Holy Family Apostolic Religious
The pride of place goes to Jaffna for the first religious given to the Church of Sri Lanka. The first religious to come from the west to Sri Lanka also came to Jaffna. In the history of Jaffna, the 2nd November 1862 is a golden day when the whole city was in a festive mood welcoming the Sisters who had come from Europe in the traditional way. The sisters who were astounded, have written about it in their letter to Superior General in Bordeaux.
At that time the Bishop E. Semeria OMI, was keen that his people especially the young grow in knowledge and moral discipline. He sought the aid of religious Congregations to give good education, to be a refuge for the orphans and the under privileged, to care for the sick, to give a good faith formation. Our Founder, Fr. Pierre Bienvenu Noailles in his last days had discussion with the Founder of the Oblates, Bishop Eugene de Mazenod and an affiliation was agreed, between the two Congregation. This paved the path for Bishop Semeria OMI to get the Holy Family Congregation to come to the North of Sri Lanka and render their services there.
In 1861, on the 8th of February, our Founder and on 21st May the Oblates Founder respectively went to their eternal reward. Bishop Semeria, after participating in the final rites of his Congregation’s Founder returned with the six Holy Family Sisters who had been named for the mission in Jaffna. It is 150 years since these European sisters imprinted their footprints on our soil, we who have been formed by them should review our lives and apostolates. Living the Spirit of God Alone and bringing into communion the scattered children of God, is the aim and they were totally dedicated to it from the beginning. They were concerned about the education of girls and their formation. The mission of education which commenced in Jaffna is now carried out in various parts of Sri Lanka. This magnificent mission entrusted as a ‘sapling’ into the hands of the Holy Family has grown into a fabulous tree spreading its branches to all corners of our country, its fruits are witnessed by the lives lived, the many valiant women and families serving the people in our country and abroad. Not only in the field of education but reading the signs of the times, they are ready to respond to any need, they have transformed jungles into arable lands and towns and they have spread the value of education to the ends of the earth and they are highly appreciated for all their services.
They were one with the people of our region in their political and economical struggle. During the 30 years of war with the displaced people they faced the heavy bombing, cluster bombs, shelling and even at the brink of death in the blood drenched soil. They were with the people amidst all the displacement and continued their mission as doctors, nurses, Catechist, farmers, preparing for the Sacraments, imparting vocational skills to the youth. Today they work with the poor, the orphans, destitute, differently-able improving their status in life and collaborating with their Parish Priest. Wherever there was a need our Convents were established. Their special apostolate was to build families, imitating the gentle image of the Trinity and the Holy Family. Earlier the families were considered as the temple, but today this notion has changed and human values, moral teaching are undermined. In these situations our sisters courageously meet the families and with steadfast spirit they render their services. They have wiped their tears, consoled them in their sorrow, in their long journey during the displacement, like the eagle that carries its young on her wings, they journeyed with our people and these experiences are etched in the mind of our Sisters.
During the Tsunami when many lives were lost and the people lost all their property, our Sisters were in solidarity and a presence which gave themhope. The numerous bodies they buried and many who died on their laps. Many children were brought to our boarding Houses, children without any address, they were received with love and are looked after. From the beginning to this day we continue this mission. Added to these ministries today we are involved with the Differently-abled and it is a challenging ministry. Today there are more disabled people than before the war. Earlier they were born disabled, but today the war has left many differently-abled.
After the war there are many confused and unwanted children and these were entrusted to us and we devote ourselves generously for their welfare. We have Homes for these children and Sisters render dedicated services to these children and people.
Through these apostolates/ministries they have promoted vocations among the youth and many have dedicated themselves totally to the service of the Church. Today there are many priests and nuns in different Congregation who recall with gratitude the services rendered by the Holy Family sisters. “Go forward, there is nothing to stop your Course,” these words of our Founder urge us always to be ready to respond to the needs of our people. This year is a golden era not only for the Holy Family Sisters, but for the Church in Sri Lanka and especially for the Church in Jaffna. As we celebrate the 150 years with gratitude we remember the Lord who journeyed with us at every stages and offer Him our thanks and continued fidelity to His mission entrusted to us.
. Jubliee Committee
Holy Family Provincialte,