Contrary to the perception that the affluence of a country can have a negative effect on its religious communities, the head of the Somascan Fathers has witnessed in Australia “young communities with a great desire to serve and work with the people of God” while on his first visit to the province this month.
“Before arriving here, I thought as many that I would find a rich nation motivated by staying rich,” says Fr. José Antonio Nieto Sepúlveda CRS, Superior General for the Clerics Regula of Somasca.
“Instead our religious communities live their lives in an austere way, devoid of any element of luxury, and founded on our three values that as Somascans we are invited to live, namely: work, prayer and charity.”
Born in Toledo, Spain, Fr Jose Antonio Nieto CRS was elected as head of the 16th century Order in May 2019 after its previous Superior General was installed as Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.
His canonical visitation to communities across the world is a government act with the purpose of promoting religious life and verifying their work, both on a personal and community level.
“It is important for me is to see if the charism of our founder is alive in the communities and in the mission entrusted to them,” say Fr Jose Antonio Nieto CRS
“We should have more information on everything that happens in every community. There is so much beauty that you can’t see.
“We have to think about the many communities that do not have the necessary means for economic autonomy and therefore must be supported by other communities or international organisations.
“There are certainly difficulties, as in every place, and what hurts me is hearing from our religious that they would like to do more but for various reasons, including economic ones, they cannot, because there is no bus, building, school, etc.”
On his visit to Sri Lanka, India and Australia, the countries that form the province of India, Fr Jose Antonio Nieto CRS saw that although there are different cultures, “this diversity is a beautiful resource that must lead us to unity”.
“All three nations must focus their work on youth vocational ministry and formation for both laity and religious.”
The visitation saw many memorable moments for the Superior General in each country, namely the celebration of the Easter Triduum in Sydney, Australia, the diaconal ordination of 10 religious in Bangalore, India, and the proclamation of the Somascan church as a Marian shrine of the diocese with the title of Mary Mother of the orphans in Thannamunai, Sri Lanka, only the second sanctuary ever to be dedicated to the Somascan patroness.
As the Somascan communities in Australia prepare to celebrate their 20th anniversary next year, Fr Jose Antonio Nieto CRS sees this visit as a joyful reason to “thank the Divine Providence that has brought us to this beautiful nation”.
“It is always a good reason to reflect and encourage our collaborators and friends so that we become aware that both they and the religious form the Somascan family,” says the Superior General.
“We can all be part of St. Jerome’s dream, that is, to bring the Church to apostolic times through the works of mercy.”
Fr Jose Antonio Nieto CRS is completing his canonical visitation to this province with the Somascan communities in Western Australia before returning to Rome.
For more information about the Somascan Fathers in Australia visit somascan.org.au