Saint Augustine defines mercy as ‘our heart, sharing in the suffering of another person’. Saint Thomas Aquinas goes further and says that the only person who shows true mercy is the person who actively strives to alleviate the suffering of others.

This is precisely the spirit in which the Institute of Saint Augustine, in Kampala, Uganda strives to work. Suffering and need can take many forms, of course, and can be experienced by priests as well. In applying to ACN for help, the Institute describes one form of it: Those who always only give and care for others can risk one day becoming emotionally and spiritually exhausted themselves.’ 

Priests like this need a time of prayer and recollection. A priest who is constantly busy and active and does not have time to spare for his own spiritual development can run the risk of sinking into a kind of spiritual rut. He needs a time of spiritual and theological refreshment. And a priest whose seminary studies were made way back, before the technological revolution with its computers and smartphones – and that is only around 30 years ago – can run the risk of being thought outdated, backward or even IT illiterate.

He himself may be in need of an ‘update’, so to speak. It is this kind of practical and theological knowledge, this spiritual refreshment and revival of the priest’s relationship with his Creator, that Saint Augustine’s Institute offers to all priests, regardless of age or previous formation.

  • It organises ‘alumni days’ for former seminarians after 25 years;
  • It teaches how to use computers and offers study sessions on the most recent documents of the Popes.
  • It organises retreats and prayer sessions and
  • Gives health and advice for those suffering burnout or doubts about their mission.

Every priest has his own particular struggles, and the better he can cope with them, the better he can then minister to his flock. Identifying this need and supporting these shepherds – this is the face of mercy.

This article can be found in Mirror 0116.