MONROE, N.C. — Members of the Missionaries of the Poor have elected a brother of the community who has been serving in North Carolina as superior general of the religious community, effective March 25.
Brother Augusto Silot will take succeed Father Richard Ho Lung, who has been superior general since he founded the international order in 1981.
The community of more than 550 men religious in 13 countries is based in Kingston, Jamaica.
The announcement of the new leader for the Missionaries of the Poor was made during Mass March 25 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Monroe, in the Diocese of Charlotte. The church is near the religious order's only U.S.-based community, the Guardian Angels Monastery.
Brother General Augusto was scheduled to leave the Monroe monastery April 2 to move to the community's central mission in Kingston. He will be installed as head of the community during a special Mass to be celebrated after his arrival April 4.
Originally from the Philippines, Brother General Augusto, 35, entered the Missionaries of the Poor in 1996. He made his profession of vows in 1999 and took his final vows in 2002. Over the past 18 years, he has served in Jamaica and in missions in the Philippines, besides serving in Monroe.
The Missionaries of the Poor, a community of religious brothers and priests, live in community, share all things in common, and follow a common spirituality and charism with a common ministry of service to the least in society. They are known for serving the poorest of the poor, especially the destitute homeless.
Initially consisting of only four members when Father Ho Lung left the Jesuits to found the new community, the Brothers of the Poor were approved by the bishop of Kingston and the order's name was changed to the Missionaries of the Poor.
The brothers began their work in a government-run house for the homeless destitute and aged, where they raised public awareness of the needs and struggles of the poor. They also ministered to prisoners, where they helped to bring to light the need for rehabilitation among prisoners, not mere isolation.
The Guardian Angels Monastery was established just 30 miles southeast of Charlotte at the invitation of Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis. Father Ho Lung officially opened the community in 2008 on the feast of the Guardian Angels, Oct. 2.
Father Ho Lung, 75, is a prolific homilist, author, songwriter, playwright, poet and musician who has worked tirelessly for the church and the poor around the world for more than five decades. He will continue to serve the Missionaries of the Poor, traveling the world preaching and sharing his musicals to raise money for the missions.
In the official appointment of his successor, read during Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on the feast of the Annunciation, Archbishop Charles H. Dufour of Kingston recognized Father Ho Lung's tireless efforts for the missions.
The priest was not present because he was away leading Lenten missions at parishes in New Jersey.
The archbishop also noted how the religious community has grown over the past 33 years, requiring selecting nonclerics to help govern the organization. Besides Brother General Augusto's election, four other brothers were named to fill other roles: Brother Max Medina, vicar general; Brother Anil Minj, second counselor; Brother Marc Maurice, third counselor; Brother Henry Lozano, fourth counselor.
Besides accepting his appointment, Brother General Augusto renewed his vows at the Mass after the decree was read by Father Benjamin Roberts, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The priest has ministered to the Missionaries of the Poor since being assigned in 2012 to the parish near their monastery.
In remarks after Mass, Brother General Augusto asked the congregation to pray that "like the Blessed Mother, I also may be able to do the will of God and do the duties and responsibilities that have been given me and also that ... I may be able to humbly serve and lead like Christ, to serve, and, like St. Paul, I pray that 'I no longer live for myself but Christ lives in me.'"
He said nomination to be superior general was unexpected.
"I had no thought of being elected. It was a surprise. I couldn't believe it," he said with a laugh. "I still asked the Lord, 'Really?' There was like a salutatory fear, like Peter himself. I said, 'Depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man.' I just experienced those same feelings, knowing my unworthiness and my weaknesses."
He said he will miss the mission in Monroe and the Diocese of Charlotte.
"Charlotte will always have a special place in my heart."