Fr Anthony Banks OSA is the Assistant General of the Order of St Augustine, responsible for the Asia Pacific region and is based in Rome.
Fr Tony was appointed in 2013 and was previously the Australian Provincial of the Order of St Augustine for over seven years.
In this role Fr Tony was involved in the decision for the Augustinians to come to Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair in the Diocese of Parramatta.
“Fr Laurie Mooney and myself came to Holy Spirit, Fr Brian Roooney was Parish Priest at the time.”
“The first thing that struck us was the Mother of Good Counsel,” he said, which is in the Holy Spirit Church.
“This is one of the two images which the Order is dedicated to.”
“We felt we’d come to the right place,” he said.
Fr Tony has visited St Clair Parish several times since, and in March 2017 did so with the Prior General of the Order of St Augustine, Fr Alejandro Moral Antón.
The Order of St Augustine has cared for the icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Genazzano, Italy for over 600 years.
Read more about the Augustinian Friars here.
Multiple saints and Popes have prayed for Our Lady’s intercession at the Shrine, which is associated with many miracles and is believed to miraculously arrive across the sea from Albania.
Fr Tony told an amusing anecdote about the visits of St Teresa of Calcutta and St John Paul II.
St Teresa of Calcutta was Albanian and thought it would be nice if Our Lady of Good Counsel returned to Albania, Fr Tony said.
When St John Paul II visited Genazzano, he suggested this return to the Prior General. Aghast, the Prior General agreed, “Provided it goes back the same way it came,” Fr Tony said.
Augustinian Friars have crossed seas to serve at St Clair Parish and pursue their vocation, including Deacon Tran.
Fr Tony also grew up across the sea, in New Zealand, graduating in Commerce at the University of Auckland and moved to Melbourne to work for a merchant bank.
The story of Fr Tony’s discernment of a vocation began when the Augustinians took over South Yarra Parish in Melbourne, of which a young Tony was Acting Parish Chair.
The pivotal moment in his discernment of a vocation was a retreat week with the Cistercians in Tarrawarra and the Augustinian Parish Priest.
“For me, I probably wasn’t ready to make a decision then, when I was 23. When I did join, I was half expecting they would ask me to leave. I had doubts I was right and suitable,” he said.
“The studies helped convince me that God was able to work through me.”
“It’s God who makes things possible.”
“I’ve been asked to do leadership things, sometimes outside my comfort zone and still God provides,” he said.
Fr Tony has reassuring advice for people discerning a religious vocation.
“Jump in, explore, find out what God wants, don’t be afraid of the call.”
“It’s a common decision, made by the person and the Church. It’s a mutual discernment,” he said.
“You get pretty good guidance on the way and if in the end you decide you haven’t got a vocation, you’ve done a good preparation for single life and for married life,” he said.
If people are interested in investigating a vocation with the Augustinian Friars, he suggests reading St Augstine’s Confessions, a timeless spiritual classic.
“Don’t start by reading the City of God,” he joked, referring to St Augustine’s dense philosophical and theological treatise.
“My advice, if someone is interested is to read the Confessions, especially Augustine reflecting upon himself, which mirrors so much of today. He has issues with his own sexuality, prayerfulness, how God works, and provides answers, many of which we think are brilliant.”
“It’s a way to go about reflecting on your own life and seeing what God wants from you,” he said.