-Fray Carlos Maria what would you emphasize in the 35th Provincial Chapter, just recently concluded?
During this Chapter, God has surprised us enormously. We have strongly felt the prayer of so many of our brothers who have accompanied us in remembering before the Lord through out the whole of the Recollect Order. And we believe that God has heard their voice. He has brought us to unexpected ways. Some arrive to the Chapter with certainty of the decisions which they would take. And God has changed all that. And He has made us take decisions according to what He wants. That is why, I am convinced that the Lord, with all the religious of the Province, strengthen us to be able to implement them. Simply because “they are His”.
–The principal goal put for the Chapter says: “To restructure in Spirit in order to revitalize with fidelity and joy, of the life and mission of the Province”. How do you think of doing that?
The Provincial Chapter has decided five priorities in order to accomplish the goal which we have prepared. They come in this order: Vocational Ministry; Initial Formation and Permanent; the Mission of Marajo, in Brazil: a service to the governance which is more dynamic and effective in order to realize the Project of Life and Mission of the Province, and a quality of pastoral service and in the shared mission.
-The average age of the religious of the province is 58.56 years. How do you face this situation?
Undoubtedly this is a topic which has always been present in our capitular reflections. Much of the richness of the Province is due to the life surrender of so many elderly religious, with its limitations but with great enthusiasm, they continue to give themselves. The average age is high. And that is why we have opted to give a new impulse and emphasis to the Pastoral Vocational. We also need the generosity of many young people who want to be enamored for the Reign.
The Franciscan Way
-In the process of renewal that the Order is undergoing, what influence do you think that Pope Francis has? What would you emphasize give to his pontificate?
I know the Pope Francis since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. We have shared so much time together and I know of his affection and gratefulness for the Augustinian Recollects. Some things of his pontificate do not surprise me because he was already doing it in Buenos Aires. But right now it has taken a universal and ecclesial dimension. He always asked us the religious that we should give testimony of the Gospel and our consecration with joy, parting from the fidelity of the charism that God has given us. And I am convinced that thi is the way where the Order should undertake.
His way of witnessing the Gospel is clear and simple as well as his closeness with the people, the evangelizing force of a Church ‘in meeting out”, and the way of getting people closer to God, this is what I would emphasize in his pontificate.
-You know the communities and ministries of Argentina and Spain, and during these last three years that you served in the government living in Guadalajara (Mexico) what differences would you indicate between the Church of America and Europe?
For the Church of Latin America the Document of the Aparecida has always been a very providential moment and this tone strongly defined the inseparable binary terms ‘disciples-missionaries” . It is important the role of the laity to bring about the evangelizing mission of the Church. They have an irreplaceable role in this mission. The Latin American Church is a young Church, full of vitality and hope but at the same time marked with the scourge of poverty, exclusion and suffering of so many brothers.
In Europe the Church suffers from its surrounding influence of relativism of a society of comfort and satisfaction which lead the practice of faith in a very personal and intimate way, reduced to what to the level of what is personal and sacramental. I believe that the Church in Europe urgently needs the need to manifestly proclaim Jesus Christ as the prime mover of everything to give witness to the faith. The context has rapidly changed. And if we will not act rapidly, there is the risk of losing the essential values of the Christian roots of the continent.
-What plans do you have to revitalize the spiritual, fraternal life and the evangelizing spirit of the religious communities?
I am well-convinced, oftentimes, the cause of the crisis that we are having now is crisis in spirituality. It is but right to revive the fire that inflamed us at the start and renew, each day, our response to the Lord. It is but normal that we take care and make grow our spiritual life. It is also normal that we take the risk for a quality of fraternal life in which we just don’t resign ourselves of being together, but truly share our life. And lastly, we need to live with passion and ardor our commitment to the people of God, to whom we should serve and love as Jesus did.
-You have worked so much in the RAY (Recollect Augustinian Youth). What do you think is the challenge the Youth has given to the Order?
Our Augustinian Recollect charism is a marvelous response to the youth of those who are restless. They search for truth and authenticity, they really need to live their faith with others, in community and with the brothers. And they feel the need to spread to their colleagues the joy and fulfillment of being a disciple of Jesus. That is why, I believe that it is provident that the youth search into this and we ourselves have something to offer to them. I give thanks to God that our Order explicit and effectively side with the youth.
-What formative offering do you give to a youth who wants to be an Augustinian Recollect?
The program of formation should be integral and should embrace all the dimensions of the entire person. We cannot limit on what is religious, spiritual and charismatic. The formative process should strike a harmonious balance between psychological, spiritual, intellectual, charismatic and pastoral dimensions so that the youth would feel “reintegrated” in his self and would help him an appropriate response.
-You also belonged to the Team of Revitalization of the Order (ERO). Can you tell us its ways and influence to our ministries?
Briefly, it could be said that the leadership of ERO consist in giving Augustinian Spiritual Exercises, with its annual focal theme, marked by the sexennial general program; and also of the workshops on Augustinian Prayer and a diplomate on St. Augustine. In The meeting we had in Rome, we programmed proposals as, for example, the Spiritual Exercises with St. Augustine for ordinary life, and hopefully, will be realized next year.
There have been so many people who participated in this proposals, religious, lay people, as well as secular Augustinian fraternities and RAY. The extension of this experience makes that the influence extend more to the same Augustinian recollect family.
-What plans do you have to evangelize and be in solidarity with the poor?
Several are the social activities that our Province has done in the four countries where we are. We continue for the integral evangelization of man which undoubtedly promotes social evangelization. We do not what it in a welfare form but from a way the spirit of the Gospel.
Specifically, the Provincial Chapter decided to give priority to our brothers who are most in need. We are one with the situation in which the Venezuelan people is in. One of the first visits that I would like to make is to Venezuela, for our brother to know the nearness and solidarity of the entire Province with them. Undoubtedly, the Mission of Marajo, is and continue to be one of our priorities in question of solidarity.
-What is the relevance of RAY, the secular fraternities and the formation of the laity of Life and Mission of thee Province?
Without doubt the importance is very high. We need them to accomplish our evangelizing mission. Without them, we can do nothing. It is important to change our way making thinking. This is the time to give life to the “Mission Shared”, without fear, doubts and with courage. And simply because the laity are part of our life. We live and we feel that way. In the same way that they tell us that they need us, the religious, we also want to tell them, that we need them. We place our bet on their importance. And seeing the love for the Order and its generous surrender of its time and talents, strengthen our own vocation.
Dreams and Ideals
What is your dream for the Order? Is it realizable?
I dream of an Order which is faithful to the dream that God has for her. That it will faithfully live with passion the charism that God has given to the Church through the Augustinian Recollects. I dream of an Order revitalized in Spirit and in the service of what the Church and the people of God need. I dream of an Order who feels challenged of the signs of the times he is in, discerning the answers needed for the present times. I dream of an Order which is evangelizer, poorer and more missionary. I dream of seeing in her the warmth and affection of that family that makes me love and give her my whole heart, always and forever.
And of course everything is possible! What we put in faith and hope in the Lord, we know that ‘” for God there is nothing impossible” and not only that He realize his works in us, but also, despite of us.
The dream can dream of the impossible. But we need to dream big. If we dream little, the realization is as little.