The Recollects trace their history back to St Augustine of Hippo, now called Annaba, which is on the north coast of Algeria. St Augustine lived from 354 to 430 and was a great philosopher and theologian. He also wrote a rule for his friends to live in community.
After his death many of the communities who followed his rule were abandoned due to the Vandal invasions. His rule was treasured by many holy men who formed independent Augustinian communities. These independent communities became so numerous that Pope Alexander IV decided they should unify and form one great order. In 1256 the Great Union of Augustinians took place. From this the Hermits of St Augustine began and soon spread through the known world.
At the time of the Reformation the Council of Trent pleaded with all the orders to attempt a spiritual renewal. In their response the Augustinians set aside a house for those Friars who wished to be more 'Recollected’. It proved very popular and soon they were joined by young men called to the recollected way of life.
At this time the order was semi-enclosed but in response to a request from the Pope the Order sent many Friars to the newly discovered Philippine Islands and later to missionary territories including South America and Japan.
From these humble beginnings grew the community of Augustinian Recollects. In 1912 Pope Pius raised this community to the status of an Order, the last to be so designated.
The Order of Augustinian Recollects now has 1200 priests and brothers working in 20 countries around the world: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, England, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Spain, Taiwan, United States and Venezuela.
For the Augustinian Recollects, like the early Christians, the key word is community: they pray in community, live in community, work in community. Their pastoral work is conditioned by the needs of the country they are in. And so, they run schools and universities, parishes and missions, centres of social integration and immigrants chaplaincies.