The Augustinians are religious priests and brothers following in the footsteps of Christ and Saint Augustine since 1244. We are "Active Contemplatives." We are Men of Heart. We serve God and His people in diverse ministries as priests, educators, and missionaries.
The order is a brotherhood within the Catholic Church, so you need to be a Catholic to join. Brotherhood? What if I'm a woman? There are Augustinian Sisters - a number spread around the world. As well, many congregations of Sisters follow the Rule of Augustine. Women can also be associated with the Order through our Augustinian lay groups. But basically to join the Augustinians you need to be male, a person of faith and looking for your way of living that faith in a religious community. To become an Augustinian assumes a certain faith commitment. That doesn't mean being overly churchy: it means being a person with a commitment to their faith. As a member of the Order you will be a professed brother. You may wish also to be a priest, but that's another choice to be made and involves further study and training.
Brother Stephen's Journey so far
One of my earliest memories is of my two brothers and myself ‘saying mass’ when we were younger in the upstairs of my father’s pub. In fact, thinking back many of my memories revolve around such things as attending Mass, going to altar-boy practice or participating in the local novena. If this makes me sound devoutly religious I am anything but, the point is that I had a normal Irish childhood and many reading this will have similar memories.
Obviously, at such an early age I had little intention of entering Religious life, but this changed when I entered Secondary School, and a returning missionary showed us a presentation on leprosy in Ethiopia. This deeply touched me, and I remember fundraising for the Brother, and my Religion teacher saying that she would be proud if I became a Priest/brother. Perhaps she saw something I didn’t? At that time I remember thinking the life of a religious was very daring and exciting while helping the poorest in our world and society. I still think this is part of my vocational calling today!
However, it wasn't until I was about 16 that I seriously considered the idea of Priesthood and I remember sending off a letter requesting information around that time to my diocesan vocations director. Whether or not it was received, I don't know, but the fact that I never heard anything back made me think that I wasn’t good enough to be considered and the thought evaporated from my head for some time.
And so life continued, and I did all the things that a young man does. I had girlfriends, I went out socialising with friends and played a huge variety of sports, with hurling as my first love! I had various jobs while I attended university, and I finally qualified as a secondary school teacher, working my way to be a Deputy Headteacher. I loved teaching and those years were undoubtedly the most enjoyable of my life. I still miss the interaction with the pupils to this very day, and I do hope that I might one day work in one of our Augustinian schools here in Ireland.
During my long school holidays, I volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity in India, Ethiopia, Romania, London and Albania and those experiences were hugely influential in my vocation to Augustinian religious life. As a volunteer, I was encouraged to participate in the life of the ‘Sisters’, and I thoroughly enjoyed their rhythm of life. In fact, this rhythm of life is similar to our Augustinian communities with an emphasis on prayer, ministry, silence and contemplation. Maybe that’s why we are sometimes referred to as Active Contemplatives?
Even though I had a successful teaching career and all the outward signs of fulfilment, I was always seeking something more profound, and I found this when I prayed and spent time in silence with God. And this led me to the Augustinians. You see, the essential Augustinian charism of coming together as a community “one in mind and heart” is very appealing to me, and something I feel that I contribute positively towards. I desire to serve God in many forms; from serving his poor in whatever way poverty manifests itself – physical, spiritual, material, financial etc., celebrating the sacraments, studying or just merely being present in community with my brother friars. I believe I am making a difference however small that may be.
Contrary to what many people think, living as an Augustinian does not mean sacrificing everything that I know or believe in. In fact, I experience a great sense of freedom living the life I know God wants me to live, and I know our Order actively tries to make sure that each Friar is living their true vocational calling. I can honestly say that I feel entirely at home in our Augustinian communities, and I simply can't imagine not being an Augustinian now.
There is so much more to say, but I hope at least this gives you some idea as to my Augustinian journey. If you are interested in finding out more, I am more than happy to hear from you, so please do get in touch through our Vocation Director, Fr Colm O’Mahony, OSA (details on main page)
Good luck in your discernment, and if you are open, God will grace you with all the answers you require.
Bro. Stephen Shields, OSA
Ministry as a Referee
Receiving my referee certificate recently at Croke Park takes me back to when I was 18 and the first time I refereed a game of hurling. I’ll not ruin the surprise of how many years ago that was now (a clue…the cast of Derry Girls were probably not even born), the point being that it shows how long I have been interested in refereeing and now I am finally able to do so in the Dublin area.
You hear scare stories all the time of the abuse that referees receive, and no doubt there is an element of truth about them. However, little is mentioned of the extreme satisfaction one gets after a job well down (even if both sets of supporters don’t necessarily agree), and the commitment to make sure the mistakes of the last game aren’t repeated in the next one. Maybe this is a metaphor for life?
You’ll not see me in Croke Park anytime soon as I plough my furrow in the lower leagues, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I am following a passion I have had for many years, and I thank my Community and my Province for this opportunity.
Of course, I especially thank God because if the scare stories are true, then I may well need Him on my side!
Bro. Stephen Shields, OSA
So do I need to be anyone special?
No. We're not looking for superman. However, there are some requirements.
You need to be between 18 and 50, although exceptions can be made according to individual circumstances.
You need to have finished secondary school and be qualified for tertiary studies. The study you take may be theological studies for the priesthood or it may be another form of study that prepares you for a ministry in the Church - teaching, social work, nursing...the field is wide open. The study and training are aimed at equipping you for your work as a member of the Order in parish, education, the caring professions, wherever you can best use your skills and gifts within the Order.
We would encourage you not to come too early in life. A bit of experience of life after school in a work, study or family setting will help you to mature and have a better understanding of yourself, others and the world. Experience like this is invaluable.
Spiritual and Personal Qualities
You must be healthy with a good, healthy appreciation of life. You need to appreciate your own humanity and humanness, living life in reasonably normal ways as a Christian. You need to have a level of maturity as you are looking at a life that is lived in common as a celibate, while taking on some demanding work in your life. You need to be a person of faith, living out that faith in the Catholic community. A sense of humour would be handy.
Augustinian Province of Ireland
Tel: 01 4851516
Registered charity number: CHY71822 - RCN20014926