[ Fr.Sunil De Silva - 16.08.2012 ]
His Lordship Bishop Winston Fernando SSS, Bishop of Badulla Diocese, presided at the solemn Golden Jubilee Eucharistic celebration of Rev. Fr. Michael Abeypillai SSS, who celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Religious Life in the Congregation of Blessed Sacrament Fathers & Brothers.

Golden Jubilee Eucharistic celebration was held on 15th August 2012 at St. Philip Neri's Church, Colombo 01.Provincial Superior of the Congregation in Sri Lanka Very Rev. Fr. Sunil Rupasinghe SSS, Very Rev. Fr. Sebastian Luistro, the Vicar General of the Congregation,Very Rev. Fr. Graeme Duro, SSS Provincial Superior, Australia, and Rev Fr. Justin Chawkan, SSS, Superior, Colombo Community and several other Fathers concelebrated in the Eucharistic celebration.

" Words are inadequate to express my joy and my deep gratitude to the Eucharistic Lord for the precious gift of religious life which Bro. Michael Abelpillai SSS has received and lived during the past 50 years. The good news is that he continues to remain a blessing to others and I am so proud to acknowledge that my religious life has been enriched by his exemplary life of Word and Sacraments." said Rev. Fr. Justin Chawkan SSS, Superior, of the Colombo Blessed Sacrament Community.

He said further in his felicitation message, "My first encounter with him was some 24 years ago when I entered St. Philip Neri’s Church for the first time at the invitation of the Late Rev. Fr. Alfred Alexander, SSS, for a ‘come and see’ program accompanied by the Late Rev. Fr. Anton Rajanayagam, one of my role models, who led St. Henry’s College to its glorious present. Always the cordial host, Bro. Mike ably demonstrated the best of SSS hospitality during that short stay at Pettah. The subtle beckoning influence was such that I could not help but come back in a year to join the Aspirancy under the aegis and guidance of the gracious Bro. Mike. He remained kind, generous, humble and simple and still does. His words never contradict his actions. He not only taught me how to live a community life, but exemplified it as well."

" Bro. Mike has spent sleepless nights welcoming guests, passionately fought against darkness and silence, demonstrated compassion for the poor and the needy, ardently preserved the patrimony of this Shrine, endured silent agony for all those who were helpless and voiceless, entertained others even when he was not in the best of health, showed eagerness to help at all times; and these are just a miniscule few of his memorable, enriching and encouraging qualities. The office of Superior of the Colombo Community, which he held from January 2004 to January 2011, was an additional blessing for him when his remarkable qualities of leadership and service were demonstrated. I am honored to be his successor since 2011, enjoying his full cooperation, encouragement, and support. He has shown no reluctance whatsoever in matters of initiatives taken by me, especially when it came to glorifying the Lord and beautifying the Church. I am also blessed to be able to organize this day for him as a small token of appreciation and my humble tribute to his selfless service."


When we honor those who have been called to the religious life, we show our appreciation for the giving of themselves over to God. Fifty Golden Years have passed, the passage of time is indeed fleeting but all that has been achieved will be written in letters of gold.

Brother Michael Abelpillai of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation (SSS) hails from Ilavalai in Jaffna and studied at St. Henry’s College. He made his first commitment to the SSS way of life on 15th August 1962, becoming the first local religious Brother in the SSS way of life. He had the distinction of being counted among the pioneering team of SSS who came to Sri Lanka from Australia and Italy; they were Fathers Patrick Fitzgerald, Henry Pollini, James Poyard, Joseph Holder, Laurie Sullivan and Brothers Stephen McKenna, Benedict Ryan and Kevin Gallagher.

Brother Mike is renowned for many things, but what stands out most of all is his compassionate loving nature, his willingness to help always because he excels in fellowship even with strangers and people automatically feel drawn to him. He is a livewire in the Church when it comes to the management of the Shrine and Liturgy, strictly upholding and adhering to the standards of the Liturgy. To me, what shines most of all is his resonant voice – whether it is raised in singing the praises of his God or reading the Scriptures but most forcefully his articulate rendition of the Passion which has never failed to give me goose bumps!

You have served at St. Philip Neri’s Church and the Blessed Sacrament Congregation for 50 glorious years Brother Mike and each age in your long and eventful life in the Church has its distinguishing characteristics, and today we salute and appreciate you for the saying is “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well” You have sown through good and bad times, happy and sad times, dear Brother and today the measure stands tall.

Karen Mortier
On behalf of Bro. Mike’s friends

Bro. Michael, as we all know, is a very popular personality in the Community of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers at Philip Neri’s Church, Pettah. I felt very special when he invited me to attend the Eucharistic Celebration honoring 50 years of his life dedicated to the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Knowing Bro. Michael’s popularity, I got myself to Church in time.
There is something very unique about St. Philip Neri’s Church. My parents used to take us to the Church when we very young. It was awesome. What used to fascinate me most was the very ornate and traditional architecture of the Church.
Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 was indeed a very special day. It was Bro. Michael’s Day. The Church was packed to capacity. There was an aura of sanctity and an atmosphere of joy pervading throughout the Church. Sanctity, because it was the Feast of Assumption of Our Blessed Mother and joy, because of the loving tribute to Bro. Mike.

The Congregation seemed excited, in anticipation of the service to begin. I was deliriously happy enjoying the whole scene. The sanctuary was a picture of elegance with beautiful floral arrangements. The décor stood out in its simplicity. There also was a silence. A silence that spelt of surprise. Then, all of a sudden, the melodious bells of St. Philip Neri’s began to chime. What a resonance. It was musical, as if though heaven was rejoicing, saying “let’s rejoice, it’s Brother Michael’s Jubilee. Well done, good and faithful servant!”

We were requested to sing the hymn, “fill your heart with joy and gladness.’ This was followed by the grand procession, which was breathtaking. First, the incense bearer, then the cross bearer, followed by the novices and scholastics and priests of the Blessed Sacrament Community and other priests: Rev. Fr. Sebastian Luistro, the Vicar General of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Sunil Rupasinghe, SSS, Provincial Superior, Sri Lanka Fr. Graeme Duro, SSS Provincial Superior, Australia, Fr. Justin Chawkan, SSS, Superior, Colombo Community, Bro. Michael and His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando, Bishop of Badulla, Sri Lanka. They took their places in the sanctuary along with other concelebrants.

The celebration of the Holy Eucharist began soon after. His Lordship Dr. Winston Fernando gave a very meaningful homily on the life of our Blessed Mother. Peumi and Dinuk’s rendition of the hymn, ‘I thank my God’ was fantastic. It touched everybody’s heart. I was in tears.

A felicitation ceremony followed after the Holy Eucharist. Bro. Michael was covered with garlands of flowers. What a display of appreciation and love. The Seminarians along with the grand-nephews of Bro. Michael, like little angels, flitted round the pews very discreetly passing out pretty boxes of cakes with party favors. It was a gift from Bro. Michael’s family, a memento of this celebration.

His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Winston Fernando, the visiting foreign priests, lavished praise on Bro. Michael. Each had something very special to say about Bro. Michael: that he was a gift from God to their community. What a tribute.

Once the felicitation was over, Bro. Michael was called upon to open the “Michael’s Wing.

” A beautiful statue of St. Joseph, placed is a niche facing the entrance from Maliban street, is the first thing that meets your eye when entering the wing.

The Congregation wishes Bro. Michael, after which everyone was invited to participate in a scrumptious buffet dinner. ‘Good, glorious good,’ and what a spread. Everyone had their fill. We came to the end of perfect day.

The entire celebration was rich with meaning.

Brother Michael, may you enjoy more years in the Vineyard of the Lord. God bless you.
Father Justin, thank you for giving us insight into the grandeur of church celebrations. Everything was planned so meticulously and tastefully.

God bless you and all the community of priests for putting on such a beautiful show. My heart is full of admiration for all of you and I pray that God will guide you in all your endeavors.

My eyes were blurred with tears. I stood before the sanctuary and looked up at Jesus with his arms outstretched. I said, ‘thank you Lord for this Day’ and sang ‘how great thou art.’

Indeed, it was a celebration to remember.

[ Photos by Ajith Perera ]