Catholic Life

At Clare Priory, young people discover the Augustinian way

Volunteeers at the Augustinian Youth Encounter at Clare Priory, near the banks of the River Stour in Suffolk

Fr David Middleton OSA is head of the Augustinian friars in England and Scotland and he considers August 12 to have been a great occasion for Clare Priory in Suffolk, because it was the day of AYE or Augustinian Youth Encounter.

He said: “Young people and friars from six continents, 260 in all, arrived in three double-decker coaches to spend the day with the community and members of the Clare Priory parish.

“Their visit was part of a week-long international Augustinian Youth Encounter at the Westminster Diocesan Centre outside London. The gatherings are held every two to three years for members of the Augustinian family throughout the world in their late teens to early 30s. This is the first time AYE has come to the Britain.”

Fr Middleton added: “Eighteen months ago, when the Augustinians in the UK accepted the invitation to host the AYE, I said that they must come to Clare Priory because this is where the friars first settled. This is where the seeds for the order in the English-speaking world were first sown. Thursday was an opportunity to reconnect with the past and to draw new energy for the future.

“We celebrated Mass in a marquee in the priory grounds, followed by a barbecue and a ceremonial tree-planting to mark the visit, with helping hands from every continent. It was a charmed day.”

After group photographs outside the priory, founded in 1248, the young people and friars left for Cambridge for evening prayer at St John’s College and some free time.

They were joined by the Prior General for the world-wide Augustinian order, Fr Robert Prevost OSA, who stayed with the youth gathering until Saturday evening, when he celebrated the closing Mass.

Members of the six parishes run by the friars in England and Scotland took part in AYE 2010, from August 9 to 15, and helped to run the week of discussions, workshops, worship, prayer and socialising.

The theme for the youth encounter was “I call you friends”, taken from Jesus’s parting message to his disciples in John 15.

Eighteen countries were represented: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Britain and America.

In his homily Fr Middleton said: “In our prayers, our workshops, our garden fete and in our discussions at AYE we have looked at what it means to be a friend, what can work against friendship, what builds it up. We explored some of the social injustices that lurk on the horizon and we considered some ways of countering those injustices. Coming to Clare Priory, the oldest and very first priory in Britain, we recognise the value of what is now hidden in the past.”