SARF de Filipinas joins 11 Countries in the 1st International Encounter in Rio de Janeiro


RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – With one soul and one heart, members of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity de Filipinas joined 11 countries in the very first International Encounter that was held in Rio de Janeiro last 13-16 November 2023 in Sitio Santo Agostinho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The group was composed of 8 fraternity members, led by the National President, Bro. Edwin Ruiz, SAR, and 4 friars namely Fray Dennis Castillo (National Spiritual Director), Fray Joseph Granada (San Sebastian Parish Manila Community), Fray Leopoldo Estioko (Mount Carmel Parish Community), and Fray Amadeu Lucero (University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos Community).

The Sessions started with a talk of Fray Sergio Sanchez about “Dreams that Do Come True”. This kicked off the session and laid out the foundation of the whole encounter. Reminding each one of the participants that what we are seeing became a reality because someone dreamt about it in the past. Hence, he encouraged us to dream. He encouraged us to dream big. God has a dream for each and every one of us. Thus, we should have a dream as well.

But dreaming is not enough. In dreaming, we should have discernment. This discernment will make sure that our dreams are aligned to the dream that God has for us and our fraternity. God should be the origin and end of our dreams for this fraternity.

The talk was followed by the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist to formally start the event. The day fell perfectly on the feast of all the saints of the order and very good reminder that these great Augustinian Saints have lived following the Rule of Saint Augustine, the same thing that we are trying to do now. The Eucharistic Celebration was followed by the Vespers highlighting the men and women who like us strived to follow the way our Father Saint Augustine taught us.

It was indeed a Pentecost experience. Parts of the Liturgy was said in Spanish, Portuguese, English, and even in Tagalog. Each one trying to pray in each other’s language and then everyone in their own mother-tongue. There were indeed many languages but these languages did not cause division, like what happened in the Tower of Babel. Despite the multitude of languages, the Holy Spirit was there, leading each one to be in One Soul and One Heart on a Pilgrimage towards God.

Day two started very early as the participants ascended to the Corcovado Mountain to meet the famous Cristo Rendentor (Christ, the Redeemer). Focusing on the theme, “Pilgrims to the Heart of God”, it started to feel like a real pilgrimage. Very early in the morning, it is a sight to behold. A sea of clouds covering the City of Rio de Janeiro. Then, you hike for a few minutes and as you reach the top, you’ll see Cristo Redentor with arms wide open to embrace anyone who comes to him. Of course, we could not be there without celebrating a mass.

From Cristo Redentor, the group went to the only replica of the site of Our Lady of Fatima outside of Portugal. The ones who take care of the site shared to the participants the story on how the shrine came to be. It was no doubt a miracle. Kenia (the one who oversees the shrine) said that during a pilgrimage to Fatima, her husband told her, “Our Lady told me that we should build her shrine in Rio.” At first she thought it was just a crazy story. However, when the Lady tells us to do something, we should do it. So, little  by little, the shrine came to be.

The afternoon was followed by a series of workshop that focused on the charisms of the Order and how the Fraternity fits into the greater scheme of things. The workshops were presided by Fray Rafael Castillo from Oxnard, CA; Fray Sergio Sanchez from Mexico; and Fray Fabian from the Generalate in Italy.

The second day ended with the recitation of the Vespers and some presentations from the different participating countries.

The third day focused on the theme, “Pilgim to One’s Own Heart”, reminding us of the first charism, interiority. This time, it is the time of the laity to shine. The friars took their seat for a while while the members of the Fraternity themselves discuss the charismatic identity of the a lay Augustininan Recollect. After this, another series of workshops were done to deepen the message and make sure that the participants would reflect on their identity as lay in the Augustinian Recollect family.

The day finished with the Rosary of Light where the members of the fraternity prayed the rosary in the darkness with only candle light to light the path. As if it were Easter, the Paschal Candle was lit and from there, the light of Christ was shared to everyone. Then the Paschal Candle led the Fraternity into procession until the final site was reached. And can you believe that one of the decades was said in Tagalog? Yes, the fraternity started to understand that the Philippines is more than English. In fact, earlier that day, the Pater Noster in the mass was said first in the native languages of the participants, and then after that they asked the Filipinos to repeat the prayer in Tagalog. Who knows? Next time, parts of the Liturgy would be done in other languages of the Philippines too.

The final day came and the theme focused on “Pilgrims to the Heart of Sisters & Brothers”, now reminding us of our communitarian charism. As usual, the day started with the celebration of the Lauds then followed by the breaking of the groups into smaller groups. Each group was tasked to contemplate in various questions that deal on the life of  the fraternity. Questions about the essential elements of the Fraternity’s identity (group 1), utilising the resources “Peregrinos” more effectively (group 2), the formation of the Laity in the formation centres of the OAR (group 3), how the spiritual assistants could better help the Fraternity (group 4) and the proposal on how to incorporate the Recollect Augustinian Youth (RAY) and others to the Fraternity (group 5) were tackled. As expected it was an intense day with lots of proposals coming out after.

Finally, all good things must come to an end. Fray Sergio presided the closing Eucharist capping everything that happened during the last days. The day was so intense but everyone knew that it was a very fruitful 4 days. Now, it is time to go back to our own communities and bring back what we have learned.

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