A young community with 400 years of history in Rome


The community of Sistina, founded in 1619 for the residence of the procurator of the Augustinian Recollects, celebrates its 400th anniversary this year. It was the first community in Rome and is currently made up of young Augustinian Recollects who are doing their specialization studies in Roman universities. It is an intercultural and interprovincial community. Here is the universality of the Church.

The apparent modernity of the current San Ildefonso y Santo Tomás de Villanueva International School conceals its 400 years of history. Its walls are century-old yet one can breathe vitality and youth. The first community of the Augustinian Recollects in Rome, created in 1619, is today formed by young religious who carry out their specialization studies in Roman universities. That is why the Augustinian Recollect Juan Pablo Martínez, who has lived in the house until a few months ago, recognizes that “it is a youthful spirit that is lived in spite of its ancient walls”.

Currently made up of young people, the community of Sistina celebrates its 400th anniversary this year, 2019. At the beginning of the Augustinian Recollection, “there was a desire to have a house in Rome that would serve as a union with the Holy See,” says the Augustinian Recollect Ángel Martínez Cuesta, a church historian. The need for this community increases because the presence of the procurator of the Augustinian Recollects before the Holy See was important. “It was decided to found in Rome a hospice where a friar – the procurator – and some religious would live with his company”, points out Tomás Ortega, an Augustinian Recollect who knew the history of the centenary community.

This is the main reason why the so-called community of Sistina was founded in 1619 due to its location in Via Sistina. For years it played an important role. For several decades it was even the seat of the General Curia of the Order, until the construction of the new building in the EUR slum. From four decades ago until today, it is the International School San Ildefonso y Santo Tomás de Villanueva. For Pablo Panedas, an Augustinian Recollect historian, “Sistina is a key house, not only in the history of the Order”. It is the third oldest community preserved by the Augustinian Recollects.

Panedas assures that it is key for history and for the religious who currently live in the community. “Since it is a house of studies, it is a key community because it is the place where formators are formed”, and he adds that “it is unique”. Living in this house is a unique experience. Bruno D’Andrea, Augustinian Recollect, studies in Rome and lives in the community: “Thank God we are a few young people whom the Order has allowed to study and deepen our knowledge”.

At present, Sistina is inhabited by young people from the four provinces of the Augustinian Recollects and from various nationalities. It is these two particularities that Juan Pablo Martínez highlights the most: “Here, there is no difference of provinces at all; simply all those who live in this house are Augustinian Recollects and it is what marks the identity of everything they do”. This multiculturalism allows this house to be “a showcase of what the Order is,” says Pablo Panedas.

The Prior General, Miguel Miró, assures that in this house the revitalization of the charism is already being lived since “it contains elements that must encourage us to revitalize the Order”. The memory stands out – the centenary history of this place – the life in community between the provinces and with the Church, and the hope that the study of young religious implies.

If one can summarize in some way the past, the present and the future of this community, perhaps the phrase of Pablo Panedas could serve: “Here is the universality of the Church”.

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