We Augustinians take our name and our spirit from St. Augustine of Hippo. (Hippo is in present-day Algeria). Early church monk, bishop, and theologian, he lived from 354 to 430 A.D., a time of challenge and change for Christianity. Brilliant, articulate, successful; he was well on his way to achieving fame and fortune when he realized there was something terribly absent from his life — God, and real happiness.
“How lovely I suddenly found it to be free from the loveliness of those vanities, so that now it was a joy to renounce what I had been so afraid to lose.” The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book Nine, Chapter One. In his early thirties he found himself able to discern that God had always been with him but he had been unable to admit God into his life.
He chose to dedicate himself totally to God and gathered around him like-minded friends to live a life of Gospel dedication and community witness. The local church of Hippo called him to public service in the Church as a bishop. He responded to the challenges presented to the Church at that time by preaching and writing letters in response: much as St. Paul did to the infant church as it began its still-growing expansion. Religious communities in the area of Tuscany, in Italy, adopted the Rule of Augustine. Still existent monasteries, as well as ruins, are in that area of Italy.
The Augustinians were called into existence by Pope Innocent IV in the 13th Century and from that moment on have sought to follow in the footsteps of Augustine. From the very beginning the church asked the Augustinians to be an “apostolic fraternity.” Like St. Augustine they were to be known for their gospel-inspired service to others and for their living witness of fraternity and community centered in God. Throughout the course of the centuries preaching, teaching, and missionary endeavors have been the heart of the Augustinians’ labors. This striving to follow the Gospel call after the example of St. Augustine has produced outstanding models of holiness: St. Nicholas of Tolentine – preacher and healer; St. Clare of Montefalco – mystic; St. Rita of Cascia – wife, mother, and contemplative; St. Thomas of Villanova – bishop and reformer. This list could go on. Today the Augustinians are in every part of globe. Communities of men and women striving to be “one heart and one mind intent upon God.”
In 1795 the Augustinians came to the then, young United States of America, to engage in pastoral work among a scattered and minority Catholic faith. From these modest beginnings on the East coast, the Augustinians in America firmly established themselves extending from Lawrence, Massachusetts to San Diego, California and British Columbia to Florida, with missionary activity in Peru and Japan. The Augustinians have three Provinces in the United States and Canada: The Villanova Province on the east coast, Our Mother of Good Counsel Province centered in Chicago, IL which includes the Canadian Province, and ourselves, the Province of St. Augustine, on the west coast.