An Interview with Brother Augustine Jewell

by Gordon Nary


Gordon Why did you choose to join Knights of the Holy Eucharist?

Brother Augustine: This is a hard question to answer. There were some particular reasons but there was something more than that. I had this “hunch,” this strong interior certainty that I should enter the Knights. It was something I can’t quite describe except as a deep certainty that persevered in all circumstances. As for particulars, there were several that appealed to me. The first thing that attracted me was that the Knights always wore the habits. The presence of the habit for me was and is a sign of fidelity and health in a community. The next thing was that they had a devotion to Our Lady. I knew that I could never be part of a community that did not have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin. The Knights are dedicated to Our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception. I truly believe that such devotion is necessary for any community. Finally, and most importantly, the real and manifest devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. This is the heart of everything. Especially in this skeptical time, we need to be focused on the Eucharist. If we abandon Christ in His Sacrament we could not survive.

Gordon: What responsibilities do you have at the Knights of the Holy Eucharist?

Brother Augustine: Aside from daily chores, my primary responsibility is to be the Director of Postulants. This is my first year in this new position and the magnitude of being charged with the formation of young men is both humbling and daunting.

Gordon Vocations appear to have declined in many parts of the World. What is your experience, are some of the factors that have contributed to a decline in Vocations?

Brother Augustine: That is quite the question. In my opinion, one of the major reasons for the decline in vocations is the loss and confusion of identity. For example, the habits that I mentioned earlier the lack of them is a symptom of the larger problem of the loss of identity. I think that the loss of identity comes from a loss of interior life and the spirituality of the community. In the modern age, we have an over-emphasis on activity and a spirit of activism. We have come to view many of the aspects of religious life as useless and as impediments to some ever-changing social agenda, usually political in nature and shockingly like the popular ideas in the world. When the activity takes over the substance of the community will not remain. There is nothing to attract new members. Those who see us want to know what is so special about us. But one does not need to take vows to work at a Catholic school. There must be something more. Something not of this world, something of Christ that challenges the world and its spirit of self-involved lukewarmness. We need to build our interior lives and our community lives and look to our founders and live a zealous life in charity. This would go a long way to reviving vocations. Though this is only one aspect of the lack of vocations.

Gordon. What can parishes do to interest more people in Religious vocations?

Brother Augustine: I think first the parish would have to ask if they were already doing work in promoting vocations. Though it starts in the family, parishes can neglect the need to discuss vocations overall. I did not hear much about vocation growing up as a young man and nothing about religious life. Though that may have changed. The parish would have to encourage parents to talk about vocations with their kids and make time for it in the CCD program. Next, they would have to remember to include the consecrated life as a vocation that gets as much treatment as the married life and the priesthood. Often when parishes do discuss discerning one’s vocation it is usually in the context of recruiting priests. In my own experience, I might not have even known that religious life still existed except that I lived near a monastery when I was in high school.

Also, there should be an interaction between the parish and religious. Personal contact is the number one factor in young people joining communities. Perhaps, the parish could invite religious as a vocations event. Another possibility might be to have high school youth groups visit a monastery and have a tour and interview with the monks or nuns who live there. Either way personal contact is important. Also, pastors could help by being more aware of the religious as a vocation. That way they may be more able to spot and encourage those who may be called to the consecrated life. Lastly and most importantly is prayer. It is Jesus who calls us apart from the world. Unless we encourage and practice prayer how can we hear him?

Gordon: What is your favorite prayer?

Brother Augustine: That is tough there are so many. To say the Psalms would be too easy. I think that the Franciscan Crown Rosary is one of the best. The seven meditations on Mary’s Joys are a challenge to my melancholic disposition. But to be honest it is hard to say just one.

Gordon; Thank you for a great interview!