The AORC was hosted this time by the Oblate province of Colombo, and it was held from Mar. 01 to 05, 2021 at the Provincialate of Colombo. With the ongoing pandemic the ex-officio members of the AORC could not be physically present except for the province of Jaffna. The meeting was held virtual. Fr. S.M. Selvaratnam, omi from the province of Jaffna was invited as the main speaker at this conference. In his first presentation, he translated the theme as: Ongoing Formation: a different interpretation for the future of the Oblates in the twenty first century. In his presentation he looked at both the Constitutions on Formation and Ongoing Formation and pinpointed that there was no substantial difference between the two. Hence, he suggested to rewrite a new Constitution on Ongoing Formation as a continued spiritual journey.
The second presentation was on the same theme, but this time it was from the point of view of “a call to Consciousness as part of the spiritual journey”
On the third day too, he took the same theme but this time it was from the point of view of “a call to contemplation as the need of the time.”
After a short interaction with some of the participants, the first part of the Conference came to a conclusion. Thereafter, the different units submitted their reports as usual. The following is the report submitted by of the Provincial of Jaffna.
In the light of the Gospel and with sensitivity to the signs of the time, the mission of St. Eugene de Mazenod received its or focus. His vocation for the Poor and the most abandoned was gradually shaped by the different experiences that he went through. It took shape gradually and with the agonizing pace. The painful experience of seeing the most abandoned did make his heart beat with more compassion.
Though thirty years of war in Sri Lanka has ruined the unity and the value of humanity, we journey with hope and vigour that the faith inculcated in the hearts of every citizen by the Oblate missionaries, will be manifested in their daily witnessing. This is our mission as our Founder felt for the abandoned.
- Vision and mission of the Province and its priorities (from the 2017 congress)
A vision and mission statement arises from the particular context. It is only in personally involved in the lives of the people, we will be able to formulate a good mission statement. A mission statement can be a constant guide, support, and check on our planning and implementation. Thus, the Province of Jaffna has followed vision and mission statement from the Congress held in the year 2017, as follows, “Empowered with the grace of God and grounded on the hope of our people we identify and commit ourselves with the poor with new faces surpassing all human barriers and together we build a reconciling and healing society”.
We focus mainly on the “Contextual Formation” which demands of the impact of the candidates’ attitude, family, and so on. Now we have 24Juniorists from eight Dioceses, 03 Pre-Novices, 05 Novices, 26 Scholastics of whom one is in Australia, another one in Philippines and two have been selected to be in the International Roman Scholasticate and six are in the process of making their final profession, and 02 Oblate Brothers, and 84 Oblate Priests.
However much we extend our mission in nine Dioceses out of 12 Dioceses. And we also send missionaries to different countries: there are 18 Missionaries working in foreign countries. The missions and ministries are like
i. Parish and shrine ministries:
ii. Traditional ministries like Preaching, Hospital and Prison chaplaincies, Formal education. We are serving in seven different hospitals in five Districts.
iii. Specialized ministries like CPR which stands for Center for Peace and Reconciliation, Amputee Center, Counselling, Informal Education, youth and children ministry, community development, mission with alcoholic and drug addicts, Ministry to the dysfunctional families and so on.
iv. Foreign missions like Chaplaincies in France, Norway, Italy, Denmark, Australia, UK, and Kenya.
v. New ministries: We have established new missions in the Dioceses of Batticaloa, Ratnapura and Jaffna. Of course, we have been asked by the Local Ordinary to establish new missions and ministries. A community of two Oblates has been established in the Diocese of Batticaloa with a missionary outreach to minister to the sick and the alcohol addicts. Along with this, the Center for tea estate sector, School and Hospital ministries etc are included.
This is my sixth month since my installation as Provincial Superior. I have organized nearly 13 animation programmes for various mission fields. I would like to specify the terminology “animation’ rather than ‘meeting’ at certain occasions. I have paid more attention on the concept of animation. All of us accept that we, religious are called to be animators. These animation programmes are functioning according to the Year Plan. Every Oblate has been requested to submit the year plan of their respective ministries.
Animations for community Superiors, District Superiors, Government Teachers, Oblate Parish Priests, Preachers, Young Oblates (from one to ten years), Hospital Chaplains, Directors of specialized ministries, MAMI members, Coordinators of higher education, Formators, various commissions like Inter-Religious dialogues, widows, Oblate Writings, Liturgy etc. and Finance Committee meeting; this team has met the Provincial Council once and advised on certain salient points regarding the present status of the Province; Along with these animations and gatherings there was a Common Gathering held on the 8th of December, 2020.
- Strengthening the Community life
Though a few new ministries are initiated, I do not neglect to strengthen the Oblate community life. I am convinced that community provides not only the necessary safeguards for us to live fully, but also support us in a significant way to live as brothers and follow Christ with a specific mission to be fulfilled.
We have three formation houses such as Juniorate in Jaffna, Pre-Novitiate in Mannar and De Mazenod Scholasticate in Jaffna. There are seven established communities in the District of Jaffna, eight in the Districts of Kilinochchi-Mullaithivu, two in the Dioceses of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, four in the Diocese of Mannar and two in the South. Our Priests are serving as Parish Priests and Assistants in 14 parishes; as Principal and teachers in nearly seven schools. So far there have been 38 transfers; I am so proud to highlight of the humility of my fellow Brother Oblates so willing in accepting the Obedience that have been served.
- Participatory Leadership
‘Life in Compassion and Communion’ as the chosen motto of my Provincialship reminds me of the participatory leadership. Those familiar with managerial skills repeatedly affirm that participatory leadership is the in-thing-today. It brings about better results by making everyone feel important and responsible for the mission. This connection helps me to foster this concept at all levels. Every Oblate is a leader; therefore, everyone is respected with their unique and emerging qualities and talents. In every animation of the Oblates in various capacities, this has been stressed constantly.
Regarding the finance, I would say that the Finance Committee has been established with very strong committee in the Province. This Finance Committee along with the Provincial Treasurer advises the ‘Provincial Council’ on certain matters; like the maintenance of the Vehicle, the Properties, etc. Finance Committee visits the houses, centers and houses of formation to share on finances and management, on the costs of community life and costs of the missions as well as on accountability in the context of the current socio-economic situation.
- Social Media and Publications
We have our bimonthly publication called ‘Yazhathoni’ which brings about the news of the missions and ministries of the Province.
The challenges are very obvious;
i. The Covid-19 Pandemic which hinders all the initiatives of the mission.
ii. The finance.
iii. The members could be more vibrant and active in mission.
iv. The mission places are in need of renovations and repairs; since the Oblates are working in rural areas, they need to be attended soon.
i. A collaborative journeying among the Oblate Provinces. As the Former Provincial has taken the initiative to send some of our Scholastics to Philippines and Australia, the others too can/may think of sending the Formandi to establish an inter-national or inter-cultural formation.
ii. We have been thinking and discussing in council to have a collaborative missions with regard to Formation and even some other common ministries like CPR, JPIC and Health Care Ministry with the Province of Colombo.
iii. Since we are mainly focussing on the theme – ongoing formation as ongoing conversion we need to think of forming Formators especially in the context of Asia. This could be a unique initiative.
Very Rev. Fr. Eugene Benedict,OMI
Thanks to the Province of Colombo for hosting and organizing AORC meeting.
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