ASIA-OCEANIAEcumenical prayer group
Rajabima Oblate Centre, situated in the ancient sacred Buddhist city of Anuradhapura, is a community established also with the view of reaching out to the poor of other religions. Following the teachings of the Church after the second Vatican Council, the Oblate community at Rajabima has taken the initiative to invite the pastors and community leaders of different Christian denominations to come together for prayer.
This sign of unity among Christians has been appreciated by many and has become a regular event. The Ecumenical Prayer Group gathers every month in a place of worship of one of the participating communities and prays according to the tradition of that particular Christian denomination. The prayer is based on Scripture and life sharing which has become the bond between all the Christians.
Recently, the gathering and ecumenical prayer was held at the Oblate centre. In promoting Christian unity, there were about seventeen representative religious leaders who came forward in creating common ground for understanding and sharing the word of God and working for the common good. The representatives were from the Salvation Army; the Anglican Church of Sri Lanka; the Subandi Brothers; Holy Family Convent of Thalawa; and from Anuradhpura: the Sisters of Providence, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The prayer group is the initiative of Fr. Shivantha WAAS and Oblate Deacon Shihan SHANAKA, together with the Methodist and Anglican pastors of the area. Now it is supported by the present Superior, Fr. Emmanuel FERNANDO and is attended by the Oblates of the area, Frs. Dhanushke FERNANDO and Roshan FERNANDO.
To celebrate the 3rd year of the Oblate Triennium: Mission, the Vow of Obedience and Evangelii Gaudium, the Preaching Band community at Amaithy Aham, Vavuniya, organized mission preaching.
There were two missions preached during Lent at two parishes: Komarasangkulam – Calvary and St. Joseph’s Parish, Thalvupadu in the diocese of Mannar. And there will be another mission preached at Allaipiddy parish, in the diocese of Jaffna, during the month of May.
The theme of the mission at St. Joseph’s parish was "Be merciful as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). There was lots of cooperation from the parish priest, the parish council, the parish community, the Sisters of the Holy Cross of Menzingen and the Oblates working in the diocese of Mannar.
The mission programmes included:
The missions were completed on the 19th of March, the Feast of St. Joseph, the Patron of the parish community. The provincial superior, presided over the festive mass. (http://www.omijaffna.com/)
The northeastern fishing village of Kuchchaveli is one of the poorest in an area that suffered badly during Sri Lanka's 26-year-long civil war. What once was a predominantly Catholic village is now a place with a church but no Catholics. During the war all Catholics either left for neighboring India or fled south, leaving the church and village to the jungle. When fighting ceased in 2009, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims resettled the village but none of the original Catholics returned.
A few years ago, Father Jesu RAMESH, from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, was appointed to reopen the church, which was by then covered with jungle and inhabited by snakes. With help from police and navy personnel, Father Ramesh cleared the jungle from the church and its grounds. Minor renovations were done with the support of his Oblate congregation.
"There was no place for me to live but I occupied the sacristan's room and started my mission to serve a parish which had no single parishioner,” said Father Ramesh.
The priest quickly learned how impoverished the villagers were and how they solely relied on fishing to make a living. "But from August to January, the monsoon's heavy rain, winds and rough sea, makes fishing impossible,” said Father Ramesh. "During the monsoon a few villagers have land to do some agriculture but even that is affected by wild elephants, which roam the village to eat Palmyra palm fruits.”
Frs. Jesu RAMESH and Srian RANASINGHE
Last August a group from Oblates Missions, the charity and social service arm of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, visited the area with the aim of supporting Father Ramesh.
"The group was touched by the depth of poverty suffered by the people and the parents were pleading with them to support their children with some jobs,” said Pat Benedict, a lay coordinator for Oblate Missions.
Father Sriyan RANASINGHE, the director of Oblates Missions, saw a large amount of cow dung on the roads around the village and suggested the idea of selling it in the capital Colombo which is 320 kilometers away.
"We had no way of finding them jobs but we found a God-given resource,” Benedict said.
Benedict said that villagers were requested to collect cow dung, dry it and then turn it into powder, making it an organic chemical-free fertilizer. They then gave the fertilizer to Father Ramesh who transported it in bags to Colombo via train.
"We sold it in the city with the support of another Catholic charismatic revival movement, the Community of the Risen Lord,” said Benedict. "The fertilizer project was also about bridging the North and South and showing our love to our brothers and sisters in the North and East. It is not only the Catholics who are involved in this project but also Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims,” he said.
A number of people who had also lost limbs in the war are also involved in the project.
Father Ranasinghe said the Oblate Missions bought equipment such as weighing scales and bagging gear to assist the project. (http://www.ucanews.com/)