Augustinians first went to Peru in 1551; tradition holds that the exact date was 19th September 1551. Once again, the Augustinians in question were members of the Province of Spain (Castile).
The first twelve arrived from Spain in 1551, another eleven in 1558, ten more in 1563, and sixteen in 1573.
King Philip II of Spain
subsidised the voyages of these men and in great part paid for the construction of the churches and houses they built.
(His financial assistance to the Church in Latin America was not limited to the Augustinians by any means, for other Orders also received it.)
Augustinians were in Peru in sufficient numbers that in 1575 a Province of Peru was founded.
The Augustinian school of San Ildefonso at Lima obtained from Pope Paul V the privileges of a pontifical university in 1608.
Prior to this, Augustinians had founded the University of Quito (Ecuador) in 1586, and would establish the University of Bogota (Colombia) in 1694.
At the end of the 18th century the Order in Peru comprised mainly of men who had been born locally.
There were 200 members, of whom about 120 lived in what was known as the Grand Convent (convento) in the city of Lima.
When Peru became independent from Spain in 1821, the government expelled the Spanish members of the Order.
Suppression of religious houses followed, including in 1828 the one at Trujillo, where Augustinians once again work today. Only two houses out of twenty three remained open in Peru.
Much of the grand convent in Lima was demolished in 1829 to make space for a public square.
The Order barely continued in Peru. In 1899 there were only four members left, the last of whom died in 1911. Accordingly, in 1902 the regime of the Province of Peru was suspended. The Province was suspended, i.e., made inactive as a juridical unit until such time as the number of Augustinians in Peru again reached sufficient numbers to merit its restoration.
(Happily, this happened by decree of the Augustinian General Curia on 19th September 2005, exactly 454 years after the first Augustinians had arrived in Peru.)
Three other Provinces of the Order are now assisting in Peru: Italians in the region of Chuquibambilla since 1968, Americans around Chulucanas since 1964, and members of the Madrid-based Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines around Iquitos since 1901.
In recent years, there have thus been four circumscriptions (jurisdictions) of the Order at presently working in Peru in relative independence of one another.
This is now changing, after the restoration in 2005 of what is called the ordinary government of the official Province of Peru.
With this goal in mind, the Prior General went from Rome to Lima to conduct an Assembly of the members of the Province of Peru at the end of April 2005.
During that Assembly, as well as during the meeting of the major superiors of the four circumscriptions of the Order in Peru held earlier on 7th April 2005, the topic of greater collaboration among the four circumscriptions was discussed, including plans for a shared house of novitiate.
In July 2006 the Province of Our Lady of Grace of Peru has 45 members in solemn vows, 16 of whom come from other Provinces and nations. There are seven Peruvians in temporary vows, 25 aspirants, and other young men preparing to join the Augustinian Order in Peru.
The Province ministers in five primary and secondary schools, two non-parochial churches and its houses of Augustinian formation.
On 2nd-5th March 2006 the Augustinian all candidates and formators from the four Augustinian formation houses in Peru met at Sao Paulo for a spiritual retreat. This brought together 44 candidates and 11 formators. The retreat was conducted by Fr Emanuel Borg Bonello O.S.A., who at the time was a members of the Augustinian General Curia (Rome).
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right):
"Faces" at a camp encounter for young adults of the Parish of Saint Augustine, Buenos Aires, Argentina.