ASIA-OCEANIAHonoring a medical pioneer
Dr. Evelyn Billings, who died on February 16, was an Australian doctor and devout Catholic who grew up on a farm and was the mother of nine children, she was also famous, alongside her husband, Dr. John Billings, for teaching what they termed the “Billings Method” of natural fertility regulation and for founding in 1978 the World Organization Ovulation Methods Billings (WOOMB).
Oblate Fr. Joseph HATTIE (OMI Lacombe Province) a close friend of Evelyn’s, or “Dr. Lyn” as she was known around the world, wrote the homily for her funeral Mass. In it he describes how Dr. Billings “was called to join her husband in a special apostolate to married couples and families” in which “she saw clearly the truth of the good that would bring conjugal happiness and other benefits to married couples”. For half a century the Billings travelled the world together, including Communist China, giving presentations and workshops about the Billings Ovulation Method, in order to help couples end their reliance on methods of artificial contraception, to trust in God to look after their family and to follow the laws of their own natural fertility. Dr. Lyn passionately believed that “This is the knowledge of her body that every woman should have.”
Fr. Hattie related many stories of her zeal in following up opportunities to help women understand their bodies and how to space their families. Once she taught her method to an Israeli woman who was doing the security check on her baggage before she left Israel. She also taught the method to Blessed Mother Teresa’s nuns for the benefit of poor couples in the slums of Calcutta, and also to the first 20 women obstetricians and gynecologists in China – a country with an appallingly harsh record when it comes to babies and family life. Joan Clements, director of WOOMB, has pointed out that in China, where the Billings trained thousands to teach their method, “A substantial drop in the abortion rate has been attributed to their work.” (By Francis Phillips, originally printed in the Catholic Herald. www.catholicherald.co.uk)
“To preach the Good News to the poor” is the motto of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In order to carry out the motto of our Congregation, St. Eugene Province of India came forward to take up a rural mission at Thataiyangarpet in the diocese of Kumbakonnam, separated from the mother parish of Musiri. The Thataiyangarpet mission consists of six substations.
Some 98% of the people of this mission are Dalits. Because they are Christians, they are denied the rights and facilities that the non-Christian Dalits enjoy from the government. The main occupation of the people is agriculture. Many of the people do not own any land. Politically, they need to be conscientized to dare to take up leadership because they have been suppressed by the upper caste Hindus for many years. Education is the only way to lead them out of the shackles of oppression.
The people are very much devoted to Mother Mary. Every year the devotees go to Vellankanni (Shrine of Our Lady of Health) on foot. Due to the long distance, a lack of buses and a small Catholic population, the people did not have regular Masses but they themselves at times gather for prayer in their churches and recite the rosary and say some vocal prayers. As our Founder worked to reawaken the faith which was diminishing due to the French Revolution, so too the T.Pet mission is to be reawakened in their faith. We the Oblates have been given the right and apt mission to carry out the mission of our Founder St. Eugene in this 21st century.
Fr. Maria RAJAN and Bro. Bharat, a regent, are the pioneers in this mission. On 17 June 2012, the Oblates were introduced to the people after a grand Eucharistic celebration in Valaieduppu. Fr. Maria Rajan and the regent pitched their tent among the people in T.Pet. They go for house visits to know them and to make themselves known to the people. The parish consists of 99 families scattered through the various substations.
We have started an instruction center for the children in Valaieduppu. The children show much interest in coming in the morning as well as in the evening. The liturgical celebrations have been regularized to cater to the spiritual needs of the people.
On 13 January 2013, Bishop Antony Samy blessed the renovated Church of Our Lady of Good Health in the presence of Fr. Francis NALLAPPAN, Provincial. Several Oblates, diocesan priests and sisters from neighboring parishes were present to witness the event. The tabernacle was blessed and the Blessed Sacrament was installed during the grand Eucharistic celebration. Once the paper work is completed, this place will be officially declared a parish. (Born, January 2013)
“All roads lead to Rome” is still true as it was in the time of the Caesars. One of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world, Rome also reflects the universality of the Church that embraces all cultures and peoples. As Fr. Shivantha WAAS discovered, the immense cultural mosaic of the Eternal City is an amazingly enriching and rewarding experience
It was during my AIT programme that I was
told of the wish of the province to send me to Rome to continue my studies; and
with fear and joy I accepted that offer. From the day I arrived in Rome on 29
June, 2008, I encountered many enriching experiences and challenges which I
believe have prepared me for my future mission as an Oblate.
First of all, being at the heart of the Church and that of the Congregation, I learnt much about these two institutes and began to love them better, seeing their qualities which are both beautiful and less beautiful. The universality of the Church, gathering around her Head, the Pope, was an amazing experience, as was participating in glorious liturgies at the Vatican. The awareness of the vastness of our Congregation and its missionary zeal still ardently burning in different parts of the world was a discovery I made by encountering many Oblate missionaries and by closely associating with the General Administration and other services of the Congregation. My experiences of religious life and the community living were also enriched by the opportunities and challenges encountered in the International Roman Scholasticate. The community was truly international, with scholastics and formators coming from four continents and from different cultural backgrounds.
For me, coming out of the Island for the first time, this was a totally new experience. It also gave me the chance to know the diversity in our world. Besides knowing different people and having friends from all over the world, I could read the differences among peoples and their characteristics, and also get an idea of how even the concept of “Oblate life/mission” and “formation” differ from one to the other. This was a real challenge for me, as it is for all of us, to come together with our own differences and to build a community. But with all these challenges, I could say, that we built one of the most beautiful communities I have ever lived.
The time spent in Europe has also given me the opportunity to have many other unique experiences. I was blessed to participate at the special programme for the preparation of final vows, in Aix-en- Provence, organized by the formation committee for Europe, visiting the important places in the life of our Founder and of the beginning of our Congregation. I also got the chance to work for two weeks at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes as a volunteer. I served at the 35th General Chapter; I participated in a youth mission with Oblate preachers of the Italian province; I took part at the World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. I served at the beatification celebration of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain, and I served the Pope at Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University also gave me ample opportunities to meet the world, especially going deeper into the world’s sociopolitical reality, as I was also studying for the licentiate in sociology in the Social Sciences Faculty of the university. It was very enriching to be with people coming from different parts of the world and to discuss social issues in the small class groups organized in the faculty. On the other hand, being with the Sri Lankan migrant community, I was able to have a better look at the reality of the world of the migrants, which was the main subject matter of my final thesis of the licentiate. (Convergence, Colombo Province, January-March 2013)
The old saying, “A picture is worth ten thousand words,” is especially true of a video produced by CRADA, the Centre for Rehabilitation of Alcoholics and Drug Addicts, in Mannar, Sri Lanka. The director of the Centre is Fr. Vincent PATRICK, a member of the Oblate province’s provincial council.
The short film is called “Viddil Poochi” and although there are a few words spoken in Tamil, the pictures themselves are capable move one to tears. The plot is totally clear simply from the filming and the editing. The brief video shows the devastation the abuse of alcohol can cause in one poor family. The mother and children suffer greatly because of the father’s addiction to alcohol. Words are not needed to show their suffering and their sorrow. The film can be found on YouTube at http://goo.gl/QD1L9.
CRADA has two objectives – the prevention of alcoholism and drug addiction and the reformation of those who have fallen victim to these two vices. It helps people with a problem to recover from the effects of addiction and remain sober by detoxification through medical and psychosocial care when they are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It also supports the formation of “self-help groups” such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al Anon, Al Teen, etc.
This ministry to alcoholics was initiated in 2006 as a separate diocesan ministry by Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, with Fr. Patrick as its director. The bishop named the institution THIRUPUMUNAI (Turning Point). The bishop entrusted the ministry to the Jaffna Province in 2009. Hundreds of addicts have resumed their normal lives through medical care or counseling or both. Programmes on the ill effects of substance abuse and alcoholism have brought about radical changes in society. There are especially programmes that target youth with a message of temperance.