JESUIT PROVINCE OF SRI LANKA CELEBRATES 50 YEARS
JESUIT PROVINCE OF SRI LANKA
CELEBRATES 50 YEARS
[ Fr.Sunil De Silva - 09.09.2012 ]
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith presided at the Jubilee Mass of the Jesuit Fathers celebrating 50 Years of the Jesuit Province in Sri Lana. Jubilee Mass was celebrated at St. Francis De Sales Church, Dalugama. Rev. Fr. Jeyaraj Rasiah SJ, the Provincial Superior of Society of Jesus, in Sri Lanka and several other Jesuit Fathers concelebrated at the Jubilee Mass.

According to Fr S G Perera, a well known Jesuit Historian in the Church of Sri Lanka, the first arrival of the Jesuits in the country, then known as Ceylon, goes back to the time of St Francis Xavier. First as a part of the Indian Province, in Mannar in 1561, which lasted until 1608, and subsequently in Colombo in 1602.

The second Jesuit era begins when in 1893 Pope Leo XIII founded the Papal Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka, entrusting its direction and administration to the Society of Jesus and also with the contemporaneous founding of the two dioceses of Trincomalee-Batticaloa and Galle.

The responsibility of administering the two newly founded dioceses was entrusted to the Society of Jesus and the two dioceses were manned by Jesuits from two independent European Provinces (Champagne-France and Belgian respectively). However, these two provinces, with the responsibility for the newly founded dioceses, opted for the same names to identify themselves, such as, the Jesuits of the Trincomalee-Batticaloa mission and the Jesuits of the Galle mission. These two mission provinces, though later exchanged their responsibility with two other provinces (New Orleans-USA and Naples-Italy respectively) of the Society of Jesus, were amalgamated into a Vice Province in 1962 which eventually became the Jesuit Province of Sri Lanka.

Founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 -1556) in the year 1533 in Rome, with the original purpose of defending the Catholic Faith at the time of the Reformation. Coming from a military background, Ignatius gave the Society he founded the discipline that made its members distinguish themselves by their obedience to the Pope, as well as to the Religious Superior. The Society followed the canons that regulated Religious life, but launched itself more for the Missions under the guidance of the Popes, thus seeking exemption from such traditional requirements as choir and strict community life. Early in its history, the Society was led into the Educational Apostolate, establishing Schools and Universities in Europe as well as in the Missions. The discipline and erudition, which made the Society of Jesus a dominant force in the Counter-Reformation, also brought them into conflict with civil authorities throughout Europe, and they were expelled from several States. In 1773 Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Order, and it was not reinstated until 1814. Today Jesuits are active in most countries and are noted for their schools and universities including the Gregorian University in Rome.

The Society of Jesus is led by a Superior General, currently Rev Fr Adolfo Nicolás. The headquarters of the Society, its General Curia, is in Rome.

Very Rev. Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J, Superior General's Message on the Jubilee

Dear Friends in the Lord,

With deep gratitude to the Lord I am happy to address you with a few words of thanks and encouragement as you begin the jubilee year of the Sri Lanka Province.

The fifty years you are now completing include many moments to look back and savour with joyful memories the wonderful deeds the Lord has accomplished in and through Sri Lankan Province Jesuits. In small ways and in grand ways God has blessed Sri Lanka and the world through the actions of Sri Lankan Jesuits. However, we must be honest in admitting that these years have often included painful moments as well. Within its first ten years the Province lost its vibrant educational institutions. In more recent years issues stemming from diversity and ethnic conflict not only affected your life and work in the Province but resulted in repercussions in neighbouring countries and throughout the world. Yet you have not been overwhelmed by these challenges. Instead, taking to heart the example of the first companions, you have learned to be friends in the Lord. For just as the first French and Spanish Jesuits protected and cared. for each other as they travelled between rival armies in their journey from Paris to Rome, you have cared for and protected one another in the face of violence and hatred based on ethnic rivalries.

St. Ignatius and the first companions were convinced that it was the power of God that enabled them to overcome potential sources of division. In the deeply divided and war-torn Europe of the sixteenth century, they knew that only the Lord could bring them together and keep them together so they could become the Society of Jesus. They recognized that their companionship was not a human institution but a divine gift that emerged from their common desire to love and serve the Lord in all things. Let me then take this opportunity to thank you for all the ways you have imitated the founders of our Society in overcoming ethnic division and conflict. Your example is important for every member of the Society as each of us learns more deeply some of the key truths underlined for us at General Congregation 35: "Despite the differences, what unites us as Jesuits is Christ and the desire to serve him" (GC 35, D/2, no: 2); "We Jesuits, then formed our identity not alone but in companionship" (GC 35, D/2, no: 3).

While thanking you for all that you have allowed the Lord to work in you and through you during the past fifty years, I also want to encourage you as the Province prepares to make the Spiritual Exercises according to the 19th Annotation, beginning with the Advent of 2011 and ending with Pentecost in 2012. I pray that this will be a grace-filled time for you to examine and intensify your commitment to the Lord and to one another. Let me urge you to imbibe deeply the spirit at the core of our way of proceeding so that the inner law of charity that St.Ignatius describes so often in the Constitutions may become an ever more spontaneous expression of your lives of dedicated service.

Although the Sri Lanka Province may be small in size and numbers, throughout the universal Society, especially in Asia Pacific and in South Asia, you are known as men who are friendly and exuberant. I pray that your golden jubilee year may be a time for appreciating how much God has blessed you in all the experiences that have made you a friendly and exuberant apostolic body that proclaims in word and deed the love of God that has been given to us in Christ Jesus the Lord. May the Lord bless you during this jubilee and all the years to come.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Very Rev. Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J.
Superior General

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