now become part of the Capital's annual Calendar through various interesting initiatives. Among these it is worth mentioning the Exhibition that was held at the Priory on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the foundation of Saint Augustine College in the same corridors that years ago hosted the school. At that time the Saint Augustine School was the first Church School offering free eduaction to the Maltese children. Several young people from Tagaste Youths who are all ex-students of the College, welcomed the people at the entrance of the Priory and toured them through the exhibition, and also through various parts of the Priory Museum. All those who came, were able to appreciate various artifacts of the Priory which is undergoing extensive restoration and which will form part of the Community Interpretation Center which should eventually be ready and open to the public in the coming months.

Apart from the celebration of the mass like every Saturday, two concerts were staged in the church by the Saint Monica Vocal Ensemble with a wonderful repertoire of sacred music. Both concerts were very well received by the public who appreciated both the pieces and the angelic voices.

The past weeks have brought with them several feasts in the Augustinian Liturgical calendar. Among them are the feasts of Saint Augustine and Our Lady of the Girdle which were celebrated solemnly particularly in the Augustinian Churches of Valletta and Rabat in Malta, and Victoria in Gozo. For these feasts a program of liturgical celebrations was prepared through which we gave thanks to Lord for all that he has done with us through the intersession of his Mother Mary and our spiritual father Saint Augustine.

The festivities in Valletta reached their climax with the Parish Titular Feast which was celebrated on 3 September with the procession with the statue of Saint Augustine through the main streets of the City. The Feast of Our Lady of the Girdle in Valletta was celebrated on Saturday 26 August, while in Rabat it was then celebrated on Saturday 9 September. In the Church of Saint Augustine in Victoria Gozo both feasts were celebrated on their liturgical days, that is on August 28 and September 4. Apart from the particular days of the feasts, there were also days of preparation with various celebrations that offered reflections on the figures of Saint Augustine and the devotion of Our Lady under the title of Mother of Consolation (Our Lady of the Girdle) who is the patroness of the Augustinian Family.

On August 27 together with the universal Church we also celebrated the feast of Saint Monica, mother of Saint Augustine, while on September 10 then, the Augustinian liturgical Calendar marks the figure of Saint Nicholas from Tolentino who is the first Augustinian religious to be declared a saint. His feast day in the Church dedicated to him in Tarxien will be celebrated on Saturday 30 September.

Meanwhile during the month of September, several Parishes around Malta celebrated the feast of Our Lady of the Girdle with the last one being that of Gudja which will be celebrated on the last Sunday of October.

© 2024 All Rights Reserved.