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Maw Sevena:

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 for boys.

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 proposed Home.

Legion

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.

Groundwork

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 & dining room.

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.

Appreciation

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 the boys.

Generosity

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 it.

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 mercy.

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 Oblate priests.

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.

Eucharistic ritual

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 Absolution.

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 Catholic priesthood.

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.

Catholic priesthood

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.

Disciples

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 of it.

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.

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