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Full Text: Inaugural Address of Prior Provincial Fr. Andrew Batayola, OSA

Fr. Andrew Batayola, OSA Inaugural Address

11th Ordinary Provincial Chapter
Santo Niño Spirituality Center,
Consolacion, Cebu, Philippines
19-24 February 2024
Inaugural Address of Prior Provincial
19 February 2024

Most Rev Fr Alejando Moral, OSA, Prior General

Very Rev Fr Anthony Banks, OSA, Assistant General

Very Rev Fr Andres D. Rivera Jr., OSA, my Predecessor

Past Prior Provincials

Rev Fr Jan Pieter Fatem, OSA, Regional Vicar, Vicariate of West Papua

Members of the Council – The Team Drew (as one friar mentioned) – Frs. Delariarte, Dizon, Dante, Danilo, Donato & Delariarte-Par

Brothers & Friends, Good morning!

My Brothers, with all humility, I am deeply honored by the trust and confidence you have given to me, as your Prior Provincial. I am truly inspired by the prayers and support you have shown, and for that, I am grateful. Yet, today is not really about me and the council.  Today is a celebration of our Province – the Augustinian Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu. We gather together as brothers and friends to reaffirm our charism and identity, our vision and mission; to remember and appreciate our past accomplishments; to plan and prepare for our thrust and direction for the next four years; and to look forward after 40 years of existence with vigor and hope to a brighter future. For this term, we have the theme as our guidepost, “The Augustinian Province of Santo Nino de Cebu – Philippines Beyond 40: Profoundly Sharing Lives in Community for the Service of the Church.”

The theme reflects our vision as a Province which is “a community of brothers and friends, living harmoniously with one mind and one heart intent upon God and sharing goods in common for the service and evangelization of the people of God.” We are familiar of it. We have probably memorized it. Yet, allow me to ask, have we really embraced it? Have we truly owned it? Our vision is not time-bound. It is not something that we can attain and realize after four years. It is something that we all strive to pursue all our life; and it will remain to be such. It is therefore connected to the past; it is enriched by our faith-religious-human experiences for forty (40) years; and it drives us with our dreams and plans toward the future.

As we gather in this Provincial Chapter to plan for the future (beyond 40) and pursue our vision, we rely on the inspiration of our holy father St. Augustine who tells us to “always add something more, keep moving forward, always make progress” (Sermon 169, 18). A Provincial Chapter is an event of congregational Pentecost. It is a special moment of the Holy Spirit and us in a beautiful time of co-creation. It is not a closed event, but a transformative phase in the life of a Province. It is helpful to distinguished two layers of changes that we should be open during the chapter process. One is through strategic planning to address many issues identified as important. For example, we may consider giving more attention and energy to vocation promotion, greater coordination of the apostolate of education, or better schemes for mission initiatives, etc. Strategic planning is necessary to address issues, but they do not suffice.

A deeper dimension of change is the dynamics of transformation. It is something more than planning for adaptive strategies. How do we become courageous, new and actualized expression of the joy of the gospel in our times? I am convinced that we need to open ourselves to a serious inner works of transformation as individuals and communities. What does this transformation entail? I got some inspiration from the emblem of the Order – a burning heart. In transformation, people can perceive it from the effects it has on persons and their communities. Transformation is catching the fire that burns within without burning us out and spreads that fire wherever we go. It is this transformation that people perceived in the small group of the disciples who went about preaching the gospel after Pentecost. It is this transformation that saw in Augustine and friends as they gather in a community. For us Augustinians, the transformation entails being men on fire with God’s love and spreading its flames wherever we go. When that inner fire is ignited, it will light up our way.

For the next four years, it is my desire to focus on the following endeavors that I believe would make us approximate the realization of our Vision, and make us connect the past to the future. These are: Promotion of Augustinian Values and Spirituality; Continuation and Cultivation of Augustinian Vocation-Formation; Strengthening of Our Communities; and Intensifying (Revitalizing) Our Various Apostolates.

Promotion of Augustinian Values and Spirituality

We, Augustinians, uphold, as the standards of our life, the values, ideals and spirituality that have been shared to us by our predecessors. Our life of consecration to Christ, our communion of life, our search for God and interiority are beautiful realities that we can promote and share to a society that faces too much conflict and division. Through these values and ideals, we remain to be relevant; we continue to make a difference in the world. Yet, we need to look into ourselves and reflect on whether we have embraced them truly and have actually grown in them or not. A revisit and a self-evaluation are necessary to make us ready to promote such gifts to others. It is my intention that all of us have grown and are disposed with these values and spirituality; that they are essentially part of who we are.  The promotion of Augustinian values and spirituality is the promotion of the spiritual dimension of our life.

Continuation and Cultivation of Augustinian Vocation

As a Province we have increased in number (136) since its erection and inauguration 40 years ago. We are humbled by the gift of vocation we have received through those years, as it allowed us to extend our presence and services to other Provinces. Yet, it can be observed that we are getting less applicants in recent years. Thus, we need to intensify even more our promotion and recruitment efforts and implement the standards we have set for. Initial formation, through its program that touches on the Human development, Religious-Augustinian, Christian and Pastoral dimensions of our life, deserves a full attention. Competent formators with emphasis on accompaniment skills and passion for teaching are what we plan to assign in our seminaries. Being a model of our Augustinian way of life is still the matrix for our formators. It is in initial formation where our Augustinian vocation and tradition are nurtured and cultivated. Thus, it is important that we recognize the significant connection of vocation promotion and recruitment to initial formation and to ongoing formation. The continuation and cultivation of Augustinian vocation is the promotion of the formative dimension of our life.

Building Up the City of God

As of the moment we have 19 communities and residences, while we are committed to maintaining our presence and services to these houses, we are even profoundly committed to strengthen our life as brothers and friends. Our communal life should not be taken for granted, rather it should be everyone’s priority. Let us see how truly beautiful it is to live in a community, where common acts are observed, chapters of renewal are held, community recollections and recreations are organized, (clausura is preserved) and the needs of one another are attended to. We want our priors to be animators of community life. We do believe that the quality of our service to the people of God depends on the quality of our life in the community. The building up of the City of God is the promotion of communal dimension of our life.

Strengthening Our Various Apostolates

Education, Formation, Pastoral-work and Mission are the various apostolates that we do. These are our concrete contribution to the Church. Through these various apostolates we are given opportunities to promote St. Augustine and the ideals and values of our life to the people that we serve. We have accepted the responsibility to form and educate the young, to build communities, to do mission, to promote truth and justice, to transform lives, to respect persons, to care for the environment, and to make ourselves available to where we can be of service. Special attention is given to our commitment to preserve and spread the devotion to Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu. (Every friar must be a devotee). Sometimes in our apostolate we are pre-occupied of “people business that God’s business in our own life is set aside.” Thus the call for balance of the rhythm of our Christian life, balance between work and rest, engagement and disengagement, active and contemplative. In order to respond effectively to the pressing demands of our apostolates, more initiatives and creativity are being asked from us. Being aware and a better grasp of the context of the people we serve is essential to make our plans and strategies relevant. We make sure that the spirit of Synodality is present in our various apostolates. The strengthening of our various apostolates is the promotion of the ecclesial dimension of our life.

The four areas of concerns can be highlighted in the next four years.  However it is good to focus one in each year. For the First Year, we will highlight on the spiritual dimension of our life; Second Year, on the formative dimension; Third Year on the communal dimension and the last year on the ecclesial dimension. Thus we truly hope, that in the next four years we are, Profoundly Sharing Lives in Community for the Service of the Church. If I were to suggest a tagline, looking beyond 40, it would be “Create the Future, think VUCA.” VUCA as Values, Understanding deeply the vocation, Community and Apostolates. With this we need leaders in our communities and institutions that are VUCA leaders, that is, leaders with Vision/Virtuousness, Understanding, Compassion and Agility/Adaptability.        


Care for Temporal Goods (Sustainability of Resources)

We have stated clearly our Vision and Mission. We understand our role in the Church. We are ready to step into another stage of our journey and face new challenges. However, in all of our endeavors and plans, it is paramount that we consider as well the care of our temporal goods.  Much of the realization of our activities depends on them. We need to be creative in the management of our temporal goods in order to provide and sustain our different needs. We need to strengthen not only the financial standing of our institutions but more so the Province’s, since health, mission and formation depends on the Province’s sustainability of resources. We take into consideration undertakings and projects that would have a long-term benefit to the Province and are consistent with our mission. As I received the seal of the Province today, I ask within – how much spiritual capital I have in my pocket? I invite to ask each of you – How much spiritual capital you have right now? We will bring what we own together in common is addressing issues of sustainability. 

For 40 years, our life, as a Province, has been blessed with great opportunities to serve the church. We owe its beginning to the pioneers led by Fr. Berdon who dreamed of a Filipino Province. We also recognize the terms and leadership of Fr. Ricafrente, Fr. Mirador, Fr. Pido, Fr. Mesina and Fr. Rivera and their Council. They all had contributed to the growth of the Province. Let us continue to remember and appreciate them.

Finally, above all, today we give praise and thanks to God, the author of everything; the One who has called us to come together to profoundly share our lives in community for the service of the church. Our plans and endeavors can only be successful and bear fruits through the abiding presence of God.



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