Dear Very Reverend Father Provincial, Eugene Benedict OMI, Provincial of Jaffna Province Dear Very Reverend Father Provincial, Roshan Silva OMI, Provincial of Colombo Province, Very dear Reverend Fathers and Brothers, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
Very dear faithful devoted lay men and women associated to us through friendship, support and in living the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod, and Very dear and dedicated Oblate Youth, May God’s gracious blessings be upon all of you as you celebrate this 175th jubilee of Oblate life and mission in Sri Lanka!
Our beloved Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, wrote in 1847: “What a field of labour is opening up before us… in the most beautiful country of the world … How would it be possible to resist so many pressing motives and not respond with gratitude to cooperate powerfully in such a great good work? I have therefore accepted this new mission, one of the most beautiful in the world. I foresee that one day this great island will become an endowment which our Congregation will sanctify entirely.”
St. Eugene’s missionary initiative to accept this field of labour has proved very true! We see Oblate life and mission flourishing “in the most beautiful country of the world.” On your invitation for the 175th Jubilee Year, you have a theme inspired in the words of Pope Francis to the members of the 6th General Chapter in 2016: “… [M]ay the Lord allow you to write new pages that are as evangelically fruitful as those of your brothers who, over the past 200 years, have borne witness sometimes, even with blood, to that great love for Christ and for the Church.” You have expressed the desire that you want to write new pages of evangelization with the creativity and commitment of St. Eugene. In light of the theme that you have chosen for this year, I pray the Lord to bless you with a three-fold grace.
The grace of conversion: In order to write new pages of the Gospel that will be fruitful, we stand in need of conversion: a change of heart and a transformation of our way of thinking, so that we have new behaviour. For St. Eugene, this is nothing less than the call to become saints, a lifelong commitment to conversion. Your jubilee is a kairos event of God’s grace. It is an opportunity given by God to shake you up, to wake you up and to summon you to a deeper commitment as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Take up the Constitutions and Rules and confront your Oblate lives with the common commitment we have all made. Examine your faithfulness to the four evangelical counsels: chastity, poverty, obedience and perseverance. Meditate and share with one another about your commitment to the life of prayer, both personally and as communities. Finally, review your life, your generosity, your active engagement in living apostolic community.
Saint Eugene made an inner connection between holiness and mission. Without the grace of conversion that leads to holiness, our mission becomes weak, without passion, and focused on ourselves.
The grace of Mazenodian creativity: I ask the Lord to bless you with the grace expressed on your jubilee logo: Mazenodian creativity. I would also add the word, audacity: leave nothing undared to extend the Reign of Christ! The Oblate charism and the repeated call of Pope Francis is to discern the most urgent needs of the Church and the poor and to respond to them. For an apostolic body such as ours, we need to have clear priorities and a focus as we respond to the needs of the poor. We can be overwhelmed with so many calls, so we must be aware and humbly admit that we cannot do everything. Let us discern, choose and do some ministries very well. Common discernment of priorities is needed and then, forming communities of Oblates to minister together in response to the needs.
May the Lord bless you with the grace of Mazenodian creativity and commitment in the face of the urgent needs of the Church and of the poor.
The grace to be the most united family on earth: Fin ally, I ask our heavenly Father to help you become that to which St. Eugene called us: the most united family on earth. The theme for the 37t h General Chapter captures this: “Pilgrims of Hope in Communion.” Our unity as an Oblate Family is of course connected to our commitment to apostolic community and to our growth in becoming saints. Whether at the level of the local Oblate apostolic community; the Oblate district community; each Province; both Provinces, Colombo and Jaffna; and at the level of the entire Congregation: we are called to live in communion, both in spiritual ways and in concrete expressions of forgiveness, reconciliation, friendship, solidarity, dialogue and trust-building.
Many Oblates in Sri Lanka are involved in ministering to the people in centers for conflict resolution, healing and reconciliation, centers of support for victims, those traumatized, etc. Many of you are also involved in inter-religious dialogue in many ways . We must also consider reconciliation among Oblates, frequent, regular ongoing inter-provincial dialogue, the healing of memories and trust building among the members of the Oblate Congregation. As we minister to others, are we ministering to ourselves? Are we witnesses of communion, healing, fraternal love, forgiveness?
It is wonderful that this jubilee has been promoted by both Provinces. I pray for the grace that this will be a true “revolution of tenderness”, a commitment to communion among Oblates that will be intentionally promoted by both Provinces. In this way, St. Eugene’s desire that we would be the most united family on earth can take place in the most beautiful country on earth.
We accompany you in prayer during this year. May God’s kairos pour forth many blessings upon you and the people whom you serve. May Mary Immaculate, our Mother of Mercy and Patroness intercede for you to do God’s will as she told the servants in Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.”
Happy jubilee! Your brother Oblate in Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate
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