Inaugural celebration of the 175th anniversary of the Oblate presence in Sri Lanka- held in Jaffna.
Today we are gathered here for the inaugural celebration of the Jubilee year. It marks the 175th anniversary of the Oblate presence in Sri Lanka. This is an event which is very much significant and thus it has to be celebrated. I take this opportunity to salute all the Oblates who have worked hard in our soil to make our provinces what they are today. Their commitment, dedication, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, duty consciousness, sense of obedience is beyond explanation and we owe so much to our pioneers. Our Founder sent Missionaries to Sri Lanka out of sheer zeal for the evangelization of the country for which there was a dearth of personnel.
Our founder referred to Ceylon as the most beautiful island in the world and the most promising mission that divine providence had opened for the Oblates.
Thus, the Oblates have been working with both urban and rural communities, especially with the poorest of the poor, the marginalized and the abandoned in the society. Wherever the poor are, one would find the Oblates.,” The Oblates today can be proud that in so many places, they are found on the margins of society. It is our Charism, Charism to evangelize the poor and to be evangelized by the poor.
During the course of the 175 years, the Oblates have expanded into challenging ministries such as non-formal education, inter religious dialogue, ministry for social justice and integrity of creation, ministry for ethnic peace, helping the people affected by the war etc. because of the zeal and the Charism of the Oblates, Pope Pius XI declared Oblates as “specialists in the most difficult missions of the Church”. The success of Oblate activities is in many ways due to the fact that the Oblates work close to the people. They are ready to take risks and are able to rough out and go through difficulties.
Jaffna and Colombo provinces have not limited their services to Sri Lanka alone.
We have begun to send missionaries abroad as pioneers to establish new missions in countries like, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Korea, Japan, Norway, France, Denmark, Cuba, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, etc.
There were many outstanding Oblates who have left indelible impact on the lives of the people through their excellence and their creativity, especially in their missionary ventures and in the fields of education and development.
Now it is our turn my dear brother Oblates and the formees, the future of the Provinces.
1. It is enough that we glory the past and the giants of the past. Now it is our task to continue to work together, to have a clear Oblate iden ity.
2. It is enough that we have become hired servants of some of the bishops, who would hire and fire us when they want.
We are happy that we are able to work together as Sri Lankan Oblates, though we have two provinces.
3. We need to continue to read the times of the signs. To raise our heads and see where we are needed. The local ordinary, the bishops may not need us now to run parishes. They have their priests. But as Oblates we need to continue to reflect as to where we are needed; the places where the diocesan clergy may not like to go, the apostolates where the diocesan priests may not like to engage in. Let us raise our heads and see.
Fr. Rolheiser OMI says: “A missionary is one who goes where he or she is needed but not wanted, and who leaves when he or she is wanted but not needed.”
I like to conclude this speech with the words of theologian Edward Schillebeeckx. Let us make it our own. “What you dream alone remains a dream, but what you dream together can become a reality.” The Oblate charism is predicated on the conviction that compassion must be collective to be effective. So as Sri Lankan Oblates, both Colombo and Jaffna are preparing to celebrate our presence in Sri Lanka, let us determine to dream together, walk together, talk together and work together.
As missionaries our sole objective is to discover together, new pathways for the good news of Jesus Christ to reach the people of today.
Thank you. May God bless you all.
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