Eleven. That’s a number that the Augustinians haven’t seen in some time. Eleven novices, that is.
The Augustinians, the Catholic religious order that serves dozens of parishes and schools throughout the United States and Canada, from coast to coast, have 11 men that will be professing their first religious vows. This is a blessing, as the Augustinians have not had so many men to profess vows at the same time in decades.
Professing these vows as Augustinians – vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – is a significant milestone in each of these young men’s lives. It marks the beginning of a journey toward becoming a solemnly professed Augustinian priest or brother.
Some Joined Because They're Inspired by Saint Augustine
“The story of Saint Augustine—his waywardness, searching, conversion, and ministry in the Church—is an inspiration for me and is a powerful witness to God’s constant reaching out to us and our thirst for God,” says Sam Joutras from Joliet, Illinois. He, like many of the other young men joining the Augustinian religious life in recent years, finds Saint Augustine to be an influential figure in his vocation.
Saint Augustine's legacy lives on in the many parishes and schools where the Augustinians serve today. Many of his teachings in his Rule are lived out on a daily basis in our communities, and it shows. In fact, these teachings really came to light for Sam because he attended both an Augustinian parish and high school growing up.
“I joined the Augustinians because I had a strong interest in the religious life and priesthood after attending an Augustinian high school (Providence Catholic) and parish (St. Jude),” he says. “This experience introduced me to several wonderful Augustinian friars and showed me that there is a great joy in this way of life.”
Father Richard McGrath, O.S.A., Ph.D., has served as the Headmaster/President of Sam's high school for over 30 years. When asked why someone might make the decision to join the Order, he explained, “It’s not obviously for everybody, but you cannot hold back – if you have the idea or the interest in giving yourself to the Church or to the Lord, don’t be afraid to pursue it. Go after it and see how it fits. I did, and I haven’t regretted it.”
Many Join the Augustinians Because Our Sense of Community
Brother Maxime Villenueve, O.S.A., professed his first vows in 2014. Over the past couple years, he has been studying theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, though he hails from San Diego. When asked about why he joined, Brother Max explained:
That sense of community is born out of Saint Augustine's teachings. And boy is the Novitiate a year to really learn how to live in community ...
Before men may profess religious vows, they first needed to complete one year of contemplative prayer at the Augustinians’ North American Novitiate in Racine. During this year, the men pray together, read together, eat together, and even do chores together. Devoting this year of communal prayer helps instill the Augustinians’ unique charism of community.
In addition to their communal prayer, studies, and chores, they have also committed themselves to some very significant team-building exercises. Even the internationally-recognized Tough Mudder - a series of hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle race through mud designed by British Special Forces to challenge the toughest of the tough - could not take down this year's class of Augustinian Novices!
This year the Novices also received a visit from Father Bob Dueweke, O.S.A., to encourage them to volunteer on a social justice committee for Augustinians International, the Augustinians' very own body at the United Nations!
So Who Are the Men Professing Their Vows This Year?
- Bobby Carroll is a Chicago native that graduated from an Augustinian school, Saint Rita High School. His father is an ordained deacon in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
- Joe Roccasalva is another Chicagoan that will join the Order. Interestingly enough, Joe also is the son of an ordained deacon in Chicago!
- Jeff Raths encountered the Augustinians at his home parish in Flint, Michigan, where the Order has served for 90 years.
- Fr. Joseph Broudou is already an ordained priest from the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska; he joined the Augustinians though to enter a religious order where he can live in a community with fellow priests and brothers.
- Dan Madden hails from Pennsylvania. He spent one year in Chicago as part of the Augustinian Volunteers program.
- Dominic Smith is joining the Order to be of service to some of the Augustinian schools and parish in his home state of California.
- Sam Joutras (quoted above) grew up in an Augustinian parish (St. Jude) and an Augustinian high school (Providence Catholic), both in New Lenox, Illinois.
- There are even four men that have come from abroad to study with the Augustinians! Elizandro Contreras hails from the Dominican Republic and spent a year learning English in a special program for Spanish-speaking vocations.
- Sarfraz Alam and Adnan Ghani both from Pakistan and are joining the West Coast Province of Augustinians headquartered in San Diego.
- Atsushi Kuwahara is from Japan. Atsushi will participate in the vows ceremony at St. Rita High School on July 31, but he will profess his vows in his homeland.
For there to be 11 men willing to make this commitment is exceptional. Like many religious orders, the Catholic Church has experienced a shortage of priests for many years. The Augustinians have had an increasing amount of young men interested in their way of life in the past couple years. Much of this is thanks to the Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A., who currently serves as the Director of Augustinian Vocations.
After they profess their vows – at an 11am public Mass on July 31 at St. Rita High School (7740 S. Western Ave., Chicago) – many of them will continue their studies at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Hyde Park. While at CTU, the newly professed will study theology, scripture, and other teachings of the Catholic Church. Their studies will often culminate in the completion of a Master’s in Divinity. With the completion of their religious studies and one year devoted to pastoral service, many will complete this formation process by being ordained priests. The entire process can take about 7 years to become a solemnly professed Augustinian priest or brother. If you would like to attend their professions, RSVP online or email the Augustinian Vocations Office.