Thirteen undergraduates who received scholarships with the Provincial Superior and other priests of the Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation. (Seated from L to R) Rev. Fr. Ajith Wellington OMI, Rev. Fr. Clement Waidyasekara OMI , Rev. Very Rev. Fr. Irwin Moraes OMI, Provincial Superior of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Rev. Fr. Dennis Iddamalgoda OMI, Rev. Fr. Justin Silva OMI, and Angelo Wijewickrama OMI.
The French Revolution and its aftermath left the Church in France in a state of sad disarray and devastation.
France was a shattered society. It was at this hour of terrible tragedy, in order to revitalize the church and bring hope to people living in despair that Eugene De Mazenod founded the Missionaries of Provence in 1816. It was ten years later in 1826, although the new society numbered only a few members, Pope Leo XII approved the Institute with its Constitutions and Rules conferring on it the name – Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).
Eugene, though never a missionary himself, was a true missionary in mind and heart. His missionary zeal made him a unique and outstanding servant of God, committed not only to the proclamation of the ‘Good News’ but also caring for those in need, especially the poor and the marginalized. His extraordinary missionary zeal made him send missionaries to many countries including Asia – Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was known then and of that time under the British rule. This became one of his first missions. He loved to refer to this tear-drop Island in the Indian Ocean, as the most beautiful island in the World and for the oblate missionaries and for him, the most promising mission.
Eugene De Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles, Founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate accepted to send his oblates, at the request of Mgr. Bettacchini, who was residing in Jaffna as pro-vicar and co-adjutor of the Vicar Apostolic of Colombo. The first batch of Oblates with Fr. Etienne Semeria as their superior arrived in the island in 1847, and began their missionary activities in the North. Fr. Etienne Semeria later became the first bishop of Jaffna. Since 1847, hundreds of foreign missionaries came from France, Italy, England, Poland, Ireland, Belgium, Canada and the United States. The missionaries were involved not only in parochial ministry but also in administrative and educational activities in the Island.
"Eugene De Mazenod felt a special commitment to children and youth. This has inspired a group of Oblates headed by Rev. Fr. Dennis Iddamalgoda OMI, to start the “De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation”
A close look at the history of the Oblates in Sri Lanka reveals how God has been part of the long history and how the mission of Jesus has been at work among the people through the Oblates, the sons of St Eugene. The history of the Oblates in Sri Lanka is the story of a group of persons, who inspired by Jesus Christ, have dedicated their lives totally to his mission by emulating the example and zeal of their founder, St. Eugene. The Oblates missionaries went a long way in sustaining and continuing the great work of St. Joseph Vaz, the apostle of Ceylon. It is undoubtedly the Oblate congregation that has contributed much to the building up of the Sri Lankan Church.
From the day of his ordination, Eugene De Mazenod felt a special commitment to children and youth. This same love of St. Eugene for children and youth has inspired a group of Oblates headed by Rev. Fr. Dennis Iddamalgoda OMI, to start the “De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation,” with the noble aim of continuing St. Eugene’s love and care for children. The Scholarship Foundation was inaugurated on 21st May 2016, when the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Sri Lanka, celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Foundation of the Congregation, on the feast day of their beloved Founder. This is one way of sharing the joy of the Oblates for the numerous blessings they continue to receive from God. The De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation will be a new sign of missionary activity in Sri Lanka, re-reading and re-energizing the Founder’s initial inspiration, “evangelizare pauperibus misit me, pauperes evangelizantur.”
The vision of the ‘De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation’ is “to empower the underprivileged children and youth through education.” In view of realizing this vision the Foundation intends to partially fund the students who are eligible but have no financial means to complete their university education.
It was with great joy and anticipation that the Annual Get Together of the “De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation” was held on June 24 at Fatima Church, Maradana. Very Rev. Fr. Irwin Moraes OMI, Provincial Superior of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Sri Lanka, was the Chief Guest .Twenty five students were awarded scholarships. Fr. Dennis Iddamalgoda OMI, the Founder of the De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation, addressed the gathering, sharing his inspiring thoughts. All preparatory and related work was handled by Rev. Frs. Clement Waidyasekara OMI, Justin Silva OMI, Angelo Wijewickrama OMI and Ajith Wellington OMI who together with Fr. Dennis Iddamalgoda should be lauded for this committed service towards this worthy cause as they strive to shoulder the enormous responsibility of continuing the mission of Jesus.
To get more information about the De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation please contact Fr. Justin Silva on 0714138788 Rita Jayatilleke, Kandy