Afterwards she made the following report.
In October 2012, much to my surprise, I found myself in Cochin India. This was as a result of realizing that Australia was the only country in the Asia Pacific region with good representation at the recent International Laity Congress in Rome. As a newly appointed Coordinator, my focus went immediately to India. For this there are two reasons: firstly, its proximity to Australia and, secondly, that Fr Jaison Francis O.S.A. who had recently been appointed to our St James’s Parish in Coorparoo (Brisbane) comes from Cochin, India. Fr Jaison had attended a Friends gathering in Coorparoo and mentioned that nothing like Friends existed in the Augustinian community in India.
I arrived in Cochin very late on Wednesday 25th October 2012 (see photo above). Fr Robert Roy O.S.A., Delegation Superior and his assistant Fr Anson O.S.A., were at the airport to meet me. Dawn presented me with a tranquil setting. The Augustinian Seminary sits by the bend of a smooth, calm, clean river, bordered by lush green vegetation; at that time of day not a soul to be seen - just peace and quiet.
Fr Robert had done some preparatory work with the parishioners before I arrived. This proved to be helpful as I was able to get right to the point and the reason for my visit. I spent five days in Cochin during which time the Holy Spirit and St Augustine must have worked overtime because within those five days, we established three laity groups; one in the parish of Aluva, one in Pollachi, and one in Edacochin. The seminary is in Aluva, so this was home base for me. Pollachi is in Tamil Nadu State, three to four hours drive from Aluva. The Augustinians run a school there. The third group is in the parish in Edacochin where Fr Jaison’s parents live.
I was overwhelmed by the desire the parishioners had for Augustinian spirituality. They welcomed the idea of forming laity groups with open arms and expressed a wish to arrange gatherings immediately. When told about our forthcoming Australian Congress, I was asked if they could attend. How quickly they grasped the purpose of laity groups and gatherings within our Augustinian communities. India is now in the process of forming another laity group - music to my ears! They’ve seen the laity light and have embraced it totally. The warmth of the welcome I received from the friars, seminarians, junior seminarians and parishioners will live long in my memory. I ask for your ongoing prayers for India.
Fr Anson O.S.A. at Cochin in India wrote the following:
Augustinian Lay Association, which was one of our dreams was officially inaugurated during the visit of Sylvia Phillips to three of our communities. This really gave a new spirit to our way of life and also it really paved a path for the people to know about St. Augustine more closely.
In three of our communities this association works fantastically well. In Pollachi some more people also joined the association. In Aluva the members show much enthusiasm to have the gathering once in a month. And the meeting normally starts with a prayer and then one of our priests will be sharing some thoughts on the spirituality of St Augustine and after that there will be sharing from the part of the community members and they all participate in this sharing session with much zeal. At the end of the gathering there will be an Agape prepared by them. And they asked for books which related to St Augustine and the Spirituality of the Order. And inspired by our spirituality they have requested us to welcome them for our community prayers and we accepted their re-quest. They come for our community prayer on every first Wednesday of the month. We have elected a president and secretary. And they are now organizing the meetings.
On the feast of St Augustine they were all invited and their participation was striking. In Pollachi the members have come forward to take all the expenses of the feast by themselves and to celebrate it in three days as parish feast. In Aluva we have the celebration of feast of St Augustine for three days in the Parish.
In the three of our communities the Lay Association goes on well as we have planned with much vigour and enthusiasm.Return Visit
Syvlia made a second visit to India in late 2014: click here.