AORC meeting was held for the first time in Jaffna from 1st to 6th of March 2020.
The Asia Oceana Regional Conference (AORC) was held from 2nd to 6th of March 2020 at Sangamam, Kopay, Jaffna. In the history of Jaffna Province, it is the first time that the AORC was hosted. Seventeen AORC members from thirteen Oblate Units were present. It was very unfortunate that Korean Oblate Unit could not participate at the AORC due to Covid-19 travel restriction.
The AORC members arrived on February 29, 2020. Before they travel to the venue of AORC — 2020, they had to spend the night at the Provincialate of the Holy Cross Sisters, Daluwakotuwa, Kochchikade, Negombo. The following day morning, they began their journey to Jaffna. Fr. Anthonymuthu Croos, OMI helped at the pickups from the Airport and accompanied them all the way from the airport to the venue of AORC — 2020, St. Mary’s Road, Sangamum, South Kopay. As the AORC members travelled they also had the opportunity to visit some Oblate Houses and Mission Centres like the Oblate Preaching Band, Vavuniya, the Amputee Clinic, Mankulam, the Oblate Educational Resource Centre, Kilinochchi and Oblate Social Development Centre, Iyakachchi.
On March 02, 2020, the AORC was officially inaugurated. Fr. Jeyarajan Coonghe, OMI presided over the inauguration ceremony. The AORC members were formally welcomed with a bouquet of flowers and with a small souvenir. The Jouniorists entertained the AORC members with their cultural dances. Since the hosting provincial himself was the president of the AORC, his first assistant Fr. S. M. Sebastian, OMI delivered the welcome speech on behalf of the hosting province, while Fr. Provincial delivered the presidential speech. And, Fr. Jegankumar Coonghe, OMI, the Director of the Venue, instructed the members of AORC with the needed information about the house and its surroundings.
In his presidential address, Fr.Provincial reminded the purpose of the AORC. He said that the AORC is the annual forum. The Asia Oceania regional major superiors come together to share the experiences. He also said that the AORC aims at developing common approaches to similar regional issues, finding new ways to give meaning to the Oblate mission in the region, which is characterized by diverse socioeconomic, political, cultural and religious realities.
Among the many other AORC schedules, the liturgy was an important agenda. Fr. Jude Carowf, OMI, ably assisted by Fr. James Surenthirarajah, OMI organized daily morning and evening liturgy, which helped the AORC to be in spiritual mood. While Frs. James Segar, OMI, Deloshan Rajeeve, OMI and a Holy Family Sister made sure the appropriate food choices for foreigners, Frs. Siyanstan Jenis, OMI and Vincent Michael Santheogu, OMI supervised the room accommodations and the other daily needed house facilities. Fr. Jegankumar Coonghe, OMI while helped Fr. Varam Antony, OMI, the AORC Secretary, he also prepared the whole house, particularly kept the conference hall in order. He got hold of the support of the MAMI members, the Juniorists and the Scholastics to clean the whole Sangamum compound. Fr. Deloshan Rajeeve, OMI also helped the AORC to have good internet facilities, sound system, light and transportation for the AORC members.
The first two days programs were facilitated by Fr. S. M. Selvaratnam, OMI. He based his inputs on the AORC – 2020 theme, viz., The Challenges of Intercultural Formation in the Asian Context. His talks were on the following titles:
– The Inter-Cultural Challenges of Formation
– Contextual Formation for the 21st Century
– Affective Maturity
– Formation from the Perspective of Depth Spirituality, Depth Psychology and Quantum Physics.
All the talks of Fr. Selvaratnam were superb and appreciated by all the AORC members. Basing on his each talk, the AORC members raised a few practical issues to Fr. Selvaratnam and he clarified them in the plenary session.The remaining 3 days were reserved for AORC purposes. Initially, all the Major Superiors presented the reports of their respective Unit. This was followed by discussions on various regional issues and decision-making. The new AORC executive committee for 2021 & 2022 was also chosen.
On March 04, 2020, Fr. Robinson Satheeskumar, OMI (Fr. Ramesh) and some young Oblates helped the AORC members to visit Jaffna town area. They visited the Provincial house and had their lunch and did their shopping at the town stores. The AORC members visited Jaffna Public Library and happy to know that Fr. Timothy Long, OMI, was one of the instruments for this great construction. When they visited many tombs of the Oblate missionaries at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Jaffna, they were astonished and all of them earnestly prayed for their departed brothers. The visitors were explained that St. Patrick’s College was onetime the monument of the Oblates for education ministry. They visited the statue of Bishop John Stephen SEMERIA, the first Oblate bishop in the diocese of Jaffna and the tomb of the other Oblate bishops inside St. Mary’s Cathedral, Jaffna and they also paid homage to the tomb of Fr. B. A. Thomas, OMI — Servant of God, at Rosarian Ashram, Jaffna. They also visited Jaffna diocesan Major Seminary, Colombuthurai. At the De Mazenod Scholasticate, the AORC Members enjoyed high tea, while the scholastics entertained them with their multicultural performances. Finally, they met the senior Oblates at Amalautpavam and also the Juniorists at St. Joseph Juniorate.
On March 05, 2020, evening the Bishop of Jaffna, Rt. Rev. Dr. Justin Bernard Gnanaprahasam visited the AORC Members. On this occasion Fr. S. M. Selvaratnam, OMI published a very valuable book consisting of 273 pages viz., Formation: In the Context of the New World View. The AORC members bought many books at the publication Ceremony.
On March 06, 2020, evening, the AORC was officially terminated with the thanksgiving Mass presided over by the outgoing AORC president.
On March 07, 2020, early morning, the AORC members started their journey back home. Fr. James Surenthirarajah, OMI accompanied them. On their journey back home they visited the Pre-novitiate in Mannar, Fr. B. Claudio, OMI, Delegation Superior of Thailand — also the birthday boy — presided over the Eucharist for the pre-novices. After the breakfast, they visited Madhu Shrine. They stopped at Rajabima, Oblate Centre, Anuradhapura for lunch. In the late evening, some AORC members went to the airport and the others stayed at the Mazenod House to visit Colombo before going back to their countries.
We are grateful to many in this great undertaking of hosting an international conference for the first time in Jaffna Province. Initially, we thank God and then to all the Oblates who helped us in many ways, the Provincial of the Holy Family Sisters of Bordeaux, the Provincial of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Menzingen, the Oblate Lay Associates, the Scholastics and the Juniorists.
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