Dominic_Smith, OSA

Statement on Immigration from Augustinians in Central America (Español)

Links to the documents:



(Photo by Robert Dueweke, El Paso, TX)



Communication from the Augustinians of Central America

On the occasion of the migratory crisis of our peoples
The religious friars of the Order of St. Augustine in Honduras, El Salvador,
Nicaragua and Costa Rica (OSA-AMC) want to openly express our great concern
about the anguished exodus of thousands of brothers and sisters involved in the
migrant caravan moving towards the north, heading to the US, to get away from
the violence and poverty.

Our vocation calls us to be witnesses of the mercy and love of God in the
world. Therefore, we cannot remain at this moment as insensitive spectators
before a humanitarian drama that is leaving in the ditches of the road those to
whom Jesus identifies himself (see Mt 25:35). Augustine of Hippo challenges us
in this sense, on the occasion of the wave of migration caused by the plundering
of Rome by the Vandals in the year 410 (see Sermon 25, Commentary on Psalm
40). We cannot avoid “putting ourselves in the shoes” of those who are risking
everything to give their children a future, as Pope Francis tells us (Gaudete et
Exultate 102).

We denounce the world disorder through which capital and goods
circulate freely -often covering up the perverse traffic in arms, drugs and human
beings- while the new pharaohs raise walls, accuse of being criminals and
threaten the impoverished by using security forces. We call on international
organizations for migrants’ dignity and fundamental rights to be protected,
especially the most vulnerable of them, such as children and the sick. They hope
that we join our voices to break the barriers of silence or indifference that
increase their helplessness and to build bridges of compassion and solidarity.

Finally, we want to express our fraternal closeness to the volunteers, to
the social organizations, to the religious groups and to the many anonymous
citizens and families that are accompanying and protecting the migrants of the
caravan in their “desert crossing” with their generous welcome. That exemplary
testimony dignifies the human community. We pray for you, asking Mary, Our
Lady of Peace, her motherly intercession. God bless you all.

November 1, 2018, All the Saints solemnity


Comunicado de los Agustinos de Centroamérica

Con motivo de la crisis migratoria de nuestros pueblos
Los religiosos de la Orden de San Agustín de Honduras, El Salvador,
Nicaragua y Costa Rica (OSA-AMC) queremos manifestar públicamente nuestra
enorme preocupación ante el angustioso éxodo de los miles de hermanos-as de
la caravana migrante que se desplaza hacia el norte, rumbo a EEUU, huyendo de
la violencia y la pobreza.

Nuestra vocación nos llama a ser testigos de la misericordia y el amor de
Dios en el mundo. Por ello, no podemos en estos momentos permanecer como
insensibles espectadores ante un drama humanitario que está dejando en las
cunetas del camino a aquellos con los que Jesús mismo se identifica (cf. Mt
25,35). Agustín de Hipona nos interpela en este sentido, con ocasión de la ola
migratoria provocada por el saqueo de Roma por los Vándalos el año 410 (cf.
Sermón 25; Comentario al Salmo 40). No podemos dejar de “ponernos en los
zapatos” de quienes lo están arriesgando todo para dar un futuro a sus hijos,
como nos dice el Papa Francisco (Gaudete et Exultate 102).

Denunciamos el desorden mundial por el que circulan libremente los
capitales y las mercancías –a menudo encubriendo el perverso tráfico de armas,
de drogas y de personas–, mientras los nuevos faraones levantan muros, acusan
de delincuentes y amenazan con la fuerza a los empobrecidos. Hacemos un
llamado a los organismos internacionales para que la dignidad y los derechos
fundamentales de los migrantes sean protegidos, de un modo especial los más
vulnerables, como son los niños y los enfermos. Ellos esperan que unamos
nuestras voces para romper las barreras del silencio o la indiferencia que
agravan su desamparo y para tender puentes de compasión y solidaridad.

Finalmente, queremos expresar nuestra cercanía fraterna a los
voluntarios-as, a las organizaciones sociales, a los grupos religiosos y a los
numerosos ciudadanos y familias anónimas que con su generosa acogida están
acompañando y protegiendo a los migrantes de la caravana en su “travesía del
desierto”. Su ejemplar testimonio dignifica a la comunidad humana. Rezamos
por ustedes, pidiendo a María, Ntra. Sra. de la Paz su maternal intercesión. Que
Dios los bendiga a todos.

1 de noviembre de 2018, Solemnidad de Todos los Santos


Dominic_Smith, OSA

Secretariat for Justice and Peace meets in Cebu

On the 20-23 November 2018 the Secretariat for Justice and Peace met in Cebu for its annual meeting. Representatives were from Korea, Thailand (by Skype), Philippines, and United Nations. The meeting consisted of a review of social justice issues in the region.

Climate Change

One of the issues, along with migration of peoples, was climate change affected areas. A presentation was given by Fr. Aladdin Luzon of the Basilica of Santo Nino in Cebu on his projects on Kinatarcan Island, which was devastated by the super Typhoon Yolanda, also called Haiyan, killing over 6300 people, in 2013. One of the projects involves an experimental design for a typhoon-proof structure called the Balay-Bao or “turtle house,” named for its curved concrete roof. See the development program on YouTube at

The parish at the Basilica also has a superb social media communications program in place. Under the leadership of Fr. Genesis Labana and a well-prepared staff, the ministry has won two awards. The Augustinians take seriously the importance of social media as a necessary means for reaching young people and for disseminating information and opening channels for feedback.


Fr. John Murray in Bangkok gave a presentation via Skype on the immigration situation in Thailand. Information on the Global Compact for Refugees and Migrants can be found at

United Nations

Fr. Bob Dueweke presented an outline and rationale why the Augustinians are at the United Nations. The paper “The Third UN,” in reference to the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), highlighted the specific role of Catholic NGO.  That role consists of building four kinds of bridges between types of communities. The first bridge is between the local communities themselves. The second bridge is between the local communities and the UN agencies. The third is between the local communities and ecclesial structures, such as the bishops’ conference. The last bridge is between the ecclesial structures and the UN, for example, drawing on Catholic Social Teaching in the forming of public policy. These “bridges” act as two-way communication.

Fr. Dueweke had a chance to meet with the Justice and Social Communications committees of the basilica to discuss the role of Augustinians International and how they might be able to collaborate more effectively with the New York office. We also explored various ways for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

General Chapter 2019

Fr. Tony Banks raised the question concerning what information the Secretariat for Justice and Peace ought to bring to the General Chapter.  Some ideas presented were the promotion and defense of human rights, Laudato Si and concern for the environment, the promotion of the SDGs, most importantly, SDG 16 on fortifying institutions of justice and peace.  It is true that there is what Pope Francis calls an “indifference” among people regarding social justice. Some say it is plainly “uninteresting.” The key task is to fire up the imagination that will capture interest and renewed commitment toward social justice issues. The conditions for this to happen is to create a higher viewpoint from which new perspectives on a situation can be drawn. One such viewpoint is the SDGs. The task is the educate the membership regarding the vital UN program.


Secretariat for Justice and Peace participants

Gary McCloskey (Villanova), Wieslaw Dawidowski (Poland), Tony Banks (Asst. General), Patricio Villalba (Asst. General), Bob Dueweke (United Nations), Chang Ho Kim (Korea), Aladdin Luzon (Philippines), Jepser Bermudez (Philippines), and John Murray (Tahailand, via Skype)

Dominic_Smith, OSA

Robert Dueweke, OSA, on the US/Mexico border – A Reflection

“Build the Wall! Even Heaven has a gate.” So reads a Texas bumper sticker proclaiming that the car owner favors building a huge wall along the entire US-Mexican border. Immigration is one of the most contentious issues worldwide. The massive movement of peoples is a global phenomenon. To date over 65 million people are on the move due to war and climate change. The situation is so serious that the United Nations (with the U.S. in opposition) has issued the Global Compact on Migration, defining the rights to liberty and protection of migrants from arbitrary detention and other abuses.

In the United States, immigration is also a hot-topic issue, especially after September 11, 2001, when national security concerns were linked (unjustly?) with border crossings and migration. Immigration became politicized and partisan. Emotions and opinions tend to override the gathering of facts and asking questions about why there is immigration in the first place.

Recently, I was in the desert border town of Tornillo, east of El Paso, where the infamous “Tent City” can keep 3800 unaccompanied minors or children who have been forcibly separated from their parents and are detained for deportation. People in the town were reluctant to talk about the situation. Road barriers and security kept unwanted visitors at a distance. Interestingly, unsupportive of this policy, El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles prohibited his deputies from working off-duty with the federal facility. I left this desolate area with feelings of sadness and anger. I asked myself, if I were a parent escaping extreme poverty and violence, how would I feel if my child were taken from me perhaps never to be seen again?

How might we apply Lonergan’s insights to the issue on immigration? The first is what Lonergan in his major work Insight calls the “flight from understanding.” The broken immigration system and policies portray an avalanche of misunderstandings. The failure to be intelligent, reasonable, and responsible leads toward decline and violence. He writes:

[It] blocks the insights that concrete situations demand. There follow unintelligent policies and courses of action. The situation deteriorates . . . policies become more unintelligent and action more inept. What is worse, the deteriorating situation seems to provide the uncritical, biased mind with factual evidence in which the bias is claimed to be verified. So . . . intelligence comes to be regarded as irrelevant to practical living. Human activity settles down to a decadent routine, and initiative becomes the privilege of violence (Preface, 8).

Insights are blocked because all the relevant questions are not asked and answered, and result in the generation of a series of bad decisions. Why do so many people want to leave their countries in the first place? Answers give us insights into extreme poverty and the collapse of agriculture due to trade agreements like NAFTA. These policies encourage drug cartel activity and violence. Is there complicity? What are the effects of trade agreements on livelihoods? Do we ask the question? Do we care?

Another factor is group bias; it is the most dangerous and destructive of the biases that Lonergan identifies. Lonergan explains that group bias is the refusal to consider the pertinent facts and the insights of another viewpoint. It is rooted in a group-think that defends an opinion or emotion at all cost. Group bias is responsible for labeling all Immigrants terrorists and rapists. Fear is aroused and infectious. Skin color, votes and dark money add fire to the immigration debate. Migrants have become scapegoats for deeper insecurities. Group bias against immigrants is unfounded, cruel and unacceptable to a nation that has been home to immigrants. This group bias is nothing less than racist and xenophobic. The political source for such hatred is encouraged by the current administration and their advisors.

As a nation, we are slipping into the longer cycle of decline with unforeseen consequences. What can we do? We need to check our own biases and act intelligently, reasonably, and responsibly. Perhaps we, like Sheriff Wiles, can stand together with another “moving viewpoint” of compassion and understanding, one that has claimed to be the Good Shepherd, the bread of life, living water, and the Gate.  

(Reprinted from the blog written for the Lonergan Institute at Boston College:

Dominic_Smith, OSA

Welcome Keenan Overa from Lehigh University as AI Youth Rep

The world is a complex place, and information technology coupled with globalization is only increasing the meaning of this idea. Yet despite this, and all its shortcomings, Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked that the United Nations “represents man’s best organized hope to substitute the conference table for the battlefield”; and it this idea that gives purpose to our work. 

 This is my first year joining as a new Youth Representative for Augustinians International, and I’m beyond excited to get started. NGO’s are continually rising in their importance in the UN system, and they give a voice to the individuals and groups whose needs and cries often are too easily ignored. NGO’s carry forward the principles and values that often aren’t present enough in the world, and they occupy a very special, but also a very vital place in international politics. Having heard of the Augustinians’ past work with ongoing human rights crises, such as in Congo, and working to further educational development, the Augustinians are just one of many NGO’s working tirelessly to improve the world. I take pride in being able to join this effort, because I believe in the capacity of humanity to work together. Diversity should not be grounds for conflict between cultures and groups around the world, rather our differences should form the foundation for curiosity, learning, and understanding. I look forward to working with Fr. Dueweke in pursing this vision. The challenges ahead are but a reminder of the necessity of work that the Augustinians, along with other NGO’s, strive to achieve in an effort to change this world for the better.

(Photo of Keenan in Moscow studying Russian)

Dominic_Smith, OSA

Welcome Emma Dillon from Lehigh University as AI Youth Rep

I’m in my junior year studying Political Science and Journalism at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA. I have a passion for global citizenship, gender equality, health, international peace, and the

Emma Dillon

United Nation’s sustainable development goals. I love to travel and immerse myself into new cultures- one of my biggest dreams is to visit every continent. I was raised 25 miles away from one of the most diverse hubs in the world, New York City. Ever since I was young, I have been exposed to many different cultures, religions, traditions, and languages. My experiences growing up have shaped me into the person I am today by illustrating the beauty in people’s differences. Catholicism has always been a huge part of my life. In high school I became a Youth Group Leader at St. Augustine Church and found great joy in being apart of something that had a special meaning and impact. Religion has been one of the leading forces in understanding my purpose in life. I feel extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to be apart of Augustinians International for my second year. I hope to continue serving as Augustinians International’s voice at the United Nations and promote and defend our common goals, like climate change and basic human rights. I want to learn to negotiate international boundaries and develop my own sense of personal, social, and corporate responsibility to the global community. I am looking forward to another year learning and expanding my horizons with Augustinians International!

For the Year 2018-2019

As the saying goes, more practice makes perfect. As I like to say, more practice makes progress. I am beginning my second year as a Youth Representative for Augustinians International and am starting to see progress in my work both personally and professionally. We’ve focused our initiatives the past year on human rights crises, like Congo and South Sudan, and education, like Model UN programs, and have made great strides in our research and proposals. Yet, beyond the surface I have learned so much more than that. I’ve learned to critically think, ask questions, form valuable relationships, see the other side, and–most importantly–lead with love. I hope to continue developing these learnings and explore new ideas. I feel far more confident navigating the UN and NGOs are understand the intersectionality between the two. Of course, like any institution, there are barriers that need to be broken through, but after a year I have a greater understanding of how NGOs can play a role in the UN and how impactful our voice can be. This year, I’d love to see an even bigger impact and I think Fr. Dueweke’s position on the committee for Spirituality, Values, and Global Concerns will present new opportunities, broaden our horizons, expand our network, and create a larger platform. I’m looking forward to another exciting year with Augustinians International and feel truly blessed for the wonderful team we have. Cheers!

Anastassiya 1

Anastassiya Perevezentseva’s speech at Lehigh University

Anastassiya gave the following speech at her graduation ceremony at Lehigh University. She will now pursue a PhD in International Relations. Anastassiya was the Youth Representative for Augustinians International at the United Nations 2016-2018.

  • I am very honored to address you today. In the spirit of the Baccalaureate, I would like to share with you how my religious tradition had illuminated my academic pursuits. I would like to acknowledge that my speech is heavily inspired by the writings of my mentor, Augustinian friar Fr. Robert Dueweke, whom I highly admire. During my undergraduate studies of international relations, I learned about conflicts that permeate our world. On a frequent basis we encounter news about horrific tragedies. Before I became Catholic my first year at Lehigh, I was often tempted to perceive the violence I heard about as distant and remote from my own life. However, my worldview has changed after I started perceiving humanity through the Christian notion of the “body of Christ”. If we imagine a planetary human body that extends above humanity, we will see that the violence in any part of the world could be compared to a wound which ultimately leads to a weakening of the whole person. Fr. Dueweke challenged me to look at the Cross, a Christian symbol of violence, as a question mark: what will my response to the violence be? I want to encourage all of us to respond to it with the following principle of Catholic social justice: See – Judge – Act. A Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan further provides us with advice on how to judge and act: “Be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible, be in love”. These ideas helped me to respond to the discouragement I would feel in the face of the global issues, and motivated me to persevere in actions addressing them, despite of how helpless I felt at the moment. As a result, I was able to contribute to improving the wellbeing of others around me, ultimately leading to the overall betterment of the communities I consider myself a part of, both local and global. I strongly believe that if equipped with the notion of care for each other and the resolve to be attentive and in love, each one of us is able to rise above tragedy and violence and take action that brings about the peace and joy that all of us long for. In closing, I would like to say that I am grateful to Lehigh for providing me with an opportunity to learn how to serve both the Lehigh community and the global one fearlessly through love. Thank you!  
Dominic_Smith, OSA

Youth Representative Emma Dillon reflects on UN experience

Emma Dillon

It is hard to believe a year has gone by since we all started working together. It has been a
pleasure and a blessing to work with everyone in Augustinians International. Each person’s
insight, knowledge, and expertise has been an asset in guiding me throughout this journey. I’ll
never forget the first time I entered the United Nations. I was thrilled and uncomfortable all the
same time. I was surrounded by leading change makers in, arguably, the most powerful place in
the world, and I’m only nineteen. “How did I get here?” I asked myself. Now, I walk around the
United Nations like its my local grocery store. I feel apart it just just like everyone else there.
I’ve learned so much in my time at Augustinians International and through my role as a youth
representative. I fully understand the complexity and functions of United Nations and its organs,
and, at times, I’ve been frustrated by it. I had hoped for their to be a bigger voice for civil society
and for there to be more concrete, positive change. However, it has been important for me to
recognize and remember the value of the United Nations and appreciate the small wins. When
faced with the wicked problems of today, it is easy to be discouraged or wishing there was more
that could be done. Because if it can’t be done at the United Nations, then where? However, it’s
okay if after a two hour briefing the AIDS epidemic has not been solved. It’s okay if after a two
day conference the relationship between United Nations agencies and religious affiliated NGOs
has not been perfected. At some point during these meetings, someone was inspired. That
inspiration will transform into action, but it may not be immediate. You have to ask yourself,
would the world be a better place without the United Nations, and the answer is no. If the United
Nations is not providing fast change, it will produce change eventually. After all, AIDS patients
access to treatment has increased, and there was a forum for dialogue between United Nations
agencies and religious affiliated NGOs to discuss how to progress. These are the small wins. The
one’s that take time, but it’s all worth it. I may not have changed the world this year, but I
learned so much. To me, that’s invaluable. I was able to meet new people, explore world issues,
discover new information, network with other organizations, and expand my horizons. I am very
thankful for Augustinians International, the United Nations, and Lehigh University for bringing
me this experience. I cannot wait to see for what next year has in store.
What We Accomplished This Year…
● Attended a two day conference on “UN Strategic Learning Exchange on Religion, Development,
Peace and Security” in June
● Met Fr. Dueweke for the first time in New York in June
● Learned what being a Youth Representative entails and practiced my elevator pitch at the
orientation in September
● Updated our Youth Representative profiles on the Augustinians International website
● Fr. Dueweke and Jack Tierney visited Lehigh on September 28th where we discussed our goals
for the year and toured North Bethlehem
● Attended a high-level event on Peace, Security, and Climate Change Nexus in Africa during
Africa Week in October
● Dined and debriefed with Fr. Dueweke after the Africa Week briefing
● Created a report based on Bernard Lonergan’s philosophy to critically reflect on our time at the
Africa Week briefing
● Met the Augustinian OSA Peace and Justice Secretariat in New York on October 24
● Attended a workshop with Mary Frances Schurtz-Leon on “Networking in a Cross-Cultural
● Co-authored a blog post on the crisis in Congo
● Attended the “Right to Birth” briefing on World Aids Day in December
● Researched organizations to help Fr. Dueweke’s friend’s daughter for her water project in South
● Facetimed Fr. Dueweke and Jean Soto to discuss Augustinians International’s plans
● Attended a “Amplifying the Voices of Rural Women”
● Met with Fr. Dueweke for lunch to catch up after the “Amplifying the Voices of Rural Women”
● Attended a briefing on “The Value of Peacekeeping: Stories from the Field”
● Sat in on a leadership workshop with George White
● Attended the conference “Students Seeking Solutions” organized by our very own Veronica
● Fr. Dueweke and Jack came back to Bethlehem to reflect on the year and our journey ahead