The Spirit of St Augustine lives in Western Sydney

By Jordan Grantham, 26 September 2017
Fr Michael Belonio OSA and the Augustinian Heart. Image: Jordan Grantham/Diocese of Parramatta

Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair is in the pastoral care of the Augustinian Friars, an ancient and revered religious order, inspired by the spirit of St Augustine, the great ascetic and philosopher.

The relationship with St Clair Parish began in 1995, a time when the Augustinians were handing their established parishes to Dioceses around Australia, in search of more missionary opportunities in newer parishes.

These older churches included the historic St Joseph’s Church, Rochester, in rural Victoria. Many of the first priests and bishops in Victoria were Augustinian Friars.

The Augustinian Friars also had significant influence in north Queensland, where the first bishop of Cairns, Most Rev John Heavey OSA was Augustinian (including the first two bishops of the Apostolic Vicariate of Cooktown – before the establishment of Cairns Diocese. For more info, check our website: http://osa.org.au/en/osa/osa-history-australia/)

The Augustinian charism is present in the parish in things like the icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel, also known as Genazzano. This is the Marian patron of the Australian Province.

The current Parish Priest, Fr Michael Belonio OSA is in his third year at Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair.

Previously he was in the Diocese of Cairns for four years and the Diocese of Broken Bay, at St Kieran’s Parish, North Harbour, which is close to the prominent Augustinian school, St Augustine’s College, Brookvale.

Read more about Holy Spirit Parish here.

The Friars at St Clair also have a good relationship with the Augustinian Recollect Sisters, whom they invited to speak about the Blessed Mother for the parish’s annual Marian Fiesta.

Fr Michael Belonio OSA was born in Iloilo City, Philippines, and has spent more years as a priest in Australia than in Philippines. He attended an Augustinian school for his entire education.

“I’ve been an Augustinian through and through,” he said.

His interest in a vocation came through the Augustinian High School’s annual Vocations Talk. Fr Michael was invited by his friends to take the seminary entrance test. At first he did not take it seriously. This was the first time he truly considered a vocation to the priesthood and committed to attempting it. He has loved it ever since.

“It’s the emphasis of community life and strong sense of brotherhood,” Fr Michael explained.

The Fathers pray the Morning and Evening Prayer together daily and share a common lunch as the main meal. The community is a kilometre from the parish and is “very international: one Australian, one Filipino, one Indian, one Vietnamese,” Fr Michael said.

The Augustinian charism crosses ethnic groups and also the centuries, as the third oldest continuous religious order in the Catholic Church, after the Carmelites and Benedictines.

The impressive General Curia of the Augustinian Friars in Rome is the parish of St Monica degli Agostiniani. It is just outside Vatican City and the Friars also have the pastoral responsibility for the parish of St Anna inside the Vatican.

Read more about Holy Spirit Parish here.

Fr Michael explained that the influence of the Augustinians comes from its antiquity, when the Rule of Augustine was written around the fourth century.

The Holy See has also stepped in to direct the influence of the Augustinians over the centuries.

“After the death of Augustine, there were a lot of eremitical groups trying to follow his Rule,” he said.

“One of the issues is that there were a lot of independent communities.”

In 1243, Pope Innocent IV invited those in Tuscany to convene to an Order.

This was successful, so successive Popes continued to unite Augustinian Friar communities into one Order. That same Order shares its charism with the people of St Clair.

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