Felicitation from Rt. Rev. Dr. F. L. Emmanuel Fernando, the Bishop of Mannar on the Inauguration of the Jubilee

First and foremost my heartiest congratulation to the Oblates for celebrating this 175th Jubilee year of your Congregation. And I for one is very grateful to the oblate congregation for what I am today. I thought very briefly I would share my experience with the Oblate congregation. First and foremost when I started to know anything about the church in our parish of Kotehenna in Colombo, our parish priest and assistants were all Oblates like Fr. Lucian Smith, Fr Aloysious, Fr. Muthupillai, and Martin. And then in the diocese we had the servant of God Cardinal Thomas Coorey, OMI as our Bishop. He is the one who took me to the minor seminary; he is the one who sent me to the major seminary; he is the one who sent me to study in Rome and also wanted me to select the subject of Moral Theology for my higher studies. So in this way, I have been very much influenced by the Oblate Congregation right from my life in the parish. Then  when I came to the seminary our Rector was Fr. Dalston Forbes, Fr. Quere, Vice Rector was Fr. Jim Cook. And so many Oblate Fathers were our Superiors including the legendary Fr. Keray who not only was the Superior then but also later was with us in the staff for many years. He has had his own influence on us. Then when it comes to seminary formation, later we found we were working with the number of Oblate Fathers on the staff and so much of the change of thinking and views of people like Fr. Anselm Silva, Fr. Dudely Perera, Fr. Victor Croos, Fr. Rayappu, and so on.

It was a great joy to work with the Oblate Fathers at that point and then we learnt from them hard work and when we look at the Archdiocese of Colombo, the Oblates, working as missionaries, have gone into every nook and corner and established parishes and schools. So today both Colombo diocese and Jaffna diocese if they have so many parishes, so many schools, it is because of all the labour of the missionaries.

First there were missionaries from France, England, Poland and Spain. And after that our own Sri Lankan Fathers who had built up these parishes and schools. So being grateful for what they had done in our dioceses, we also find as I come to Mannar as Bishop, I find the Oblates are working there. They have been working in about three four parishes. We have the Oblate preaching Band in Vavuniya; we have a center for rehabilitation of alcohol and drug addicts at Thiruppumunai. Then we also have the Oblate center ‘Gnanodhayam’. So this way we are still working in close collaboration with the Oblate Fathers in the diocese of Mannar. And I mustn’t forget having the great shrine of Our Lady of Madhu in the diocese of Mannar. We have Oblates both Tamil and Sinhala, coming to preach at this shrine and have done an enormous apostolate of preaching and caring of the pilgrims. So in this way just a few things I wanted to mention at this point of gathering together on this solemn occasion of the beginning of 175th jubilee year. So we wish them very best for the Oblates and we want them to get more vocation and from what they contribute towards the Sri Lankan Church. The Church will benefit and will always be enriched because of their hard work, because of their willingness to go out to the periphery to care for the people and also for what they do in caring for the people. So let me wish the oblates a very happy jubilee year and wish you all all God’s blessings to all especially the Provinces of Jaffna and Colombo in Sri Lanka. Thank you.

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