In this period the Order in Latin America also entered Argentina from Chile between 1617 and 1626. Houses were opened at Mendoza in 1626 (and made a canonical house in 1657), and San Juan in 1642. Two members of the Order of Saint Augustine were bishops in Argentina during this century: Melchor de Maldonado and Saavedra (1634-1661) and Nicholas of Ulloa (1679-1686). The eighteenth century saw the height of Augustinian presence in Argentina. In 1746 the house (convento) at San Juan became a studium (house of studies for candidates to the Order) and a novitiate. A total of fifty four persons joined the Order there between 1746 and 1800. These houses belonged to the Province of Chile until the movement for the independence of Argentina from 1810 onwards prompted a change. In the year 1819 the new Province of Argentina had thirty-three members, of whom thirteen were at San Juan, and eighteen were at Mendoza.
The Law of the Reformation of Religious Orders, sanctioned by the government of Argentina on 5 July 1823, intended to give to the nation the property of religious orders. Religious houses faced suppression and confiscation by the government once they were empty. Current members were encouraged to leave, and the acceptance of new members was outlawed. Between 1823 and the 1825 decrees of secularisation (secularización) granted to members of the Order of Saint Augustine in Chile and Argentina numbered eighty-three. In the convento of Santa Monica de Mendoza there then remained only two Augustinians. The last one of them, Jose Manuel Roco O.S.A., died in 1835. In the convent of San Jose in San Juan, the last Augustinian, Juan Antonio Gil de Oliva O.S.A., died on 4th January 1876. The house at San Juan had thus remained in the hands of the Order until 1876. The Order was then absent from Argentina for twenty-four years. The return of the Order to Argentina happened in 1901, and the chosen place was Buenos Aires. This was the work of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Its first residence in Argentina - Santo Tomás de Villanueva - happened in April of 1901. Between 1907 and 1910 the Order built in Buenos Aires, with the sponsorship of the Unzué family, the church and the school San Agustín, merging two previous communities. Between 1901 and 1906 Augustinian churches and schools also began four or five other centres in Buenos Aires and Santa Fe. In 1926, with the birth of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of Spain ("the España Province"), the works of the Order in Argentina were transferred to this new province. Since then there have been founded further parishes and schools in the Federal Capital and in the province of Buenos Aires. From Argentina the Order moved into Montevideo, Uruguay in 1948. It opened a parish there in 1949 and a school in 1957.
The Augustinian houses in Argentina and Uruguay within the Province of Spain (founded in 1926) constituted what is called the Vice-Province of Argentina. Also included in the Vice-Province is the mission area that the Order entered in Salta, Argentina. In 1969 the Pope designated this mission area as the Prelature of Cafayate, in the isolated northeast of Argentina.
Photos (at right): Picture 1: Church of Nuestra Sra. de la Salud (Our Lady of Health), Bojaca, Colombia. Picture 2: Church of Saint Monica, Bogata, Colombia.Picture 3: Church of Saint Augustine, Bogata, Colombia. Picture 4: Facade of N.S. de la Consolacion (Our Lady of Consolation), Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The year 1601 saw the beginning of the Province of New Granada (which embraced Colombia and Venezuela). In the year 1694, Pope Innocent XII granted pontifical status to the Augustinian college at Bogata. By 1800 there were eleven houses and over 100 members, and over fifty of them in Bogata. When Colombia proclaimed its independence from Spain in 1810, difficulties began between the new government and the church.
In 1821 the government suppressed all religious houses which had less than eight priests. After the Order struggled to continue, in 1850 there were only fifty Augustinians remaining. All houses were suppressed in 1861. The Discalced Augustinians suffered a similar fate.The Province of Colombia is still operating.
Augustinians in Ecuador in 1575 extended into Bolivia. The Province of Holland has had houses operating there since 1930. On the 15 November 1930 four Dutch Augustinians - two priests and two brothers - arrived in the province of La Paz, Bolivia. In the beginning of December they moved to the province of Sud Yungas of the Department of La Paz, crossing the chain of Andes mountains. They did so with almost no knowledge of the Spanish language, and none of the local language of the people of that province, Aymara.
With no real apprenticeship for their new mission, they became discouraged in a short time and returned to La Paz. The Augustinian in charge of the group decided that they return to the Netherlands. Frederick van Grinsven O.S.A., one of the religious brothers, however, remained in Curacao. He was hopeful that someone else would be arriving from the Netherlands. He was correct. In March 1931, a priest Thomas van der Vloodt O.S.A. arrived. He is now considered the founder of the present Vicariate of Saint Thomas of Villanova.
Thomas and Frederick arrived in La Paz on the 10th April 1931, on Easter Sunday. This is considered to be the date of the beginning of the new mission. These two Augustinians remained a whole year in La Paz. In 1932 they went to the Province of South Yungas and settled in the village of Chirca. At that time only one aged priest served the whole area of South Yungas. When he could not cope any more, the bishop asked Thomas van der Vloodt O.S.A to go to the village of Chulumani. Shortly after, other two Augustinians arrived in the second village of the Province, Irupana.
In 1940 the Augustinians founded a house in La Paz together. There they staffed the Parish of the Most Holy Trinity, which today has a population of around 80,000 people. In 1950 they settled in Cochabamba to work in the field of education. There they founded the "Colegio San Agustín" which was to become considered as one of the best schools of the country.
Early in the 20th century in the same city they opened a Latin American Augustinian Theologate named after Fray Antonio de la Calancha O.S.A., the first Augustinian chronicler of the Province of Perù (who, however, was born in the city of La Plata, today’s capital city, Sucre). In it many candidates from Bolivia, Brazil, Perù and other Southern American countries have received initial formation while studying at the Catholic University of Bolivia.
The Order of Saint Augustine is much appreciated today for its commitment in various pastoral, social and educational ministries. More than 60 friars from the Province of Holland worked in Bolivia in the past six decades, but now that era has ended. There are two houses of Augustinian formation in Bolivia. These are the professorium (house of professed) in Cochabamba, and the house of pre-novitiate named "Padre Tomás van der Vloodt" in La Paz.
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