Life @ OMI – Diamond Jubilee Bells Ring (An Interview with Rev. Fr. Daniel, OMI)

Rev. Fr. Francis Daniel, OMI is a pioneer in the Oblate Province of Jaffna. He has etched his history as an Oblate who celebrates sixty years in his Religious Profession. He has served in several capacities as Parish Priest, Superior, Missionary, Lecturer at the Major Seminary, and Jaffna University, Chaplain and Formator as well. He was a Councillor for two terms even before the creation of Jaffna as Province. Sixty years of religious life laden with enriching and remarkable experiences of course, are worthy to be manifested and need to be written in the letters of gold.

Dear Fr. Daniel, on behalf of your brother Oblates of the Province of Jaffna, we wish God’s blessings upon you as you celebrate your Diamond Jubilee of your Religious Profession. Here follows his answers, some expressions of his life in general.

Q – How do you feel now as you have lived sixty successful and faithful years as an Oblate?

I feel faithful to God for his blessings upon me and thankful to all those who have helped me to move forward in my religious life.

Q – What is the fons et origo of your vocation? Could you tell us briefly about it?

The beginning of my vocation was really an inspiration to me even at the age of five. When my aunt only twenty years of age , was getting ready to enter the convent of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. From then on my mother developed an interest. At her farewell I remember telling aunt that she would become a Nun while I will become a Priest. This is still vivid in my memory. At the request of my mother, Fr. James, OMI our Parish Priest, became my mentor who helped me teaching English and Latin. My mother, my aunt and our parish priest were the most important people who nurtured my vocation. Though my mother was at the loss of my father’s death never required any help from me! Never!

Q- What was the reason that made you to choose to become an Oblate?

It is my mother’s desire that she wanted me to become an Oblate. The inspiration that she received was from Fr. James, the Parish Priest. She never knew the difference between a Religious and the Diocesan Priest.

Q – In your Jubilee souvenir you have quoted the dictum of Jesus from the Gospel of St. John, “Take courage; I have conquered the world”, Jn. 16.33. Could you please explain as to why you had selected that passage?

All my success and achievement are due to HIM who had already conquered the world. I believe that I am only instrument in the building up of His Kingdom. Yes, we are safe in His hands. “Take Courage” refers to the Vow of Obedience; “Pack up your bags and go where the Provincial bids you to go”. That’s why I went to China in respond to the Most. Rev. Fr. Wilhelm Steckling, OMI, the then Superior General. All were against my option, even my aunt, Sr. Leo. I was already 64 of age to begin my journey towards China. This dictum is applicable when you are obedient to the Provincial.

Q – We learnt from your preaching during your Jubilee celebration two years back, that you have a precious memory about your mother who inspired you. What could be the precious inspiration from your mother which has been the conspicuous element throughout your entire religious life?

Having me as the only child of a widow, she received satisfaction in fostering and nurturing my vocation. During my holidays I was never permitted to stay at home but only with Fr. James at Pandatherippu to learn Latin and English. My Ordination was also the happiest day; she accompanied me for thirty eighty years as a priest. She was there even for my Jubilee. I being the only child she was and still she is there at every birthday of mine. She died only in 1998.

Q – What has been the most challenging aspect of your religious life? How do you see it as a stepping stone or a stumbling block in your life?

When I left for China it was really challenging. Nobody had gone to China from this part of this world. In the whole history of the Congregation I was the first and the only missionary sent from Sri Lanka. Everyone kept on discouraging me. Even the Delegation Superior from Hong Kong discouraged me saying that no one could survive with an Australian Oblate since he was so hard. Whatever happen in my life I am convinced of my call and am obedient to the Church. Though it looked as though a blind obedience on my part, I never dared to question our Superior General.

Q- What could be the happiest moment that you remember and cherish?

The Mass I celebrated at the Church of St. Xavier in Shangchuan Island (it means St. John Island) where the body of St. Francis Xavier, my patron Saint was laid. I said Mass on an empty tomb. at the moment his body is kept at Goa for the veneration of the people.

Q – What is the secret of your success that every Oblate could learn from you?

Cling to Jesus; He is the strength; we have come to contribute ours hare in the building up of HIS Kingdom. I pray and, thank the Lord, and all those who had prayed for me and helped me for the last past sixty years.

We are happy to have you Fr. Dani, our pioneer Oblate and wish you all the success in your life. We pray that God who has guided you before will be your strength and courage in all your endeavours in life.

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