QUEZON CITY – The eighth Center will soon rise in the Philippines!
This will be a new addition to the network of Centers for Augustinian Recollect Spirituality (or RedCEAR as its Spanish acronym, where CEAR stands for Centro de Espiritualidad Agustino Recoleta). The first seven are scattered in the Spanish-speaking part of the Order: CEAR-Costa Rica, CEAR-Ciudad de México, CEAR-Zona Norte (Mexico), CEAR-Madrid (Spain), CEAR-Andalucía (Spain), CEAR-Querétaro (Mexico), and CEAR-Venezuela.
The creation of this center is a response to the 55th General Chapter’s mandate to every Province to establish at least one Center for Augustinian Recollect Spirituality (CARS). It is envisioned as a new ministry that expressly seeks to impart the Augustinian Recollect spirituality among the faithful in its various apostolates. Moreover, the centers are to offer spiritual formation and personal accompaniment to both the religious and the lay people of today using the Augustinian Recollect spirituality.
The preparation for the creation of CEAR-Filipinas (or CARS-Philippines) was fermented by a five-day capacity-building workshop. And since one of CEAR’s areas of evangelization is accompaniment, the workshop included a three-day module on a workshop on accompaniment. Fr. Renato de Guzman, a diocesan clergy of the Diocese of Ilagan, Isabela and a practicing clinical psychologist, was the resource speaker from February 3-5, 2020.
Fr. De Guzman shared his expertise to his audience which was composed of 17 OAR priests, five Augustinian Recollect Sisters, and 22 lay people from Luzon and Visayas communities. He emphasized that in the ministry of accompaniment, the very first client of every minister is his or her very self that is why he reminded his audience that each one has to know himself or herself—a reminder reminiscent of the Augustinian prayer, “Let me know myself, let me know You.”
Moreover, Fr. De Guzman imparted some leadership characteristics and habits for the would-be ministers of accompaniment like observing moments of solitude, silence, prayer, study, and adequate rest, and having a relationship with others with accountability and creating healthy boundaries. Moreover, the speaker reminded his audience to remain flexible as there would be clients that are difficult to handle. He also underlined the importance of having a collaboration with other ministers or even with psychologists should the need arise. Fr. De Guzman knows that when a client approaches a person for accompaniment, the person desires conversion. He then imparted this very important reminder for them: “Conversion happens when a person is brought back to a deep and genuine relationship with God.”
On Thursday, February 6, Mr. Mark Calano, PhD, an assistant professor of Philosophy and Theology in Ateneo de Manila University came in as the resource speaker. His topic revolved on “Designing Retreat and Recollections: An Initial Approach.” Although Ignatian in background, Mr. Calano, an avid reader of St. Augustine himself, tried his best to steer the discussion into Augustinian leanings. And true to this, the retreat design he was focusing on was similar in form to the Lectio Divina. One of the theses against which his talk rested was this: despite the huge gap in terms of years, the life of St. Augustine is still relevant to contemporary man. Having said this, he suggested that in designing a retreat or recollection, the facilitator should look at specific episodes in the life of St. Augustine and find biblical passages that can be associated with them, then the facilitator should lead the retreatants to reflection using the same.
On Friday, February 7, Fr. Lauro Larlar, OAR gave the synthesis to the week-long seminar. He pointed out that as members of the newly-crafted CARSP, the members should be able to live and impart the rich Augustinian Recollect spirituality. One of the focuses of the CARSP is accompaniment but he exhorted them that the members of the center and the religious themselves should be able to benefit from this Augustinian Recollect style of accompaniment. Only and only if the members themselves are immersed and are able to live this spirituality can they be effective in sharing the same spirituality to other people who might approach the center for help.
All in all, 44 participants have braced and offered themselves for this new challenge. They have committed themselves to support the Center of Augustinian Recollect Spirituality in the Philippines with hopes that it can lead many people back to God with the aid of the spirituality of the Augustinian Recollection which has contributed to the Church a good number of holy men and women throughout its four centuries of existence.