Legion of Mary's Home for Destitute
The Legion of Mary, a lay people's organisation for the spiritual
uplift of its members a Worldwide Society with its headquarters in
Dublin, Ireland has been rendering a variety of social work in Sri
Lanka, for over 75 years for the legionary his spiritual uplift is the
very foundation or the springboard from which he tries to reach to those
he seeks to serve through the Legion.
The Matrons and inmates at Maw Sevena
Way down in about early 1973 these Legionaries in Sri Lanka realised
the need to sort out family problems, like the placement of boys born
out of wedlock, children abandoned with nowhere to go, etc. Whilst there
were some Homes for girls in the Convents, there was virtually no homes
A few legionaries with Godwin Mendis, a great legionary then, along
with Maurice Lord set out on their mission to set up a Home for
Destitute Boys under the great Legion System, as laid out in the Hand
book of the Legion, better known as its bible, a heavily inspired work
by the Legion Founder the late Frank Duff, whose cause for Sainthood in
the Catholic Church is now being taken up for his admirable work.
In response to a request by the legionaries, Cardinal Thomas Cooray
gave the land donated by the late D.M.J. Corea at Mattakkuliya for the
The Legion then went on its mission to organise the set-up for the
Home for Destitute Boys - the first of its type anywhere in the world.
They called it Maw Sevana under the shadow of Mother Mary, the Great
Mother of God, the Queen of the Legion of Mary.
Two units were set up a praesidium under the famous Legion System,
consisting of Legionaries not only from the Parish of Mattakkuliya, but
from adjoining parishes to make it a National Undertaking without
limiting it in the usual way to a Preasidium in the Parish.
The first President was Maurice Lord and this Praesidium has now been
meeting for over 1800 consecutive weekly meetings engaged in looking
after the daily living condition of these Destitute boys, their
accommodation, food, clothing, schooling, etc.
It is in this prayerful Legion approach and its unique demanding
conditions that the daily living of these boys came under close scrutiny
by the Praesidium and the required steps taken for a greater reaching to
the destitute Boys committed to its care, through these weekly meetings.
After having laid the groundwork for looking after the boys the
Legionaries then set out on their plan for the work to be done beyond
its Daily Care, as they realised that there was a need for a unit to
take over the administration, and its financial needs. It was just not
possible it was felt for a small Praesidium to undertake these heavy
needs, and the Legionaries then laid out its plan to set up a Board of
Management to take over the Homes heavier functions under a specially
drawn up Constitution.
With the kind assistance of his Emminence Cardinal Thomas Cooray who
gave us an initial donation of Rs. 50,000/- the legionaries set out on
their initial plan to put up two cottages each to contain provision for
housing 10 boys under the monthly care of a lady matron and pantry &
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8,
1974, Maw Sevena unofficially opened its doors to two little boys about
8 years of age, as the buildings were not yet completed. Sometime after
the completion of the first stage of its buildings, Maw Sevena was
officially declared open on the 5th June 1976 by His Excellency
Archbishop Carlo Curis, Apostolic Nuncio in Sri Lanka.
The Buildings were blessed by his Emminence Cardinal Thomas Cooray,
in the presence of a large gathering of Legionaries and other
well-wishers. With the increased demand for accommodation for more
Destitute Boys, the second stage, consisting of another cottage for ten
more boys and a Sickroom were opened and thereafter on the 10th December
1983 a building for training the boys in Carpentry was opened by Dr.
Nicholas Marcus Fernando, Archbishop of Colombo. In 1999 Bishop K.
Swamipillai presided at the Maw Sevena 25th Anniversary Celebrations.
The boys lived in reasonably fair living conditions, and provided
with beds, cupboards, etc. In view of the poor standard of education in
the area schools the boys go to, daily tuition is provided by visiting
teachers in a specially provided Study Room. Extra Tuition is also
conducted in English for all the boys. Computer training classes is also
provided by competent Teachers.
All Boys for admission, have to be Catholics, in terms of the Law and
are generally admitted between the ages of 6 & 8. This gives Maw Sevena
a fair amount of time to work on improving the living standards of the
boys in helping them to a better way of life.
The boys remain at Maw Sevena with accommodation in their
dormitories, and are provided, their education, health, recreation etc.
by Maw Sevena at no cost to the Boys. They go to area schools, and can
remain at Maw Sevena up to the time they sit for their "O" Level
Examinations. Maw Sevana is even today considering keeping the boys up
to the time they sit for their advance Level Examinations.
During the last 35 years boys leaving Maw Sevena have been found jobs
as Trainees, Apprentices or even sent for Vocational Training.
A ready source of employment for the boys has been through Business
Machines Co. Ltd. through Maurice Lord, to provide ready employment as
trainees or apprentices in an established Company dealing in office
Automation Equipment. Many of these boys have gone on employment in
Business Machines soon after their "O" Levels Exams. Some of them are
still employed in this Company and earning a fair livelihood.
Maw Sevena is today grateful to all those who have helped it to
render the service they have given to the Destitute Boys handed to its
care over the last 35 years. All this would not have been possible but
for the ready support the legionaries at Maw Sevena received at various
levels. They would first like to place on record their sincere
appreciation of all the support they received from His Emminence Thomas
Cardinal Cooray, the then Archbishop of Colombo.
Maw Sevena would like also to place on record its deep appreciation
of the Leadership given by the late Godwin Mendis, its founder, in all
he so generously did in setting up this Home for Destitute Boys, and
taking all the steps required in making it possible for Maw Sevena to
render the great service it has provided over the last 35 years.
Maw Sevena would also of course like to place on record its
appreciation of all the Services rendered to it by Maurice Lord.
And now we have the London School of Commerce very generously coming
to our aid. Over the last five years, its Managing Director and others
from the London School of Commerce has made regular visits to our Home
to help provide the needs of our boys, and to do all they to promote the
cause of Maw Sevena.
They have helped provide renovations to the boys Study Room, making
it possible for the boys to sit in their desks in a comfortable room for
their study. They have had the boys toilets & bathrooms all tiled. They
have paid for the Tuition Classes we have organised at their request for
Computers have also been provided and training classes are held, all
at the expense and generosity of Mr. Tim Andradi, Managing Director of
the London School of Commerce. We have also received much assistance
through Mr. Andradi, for Christmas gifts and toys for the boys, etc. The
London School of Commerce in its generosity even wants to create a kind
of Trust Fund for Maw Sevena in its eager concern for the development
and the uplifting of our Boys. To Mr. Tim Andradi and the London school
of Commerce, Maw Sevena is deeply indebted and grateful.
And finally Maw Sevena is grateful to Mary, the Mother of God, and
the Queen of the Legion for choosing it to undertake and carry on with
its mission of mercy to the Destitute Boys that have been entrusted to
They have had their good times and very bad times all the way. Maw
Sevena firmly believes that whatever they have been able to accomplish
has been due to the graces and blessings from Mary and the unbelievable
strength they have received from her to carry on with their mission of
It is with Faith in Mary and the never failing help they have
received from Mary, that the Legionaries have been able to carry on with
this difficult work. as Maw Sevena looks to even a greater future, a
greater reaching out to the boys in its care, it is very confident that
with Mary they can go all the way in their mission.
The Essence of Catholic Priesthood
It is a happy coincidence that we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the
Oblate Scholasticate at Ampitiya in the year the Catholic Church has
dedicated to the Priests. Because the raison d'etre of the Oblate
Scholasticate is nothing but to form, train and produce good, holy
Hence it is a good occasion for us to focus our attention a bit on
the Catholic Priesthood and on its specific character. I would like to
begin this reflection with a thought provoking question: "What was the
definitive priestly act of Jesus?" In other words, what was the act
which made Jesus "a priest"? He was a teacher, a preacher, an exorcist,
a healer, a wonder worker etc.
We understand all these. But he was made known a priest? Was it the
Eucharistic ritual on the night before his crucifixion or his passion
and death the following day on Calvary? What he did on Holy Thursday, or
what he did on Good Friday?
A priest delivers Godís word
The two events are so inextricably connected that the question may
seem naive, but it seems to me to go to the heart of our current need to
discern the specific Catholic priestly role today. It is generally said
that the specific priestly role is to celebrate Holy Mass and grant
After Vatican II, with the involvement of the laity in the ministry
of the Church, almost all the ministries of the priest are taken over by
the laity, except for celebrating Holy Mass and granting absolution.
Therefore it is natural to say that the specific role of the priest
today is to celebrate Holy Mass and grant absolution. But neither of
these two roles leads him to be involved in the endurance of suffering
on behalf of others - which is the very heart of the mystery of the
Eucharist itself. This is not to say that Catholic priests do not often
lead heroic lives, but that we have failed many a time to accept
personal sacrifice as the distinctive and necessary characteristic of
We have to make a key distinction here, to separate in our minds the
first Eucharist - a symbolic, ritual event, and the crucifixion, the
actual endurance of pain on behalf of others (self-sacrifice) - a
decidedly real, non-ritual event. It was the latter that gave meaning to
the former. We need to be especially mindful that if the Christian
priesthood existed solely for ritual and symbolic purposes, it would
exist in vain. So, the actual bearing of pain on behalf of others
(self-sacrifice) is the essential core of Catholic priesthood. If that
does not happen, our priestly ritual would essentially be an empty
facade, and not Christian at all
We have to remember this especially because we all participate in the
priesthood of Christ, and the essence of Jesus' priesthood was his
integrity - the fact that, unlike the priests of other religions, He was
also the Real Victim of the Sacrifice that He had ritually celebrated.
That is where Christ differs from all other priests.
The others offered victims that are distinct, separated from
themselves. They offered bullocks, goats, sheep, birds, sometimes even
human-beings, that are less a part of themselves than the robes they
wear. But Christ offered himself.
The priest and victim are united, one and the same in priest Jesus
Christ. It is very clear from the Letter to the Hebrews. "When Christ
came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not
desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin
offerings you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will'. He abolishes
the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God's will that
we have been sanctified through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ
once for all" (Heb. 10: 5-7). Again in Heb. 9: 14 we read, "He offered
himself without blemish to God, a spiritual and eternal sacrifice."
He offered himself. He was both the offered and the one who offers (offerror).
He was the priest and the victim he offered. We read in the Letter to
the Ephesians 5: 2, "Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a
fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
There had been a gradual disintegration in the Catholic Church of the
priestly ministry of Christ, I mean the symbolic and actual ministry.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his book titled "Mysterious Priesthood"
says that this disintegration, separation, divorce of Priest and Victim,
is the root cause of many problems of priests today.
Consequently, that is the image the people in the world have got of
the Catholic priesthood. They value having a priest-son in the family as
an honour, prestige, privilege, treasure, wealth to the family. It is
with such an idea that many young men are coming into our seminaries
today. They come in search of honour, prestige, privilege, comfort,
money, security etc.
There is no question of service, humility, sacrifice, self emptying,
suffering or deprivation. If by chance anyone speaks of them, he will be
considered bad, old fashioned, pre-Vatican, traditionalist etc.
This is the problem we are facing in seminaries and scholasticates
today. "Enduring suffering for the sake of others" which is the essence
of Catholic priesthood, has been thrown over-board.
This was one of the values that Jesus, as formator par excellence,
wanted to inculcate, drill well into the head of his disciples, his
future priests, but never succeeded. We find in the Gospels that in all
the exhortations he gave to the disciples, he had much to say about his
passion and the suffering the disciples would have to undergo.
In the missionary discourse he gave to his disciples, he forewarned
them of the suffering and difficulties they have to undergo: "I am
sending you out like sheep into the midst of the wolves. Beware of them,
for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their
synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings. . . .
You will be hated by all because of My Name. . . . If the world hates
you, be aware that it hated Me before it hated you. A disciple is not
above the teacher, nor a slave above the master. It is enough for the
disciples to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master (Mt. 10:
16-22). In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus on His final journey to Jerusalem
for His Passion and Death, foretold the disciples, not once but three
times, about His coming Passion and Death. But they did not want to hear
They were always ready to follow a glorified and popular Messiah, and
never a suffering Messiah.
Integral formation of youth
The De Mazenod English Institute does not desire to add to the
multiple tutories and tuition classes operating in the country. In Sri
Lanka, tutories and tuition classes have come to stay and it has become
a must for children who wish to obtain higher grades. But our main task
is while teaching the blossoming youth to master the English language,
also help in their integral formation, to be well disciplined and useful
citizens one day. To realise our dream we make modest effort helping
small groups of youth to do self study and climb up the ladder with
mutual help and hard work.
Very Rev.Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando, the Episcopal Vicar of
Colombo North region addresses the students. Rev.Fr. Dennis
Iddamalgoda OMI Director of the Institute along with Rev Fr.
Noel Fernando OMI were also present.
This was stated by Rev.Fr. Dennis Iddamalgoda OMI, Director of the De
Mazenod English Institute at Katuwapitiya, presenting the Annual Report
of the Institute at the Certificate Award ceremony held on Saturday,
December 5. The Editor, Gnanartha Pradeepaya and the Episcopal Vicar of
Colombo North Region Very Rev.Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando presided.
Addressing the students, parents and well-wishers present at the
ceremony Fr.Iddamalgoda observed that the wealth of experience he had
gathered in running the institute and moving with the youth, had proved
that what the youth needed today was education with discipline.
"We are compelled to ask the question whether our schools fulfil
their duties during school hours. But instead of finding fault, we are
committed to help children to become self-reliant and self-confident
active educators", he said. Reiterating the importance of English and
Integral Formation residential program a pride of the Oblates
Congregation which had been giving a yeoman service to Sri Lanka and to
the Colombo diocese for well over 160 years Fr.Iddamalgoda pointed out
that the program was very strenuous to both the students and staff
involved in the task.
"It is arranged in such a way to improve their knowledge of English
right from the beginning but at an accelerated speed. We call this an
Immersion Course as we lay emphasis on the aspect of providing them with
a basic and integral formation necessary to form their lives. This
aspect of education I feel, is much more important in the context of
today, as discipline in society, especially among the youth, seemed to
be rapidly deteriorating".
Fr. Director also paid tribute to parents for taking the Institute
and the staff into confidence and to Rev. Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, OMI, the
donor of this new premise, OMI Colombo Provincial Very Rev. Fr. Clement
A.Waidyasekara, OMI, for the support extended in revitalising the
English Education Project in doldrums.
In his address the Episcopal Vicar of Colombo North Region Very
Rev.Fr. Cyril Gamini Fernando underscored the importance of learning
languages. Language is the mode of communication. If we want to walk
with the world we must know a language vastly used across the Globe.
English Language has come to stay as a world language and the countries
like China and Japan who were reluctant to use English as a
communication tool today have come realise the importance. (WIRUMA)
Carols by the Methodist College OGA Choir
An evening of carols by the Methodist College OGA Choir will be held
on Saturday 12 December at Methodist Church, Colpetty. The offertory
taken at this service will be donated to 'Light of Life', a project by
Rotary Intl. Dist 3220 Sri Lanka. The project aims to build a Vocational
Training Institute in Kilinochchi to provide children of war torn areas
a future through learning.