Message of Very Rev. Fr. Eugene Benedict, OMI the Provincial of the Province of Jaffna on the Inauguration of the Jubilee

This Message was delivered on the 14th of February 2022 on the inauguration of the Jubilee

Dear Fathers and Brothers,

It gives me immense joy to say a few words on this historic occasion of the 175th year of jubilee of the arrival, life and presence of the Oblates in our country.

The Oblate Charism: The tree, it is said, lives by its roots. Pope Paul VI using for the first time the term “charism of the founders” pointed the need of returning to it as the first requirement for the renewal of religious life.

Historical events: For us, history is not a mere timeline of events of the past that explains away how we arrived at where we are today. But it is a continuing and ongoing salvation history. It is an account of what God has done for His people. The same could be said of the history of our life in Sri Lanka as we celebrate this jubilee. We cannot but be filled with apostolic fervour when we recall each time how our predecessors were eager to leave everything that were dear to them and set out on a journey to an unknown land far away to bring the Gospel.

Religious life: Religious life is a permanent commitment to live in love. A religious commits to Love within the structure of vows and community. The religious vocation places us at the heart of the Church and puts us entirely at the service of Her mission. Our belongingness is further extended by the fact that our vocation calls us to be deeply united with the world and its history. These fundamental principles make us realize that we are not alone; instead we form part of a network of Congregations that share a common task.

Life as a religious becomes sterile if we consecrated to God, refuse to tune our ears to the truth that emerges from the society and acts accordingly. In this a religious should transcend conventional way of living. Radicalism of a religious is to go beyond comfort zones, longing for satisfaction and an eagerness to be successful. Instead, radicalism embraces the risk to love, the pain to grow and the passion to transcend.

The religious is called to be a realist and to be attentive to the signs of the times, convinced that the Lord manifests his will also through the demands of time and place. Timely response to these needs requires a well-balanced creativity.

Phrases such as attentive to the signs of the times, the demands of the time and place and to keep abreast with the new trends, which we often encounter in our official documents, confirm our need to recognize and respond to change with a spirit of initiative and flexibility.

Holy Father Pope Francis: The Holy Father pope Francis in his address to the participants of the 36th General Chapter on the 7th of October 2016 fondly reminded us that we are a missionary religious family and noted that the Church, along with the entire world, is experiencing an age of great transformation, in the most diverse of fields. It needs men who carry in their hearts the same love for Jesus Christ that lived in the heart of the young Eugene de Mazenod. He also invited the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to work for a Church that is for everyone, a Church that is ready to welcome and to accompany.

In the same message, the pope indicates that the Church needs of us, of our missionary courage, our availability to bring to everyone the Good News that frees and consoles. He insists that we experience the joy of the Gospel first, then shine forth  on our face, making us joyful witnesses and  he wishes us that charity be among us as our first rule of life, the premise of every apostolic action; and May zeal for the salvation of souls be a natural consequence of this fraternal charity.

We are proud: As we celebrate this wondrous occasion, with grateful hearts, we thank our heavenly Father for his mercy, fidelity and love. May the Lord allow us to write new pages that are as evangelically fruitful as those of our brothers, who over the past 175 years have borne witness to that great love of Christ and His Church. We look to the future with unwavering hope and an unshaking trust and faith in the Lord. 

We, the Oblates in Sri Lanka, raise our minds and hearts to God in thanksgiving for letting us to be part of this illustrious history of the Church in Sri Lanka. Let us be encouraged and continue with courage and passion to be faithful to the unique missionary calling the Lord has entrusted to us. For this, we look at the past with gratitude, live out the present with passion and ready to embrace the future with hope.

We are Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

May this name be for us a constant commitment to the mission.

Stay Blessed always.

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