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Annual Retreat 2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by augustinian recollects   
Thursday, 01 June 2017 05:48

Annual Retreat at Saint Augustine Priory, Oxnard, California

May 29- June 2, 2017

Forty- three Augustinian Recollect Friars gathered at St. Augustine Priory in Oxnard, California, on the afternoon of May 29, 2017, to begin their annual five-day retreat. Of the friars present, six were members of St. Nicholas of Tolentine Province and the rest from St. Augustine Province, representing another step toward unification of the two provinces, mandated by the General Chapter of 2016, and enforced by the commission on the unification of both provinces. The Priory extended its traditional hospitality to the retreatants, making everyone feel welcome, well cared for, and well fed! The retreat director, Fr. Michael DiGregorio, OSA, is prior provincial of the Villanova (Eastern) Province of the Order of Saint Augustine. Fr. DiGregorio offered a morning and afternoon conference each day and a question-and-answer session in the evenings; he also preached each day at Mass. The conferences centered on the Rule of St. Augustine, and challenged all those present to take a fresh look at this central document of Augustinianism, to continue to grow in self-awareness, and to experience anew the joy of living together in community as brothers who are united in the common life and in service to the Church.


Last Updated on Thursday, 01 June 2017 06:12
Tagaste Monastery, Suffern, New York PDF Print E-mail
Written by augustinian recollects   
Monday, 08 May 2017 13:55

End of the Summer. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, visited Tagaste Monastery on August 29, 2016, and celebrated a 10:30 AM Mass in the Tagaste chapel together with Fr. Provincial, Michael Rafferty, and Frs. John Gruben, Charles Huse, and John Oldfield. Also present were the presidents of the SAR fraternities of Tagaste, Mr. Joseph Marsico, and St. Cloud, Mr. Joseph Gruszczynski, and Ella Slivka. The Cardinal brought his very informal style to the liturgy, speaking about Sts. Augustine and Monica and asking about the other saints pictured in the stained glass windows, especially Ezekiel Moreno. After Mass all gathered for breakfast and a lively conversation about the Augustinian Recollects and their work in the US and around the world and well as prospective changes in the Order with the upcoming General Chapter.

Visit of Cardinal Timothy Dolan to Tagaste (l to r): Mr. Joseph Gruszczynski, Frs. John Oldfield and Michael Rafferty, Cardinal Dolan, Frs. Charles Huse and John Gruben, and Mr. Joseph Marsico, August 29, 2016.

Novena of Guadalupe. Fr. Fidel Hernández presided at the opening of the novena on December 3. The chapel was, as usual, beautifully decorated with a large image of Our Lady and statue of Juan Diego along with an abundance of roses. The rosary was recited each evening along with hymns honoring Mary as well as readings telling the story of the apparition at Tepeyac. After the services, refreshments were served in the hall along with costumed dances performed by the young people of the community. The Feast of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) began with the singing of Las Mañanitas at 5:15 AM with music provided by the Tagaste Hispanic choir and a mariachi group; an evening Mass was celebrated with Fr. Hernández presiding.

Guadalupe Novena: Fr. Fidel Hernández with “Los Viejitos” dancers.

Annual Guild Communion Breakfast. Around 100 people attended the 9:30 AM bilingual Mass on December 11 celebrated by Fr. Provincial, Michael Rafferty, assisted by Frs. John Gruben, John Oldfield, and Fidel Hernández. Everyone then adjourned to the hall for the breakfast of bacon and eggs, sausage, rolls, and pastries, coffee and tea. Peggy Evans, President of the Pius X Guild, welcomed all and presented each of the friars with Christmas gifts. Door prizes were also distributed. The Guild has been a vital part of the life of Tagaste for over 50 years.

Guild Communion Breakfast (l to r): Peggy Evans (Guild President) and Frs. John Gruben, Michael Rafferty, and Fidel Hernández, December 11, 2016.

Christmas and its Vigil. Frs. Gruben and Hernández were busy with Christmas Eve Masses in the parishes as well as at home, where an 8:00 PM Vigil Mass was celebrated. The Mass was followed by the traditional devotion honoring the Infant Jesus and then by refreshments in the hall. After finishing the Masses on Christmas Day, Fr. Fidel left to begin vacation time with his family in California.

New Year 2017. After celebrating the Masses of New Year’s Eve/Day honoring Mary, Mother of God, Fr. Gruben, accompanied by Joe Marsico, former SAR president, joined Fr. Oldfield and the community at St. Joseph Villa in Sloatsburg, NY, for a New Year’s Day lunch. Many of the families of the residents along with Bishop Paul of Stamford, CT, Eastern Rite superior (Ukranian) of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate were present for the occasion. As usual, the Sisters put on a worthy feast.

On the Solemnity of the Epiphany, celebrated on Jan. 8 in the Archdiocese of New York, the Magi, Mary and Joseph, and several angels joined the procession for the 10:30 Mass presided by Fr. John Gruben, and with much splendor, worshiped the new born Jesus in traditional fashion. The “three kings” presented their special gifts at the time of the Offertory.

That afternoon, some twenty-five SAR members and their families gathered in the fireplace room at 1:00 PM for a truly delicious pot luck lunch featuring lasagna, baked ziti, egg plant parmigiana, sausages and peppers, chicken, ham, and many other items together with an abundance of desserts. The meal began with a procession to the chapel, a reading of the Epiphany story, and a return to the dining room with the singing of “We Three Kings” and a number of other Christmas carols. After lunch there was a grab bag and a sharing of Christmas stories among the members. Frs. Gruben and Theresa Giampaglia, new SAR president, thanked all of our SAR members for being part of our community life and encouraged recruiting of new members.

The Guild sponsored its annual St. Patrick’s dinner dance on March 11. The dinner included the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner and all the trimmings: boiled potatoes, carrots, and plenty of soda bread. March birthdays were celebrated with special fanfare for Frs. Fidel Hernández (Mar. 3), Charles Huse (Mar. 17) and John Oldfield (Mar. 25). The evening included a 50/50 and a very lively music program provided by Mary Taylor with Italian, Latino, and group dances as well as favorite Irish songs. In spite of very cold weather over 100 people attended the event.

St. Patrick’s dinner dance, 2017 (l to r): Frs. John Oldfield and Charles Huse, Peggy Evans, and Fr. John Gruben.


An enormous late winter snow storm named “Stella” dumped over a foot of snow on Suffern and even more elsewhere in the New York area on March 14, bringing traffic and most activities to a stop. Fortunately the heat and lighting continued to function at Tagaste, and the drive way was plowed several times, leaving, however, a sheet of ice to contend with. In the wake of the storm the temperatures continued bitter cold ensuring that the snow would be around for some time.

The Hispanic committee with the help of Fr Fidel Hernández organized a week of Lenten reflections entitled “La Misión”, March 27-31; between 40-50 people assembled each evening from 7-9 PM. Fr Fidel started off the Lenten talks with Augustinian spirituality centering on the teaching of interiority. Some of the coordinators prepared talks on: transmission of faith; the sorrows of Mary; dying to ourselves; and penance and reconciliation. One evening was dedicated to a dramatization of some of the miracles of Jesus including: the raising of Lazarus, the wedding at Cana, and the healings of Peter's mother in law, a blind man, the ten lepers, and the woman with the hemorrhage. The mission closed with Stations of the Cross and Holy Hour with Benediction.

Lenten Retreat: “Resurrection of Lazarus”.

The Easter Triduum (April 13-15). On Holy Thursday, Fr. Fidel Hernández was main celebrant for the 8 PM accompanied by Frs. Gruben and Oldfield. Fr. Fidel washed the feet of six persons who were candidates for Baptism/Confirmation at the Easter Vigil. At the conclusion of the Mass all processed down to the Guild Hall for an extended vigil before the Blessed Sacrament.

On Good Friday, Stations of the Cross were celebrated on the grounds of the monastery with the various groups leading a considerable crowd in the meditation at each of the stations. Fr. Gruben presided at the 3 PM Liturgy of the Passion in English and Fr. Hernandez at 7:30 PM in Spanish.

For the Easter Vigil, Fr. Gruben was main celebrant, assisted by Frs. Oldfield and Hernandez. Victor Frias, a member of the Tagaste choir, sang the traditional Exultet followed by 4 readings from the Old Testament and the required New Testament readings. There were two adults who passed through the catechumenate program and were admitted to Baptism, 5 candidates for Confirmation, and one for First Holy Communion.

Fr. John Gruben Confirming candidates at the Easter Vigil, 2017.

Holy Saturday, 2017 (l to r): Frs. John Oldfield, Fidel Hernández, and John Gruben with newly baptized and confirmed at the Easter Vigil.

Divine Mercy Sunday. Tagaste once again hosted the annual Sacred Heart service on April 23 with Fr. John Gruben presiding at the Benediction and giving the talk. He was joined by Frs. Matthew Furey (pastor of Sacred Heart) and Fr. Innocente (assistant) hearing Confessions. Activities also included a movie on the life of St. Faustina Kawalska, refreshments, and sale of devotional materials. Some 100 people were in attendance for the day, which was coordinated by Nancy Camilleri, SAR.

Fr. Sergio Sanchez, provincial of St. Nicholas Province, accompanied by Fr. Rafael Mediavilla and Dn. Cristino Gutierrez from Union City, NJ. visited Tagaste on April 24 as part of the process of merging our two provinces as mandated by the last General Chapter.

Visit of Fr. Sergio Sanchez, St. Nicholas Provincial, to Tagaste (l to r): Dn. Cristino Gutierrez, Frs. John Gruben, Sergio Sergio, Rafael Mediavilla, and Fidel Hernández.



Last Updated on Monday, 08 May 2017 14:55
Cristo Rey Parish, Los Angeles PDF Print E-mail
Written by augustinian recollects   
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 20:43

CLERGY CONNECT is an initiative of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in cooperation with Sprint to provide iPhones to all priests. The program is at no cost for the device or the monthly service. There are plans to extend the program to include religious assigned to parish ministries. Daily communications from the various offices are sent out and now none of the clergy are able to say that they never received the memo!

TOGETHER IN MISSION, the annual appeal of the Archdiocese is a year-long activity. Cristo Rey was able to exceed the goal established for us last January on the first weekend and at the close of the calendar year, a rebate check was received. Shortly afterwards we received the goal assigned to the parish for 2017 with a considerable increase.

CRISTO REY hosted the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women for their monthly gathering. Fr. Michael Stechmann was the celebrant for their Mass which was followed by a catered luncheon and business meeting in the parish hall. It was the first time that most of the members had the opportunity to visit our parish. Several members of the Cabrini Literary Guild based in nearby Burbank were present. They were surprised when Fr. Michael pointed out that the statue of St. Monica in front of the Rectory was donated by their organization many years ago in memory of their founder, Mrs. Wilma Kemmell. Many gathered for photographs of the statue and the plaque acknowledging their gift. The history as to why or how this gift came to be so many years ago is still a mystery to be solved.

THE CULTURE PROJECT visited the parish to speak with both sessions of our Confirmation students. A group of six college-age missionaries are spending one year in the Archdiocese and have been trained in the fields of medicine, psychology, philosophy and theology. The goal of the group is to restore culture through virtuous living. They spent two hours with the boys and girls divided and were well received. Many parents later commented to Fr. Michael about the positive comments their children shared with they. The same group returned several weeks later to spend an evening with the Youth Group and provided pizza and snacks for them.

FR. JUAN JOSE GUZMAN visited with family and friends before his July 1 transfer to assist at Our Lady of Lourdes in Mexico City and enjoyed several farewell gatherings with parish groups. Fr. Jorge Valdivia, following his June 18 ordination to the priesthood arrived at the parish in July and was welcomed at each of the Sunday Masses.

FR. JORGE VALDIVIA is working with the Movimiento Familiar Cristiano and the Prayer Group while assisting Deacon Ascencion with the Secular Augustinian Recollects. He is also involved with the newly-formed “Grupo Santa Rita”. This core group of 7 individuals was formed in their desire to learn more about Church teachings and the lives of the saints. He is also meeting with various individuals regularly for spiritual direction and couples who come for Marriage and Family Counseling.

CRISTO SIEMPRE, the parish theatrical group is beginning its 43rd year in the parish and have many fond memories of their founder, Fr. Jose Ma. Santiago, O.A.R. They continue to present three performances during the year for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Passion Play on Palm Sunday and a favorite of the catechism children, “Marcelino, Pan y Vino”. Deacon Ascencion Esqueda joins them for their weekly meetings as the moderator and Fr. Jorge Valdivia had a part in the Guadalupe performance and will also demonstrate his acting skills in the upcoming Passion Play.

THE PARISH FESTIVAL during the spring was a very successful venture with parish/family sponsored food booths and continuous entertainment. Experience in the past few years has shown that a one day festival is easier to manage and financially more profitably than a three-day festival with rides. The addition of a raffle with numerous hourly prizes has been well-received. The parishioners knew that the funds would be used for the maintenance and repairs in the church and this alone served as an incentive for greater participation. Organizational meetings have already been held for the festival in May.

EARLIER THIS SUMMER, a group of 19 parishioners, after more than a year of study and preparation with Fr. Juan Jose Guzman, made their profession of promises on June 15. Fr. Jorge meets with them twice a month and they are studying the Rule of Life and commentaries of St. Augustine relating to the liturgical calendar. Francisco de la Torre, president of the group, organizes regular gatherings during the week and at various Masses on Sundays each month. Each of their reunions begins with the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Secular Augustinian Recollects during a recent gathering.

CHURCH RENOVATIONS during the summer began early in the morning on Monday, July 25 with the removal of the pews and the tile floor that was desperately in need of repair. A new floor with a solid color matching the sanctuary and entryway was installed before the pews were returned, properly positioned and stabilized. The parishioners have been especially pleased with the new aluminum kneelers which replaced the original wooden kneelers that were deafening with the noise (and uncomfortable). The final touch was the installation of new carpeting in the center and side aisles and with long hours and coordinated efforts, all of the work was completed by Friday evening of the same week. Early Saturday morning Frs. Michael, Jorge, Dcn. Ascencion and a group of volunteers began the dusting and cleaning of the church with everything in order before the Saturday Vigil Mass. Fr. Michael laughed at the expressions on the faces of the parishioners when the kneelers were lowered or raised without the customary banging. (Too bad we don’t have a photo as their faces said it all!)

THE COSTA RICAN COMMUNITY from various parts of Los Angeles meets at Cristo Rey every August for the celebration of their patroness, Our Lady of the Angels. The elaborately displayed image of Our Lady has a prominent place in the sanctuary much to the delight of our parishioners. Following the Mass they have the custom of gathering in our parish hall to continue the celebration.

Fr. Michael and Deacon Ascension with the image of Our Lady of the Angels.

CATECHISM REGISTRATIONS were held on each of the Sundays in August thanks to the dedication of Jose y Enriqueta Torres. Fr. Michael Stechmann met with all of the catechists before classes began in September, along with the new and returning assistants. The Opening Mass for the new year was held on September 10 and each of the catechists met briefly afterwards in clusters around the property with the students and their families. The parish hall is occupied with catechism classes six days each week.

Fr. Michael and catechists prepare for new year.

A group of students and parents following the Opening Mass.

THE YEAR OF MERCY served as the impetus for the local community to invite couples to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony in a group wedding which was held on Saturday, September 17 with ten couples participating. The initial announcement for the group wedding informed everyone that there would be no donation requested as this was our gift. Fr. Michael Stechmann informed them of the required paperwork and documents and Fr. Juan Jose Guzman, met with them regularly before his transfer to Mexico. Fr. Jorge Valdivia held several meetings with them in order to bring the course to a completion.

Fr. Michael Stechmann, Deacon Ascencion esqueda and Fr. Jorge Valdivia with couples following the group wedding.

THE PARISHIONERS REJOICED upon learning that Pope Francis had signed the decree on July 8 declaring Bishop Alphonse Gallegos as “Venerable”. Many of the parishioners still remember him from the brief time he spent as pastor here. News of this event, along with biographical information and prayers appear frequently in the parish bulletin. Fr. Michael Stechmann attended the Mass of Thanksgiving and the reading of the official decree in Sacramento on November 19 and on the evening before the celebration he enjoyed a reunion with the extended Gallegos Family.

DEACON ASCENCION ESQUEDA serves as the liaison with all of the parish groups and coordinates communication. He is present for all meetings of the Guadalupanas and assists them in the cleaning of the church. During the week he is a visible presence at meetings of the various parish groups.

IMMIGRATION FEARS that have gripped much of the country are certainly prevalent among our parishioners. Deacon Ascencion Esqueda agreed to be the parish representative to participate in a workshop sponsored by Catholic Charities. Much of the information he received is proving to be helpful to calm fears and will assist us in communicating to our parishioners what services are available. We are making efforts to have representatives of Catholic Charities visit the parish in order to highlight available services and to answer questions relating to immigration laws.

Caught on camera...

The youngest member of the Martinez Family was not old enough to enroll in catechism classes at Cristo Rey and tried to block his brothers from registration.


Last Updated on Monday, 08 May 2017 14:09
Written by augustinian recollects   
Thursday, 13 April 2017 21:10


Last Updated on Thursday, 13 April 2017 21:14
Vocation Meeting at Saint Augustine Priory, Oxnard, California PDF Print E-mail
Written by augustinian recollects   
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 15:05

On January 23-27, 2017, Fr. Provincial, John Michael Rafferty, meets with the Vocation Director of Saint Augustine Province, Fr. Jorge Mateos, and his team, Fr. Ramón Gaitán, Fr. Eric Crelencia, Fr. Jorge Valdivia, Fr. Francisco Sandoval, Fr. José Luis Martínez, Fr. Felizardo Daganta, and Deacon Ulises Feliciano, at Saint Augustine Priory, Oxnard, California. Fr. Cristino Gutiérrez Rubio and Fr. Honorio Calvo (of Saint Nicholas Province) are also in attendance. This meeting is the first vocational meeting of St. Augustine Province with the cooperation of Saint Nicholas Province, which reflects the ongoing mutual collaboration between the two provinces in their efforts toward unification in 2018. Let us pray that Our Mother of Consolation will watch over them and guide and encourage them in this very important vocational ministry.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 January 2017 15:11
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