ASIA-OCEANIAFrom Oslo to Jaffna
Ivar Eidsvig, CRS, of the Oslo Diocese in Norway, visited the Jaffna Oblates
from 9 to 11 July 2014. He was accompanied by Fr. Bharath Villavarayan from
Kotahena, now working in Oslo. The Diocese of Oslo ministers to around 51,000
Catholics who form 1.5% of Norway’s total population of 3,500,000. There are
18,000 Tamil immigrants from Sri Lanka of whom 8,000 are Catholics.
There are 18,000 Filipinos in Oslo, the majority of whom are Catholics (80%). There are also 21,000 immigrants from Vietnam, 12,000 of whom are Catholics.
Two Oblate priests from Jaffna, Fr. Victor JEYASINGHAM and Fr. Saveripillai Edmund REGINALD are already in the Oslo Diocese, ministering mainly to the immigrants. Negotiations are under way to form a “new mission” of Denmark-Norway. This “new mission” is to be the responsibility of the Oblate Province of Jaffna. At present, the Oblate ministries in Denmark and Norway are districts of the Polish Province. (www.omijaffna.com)
On 4 August, a group of radical Buddhist monks led a mob that forced its way into a meeting to honour war victims. The meeting had brought together war survivors, Catholic priests and human rights activists as well as representatives of foreign embassies. Police present at the event did not raise a finger to stop the extremists. Below is a press statement (excerpts) by Fr. Rohan SILVA, Oblate Provincial of the Colombo Province.
As the Provincial Superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Colombo Province), I wish to express my feelings of deep disappointment and frustration over the deplorable and despicable incident that transpired at the Centre for Society and Religion (CSR) on Monday, August 4, 2014. CSR is the social justice arm of the Oblate religious order and has always championed the cause of the poor and the marginalized, whatever be their race or creed. It has fearlessly raised its voice on behalf of the voiceless victims of injustice during more than 40 years of its existence. CSR’s unwavering concern has always been the liberation of the poor and marginalized people and it always remained open to whatever was good and true, irrespective of its source. Its discussion forums on vital issues have always been open to diverse views. Freedom of expression has been one of CSR’s hallmarks. Since its inception, the Centre has been an open forum for all ethnic communities and religions, a haven for opinion makers and academicians, and politicians of all hues to express their views and be heard on the most crucial issues affecting the Nation and her people. It was and continues to be a centre for research and a meeting place for both the powerful and the powerless on equal grounds without fear or favour.
The said incident occurred at a workshop organized by the Families of the Disappeared with the intention of listening to and learning the agonies of those whose loved ones had been the victims of involuntary disappearance, irrespective of whether they were from the North or the South. It is also worthy of note that this gathering was reserved for invitees only and a number of foreign diplomats were in attendance at this meeting.
The fact that this meeting had been organized at the CSR is of special significance in this instance. The CSR, founded by the late Fr. Tissa BALASURIYA, has earned the respect and recognition of all political parties and all religious denominations as an institution that promotes the values of democracy and for years has stood for the defence of social justice, peace and equality for all citizens in every sphere of life. Even during some of the darkest moments of the Nation’s history, the CSR remained an oasis where a modicum of sanity prevailed.
It is indeed most unfortunate that these time-tested values of the CSR were transgressed and its hallowed precincts violated by a group that forced itself into the premises uninvited, instilling fear and intimidation among those participating in a meeting being held on purely humanitarian grounds. … That democratic space has now being sullied by elements that contribute little to demonstrate to the world that Sri Lanka is a land where kindness and compassion are hallmarks of our national identity. We live in a world where humanitarian concerns transcend national boundaries; hence the presence of non-Sri Lankans should not be construed as external interference.
The CSR premises lie contiguous to a place of worship. Trespassing upon such sacred space by the use of force and by unbecoming and destructive behaviour is simply a violation of the Church’s guaranteed fundamental rights and of those who use those premises for humanitarian and peaceful purposes.The CSR has always held in high esteem all religions and those espousing their values and welcomed all organizations working for humanitarian concerns. In this context, those responsible for the CSR strongly condemn the illegal intrusion into its premises and urge, in no uncertain terms, the law enforcement authorities to bring the law of the land to bear on those who have acted contrary to its tenets, irrespective of their social status.
We also appeal to the leaders of the Church and other peace loving organizations to send out a firm call to the powers that be to bring to a halt the blatant violations of the fundamental and civic rights of the citizens of this country.
Oblates in the Philippines live quite far from the islands devastated by
typhoon “Yolanda” in 2013, the missionaries have not been insensitive to the
plight of those who lost everything in that storm.
Last April, the Oblate provincial, Fr. Larry DE GUIA, together with Frs. Rito DAQUIPIL, Jonathan DOMINGO and Bro. Jose ADUANA visited the stricken area of Ajuy, Iloilo. They were accompanied by Agnes May Piñol, Marketing Director of Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation, Helen Soria of the Board of Trustees and Aileen Samson, province staff member. Their purpose was to see how the Oblate Missionary Foundation (OMF) could be of practical assistance to victims of the natural disaster.
families asked for help in planting new crops of corn and other vegetables; 94
individuals needed help to acquire chickens, ducks, pigs and carabao (water
buffalo) for their farms.
For the people of Ajuy, another great loss during the typhoon was their pump boats which they sorely needed for fishing. In July 2014, the OMF was able to deliver 25 of these boats, all painted blue, together with accessories and fishing gear.
Although devastated like other coastal areas, Ajuy and its population of 47,000 did not draw the attention of donors at home and abroad, according to Agnes Myra Piñol of the Oblate Media Ministry.
“Before you came, we received aid, but it was not as meaningful as what you are giving us now,” a fisherman told Fr. Rito Daquipil, treasurer of the Philippines Province whose headquarters are in Cotabato City
The beneficiaries were grappling for words as they thanked the “strangers.” “We never heard of the OMI. But thank you, thank you so much; we never thought you will give us motorboats. We thought we were going to receive only food stuffs and used clothing,” said one man.
Fr. Jonathan Domingo, director of OMF, said the Archdiocese of Jaro helped the Oblates identify the beneficiaries of the pump boats. He was also able to give farm animals and other farm implements in Barangay Badiangan. “This project comes as the OMI celebrates its 75th year of missionary presence in the Philippines this year,” he said.
On 2 August 2014,
the Nazareth community in Wennappuwa celebrated the 25th anniversary
of ordination of its superior, Fr. Sarath PERERA. On that occasion, the city of
Wennappuwa formally named a road after the Oblate Founder, St. Eugene de
Mazenod. Present for the dedication were Fr. Clement WAIDYASEKARA, General
Councillor for Asia-Oceania, and Fr. Rohan SILVA, Provincial of the Colombo
Province, as well as the Chairman of the Town Council and other Oblates.
In 1847, the Founder sent three Oblate priests and a Brother to what was then known as Ceylon, at the request of the Vicar Apostolic of Jaffna, Bishop Orazio Bettachini. St. Eugene hoped to see the whole island evangelized by his Oblates. Before he died in 1861, he had sent a total of 31 Oblates: 22 French, 4 Irish, 4 Italians and one Belgian.
The Oblates have had a tremendous impact on the history of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. Today, there are two Oblate provinces in Sri Lanka itself with a total of nearly 250 missionaries; Sri Lankan Oblates can also be found working in many other Oblate provinces, delegations and missions.
history of the Oblate presence in Sri Lanka was charged with difficulties:
languages to be learned; different cultural realities even within the country;
misunderstandings with the bishops and the clergy; outbreaks of fatal diseases;
the reality of a Church that was a tiny minority in the country; the schism of
some priests from Goa. Nevertheless, the Oblates stayed true to their charism
and succeeded in becoming one of the major forces in the development of the
Church on what the great Italian explorer, Marco Polo, called “the most
beautiful island in the world.”
It is logical that a road be named after the Oblate Founder in Wennappuwa. The parish there is the largest in the country, with more than 6000 families. The Oblate who greatly developed the parish was Fr. Constans CHOUNAVEL (†1923) who had been sent there by the Founder himself. The parish has given the Church some 28 priests and more than 35 sisters for various dioceses and religious orders.
The Oblate Preaching Band of the Colombo Province is also located in Wennappuwa. This preaching community has, for more than 65 years, had a significant impact on the Church of Sri Lanka.
As a sign of gratitude to the Founder of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St. Eugene de Mazenod, the Wennappuwa Town Council proposed to name a road for him because of his outstanding love, especially for the Catholics of Wennappuwa. (Fr. S. Randil FERNANDO and Oblate Historical Dictionary)