Each year, our major vacation programs (July to September), imprint on us new and enriching experiences, beyond words. This year the major vacation was remarkable and it is difficult to find words to do it justice. Suffice it to say, that among other programs, we as a community were given a rare opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to India and above all, to one of its holiest and most famous shrines, namely to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Health popularly known as Velankkanni in the Southern part of India.
The brainchild of Fr. Sunil Rupasinghe sss, our co-Director was translated into a reality by the hard work and commitment of our Director, Fr. Justin Chawkan sss. We saw them working hard, processing the travel documents and visas, finding benefactors, arranging places to stay in India, etc., for which we as brothers bow our heads in gratitude. We also learned how to be committed to a given task with much planning and enthusiasm.
The Catholic Church defines Mother Mary’s position in the Church as “the highest after Christ and also closest to us” (LG 54) and we as Seminarians are expected to have a special devotion to Mother Mary since it is she who leads all of us closer to Jesus (Ad Iesum per Mariam). We are aware that our Founder too had a special devotion to Mary, at times walking to faraway places to pray and spend time with her. Among others, we have learned how our Founder St. Peter Julian himself went on Pilgrimage to Notre-Dame du Laus, near Gap on foot from La Mure even at the tender age of 12. From the very outset, our formators made us aware that devotion to Mary needs to be cultivated and promoted so that we may solidify our Vocation as our Founder did. With all this in mind, we really benefited from this pilgrimage.
At Velankkanni, we were able to feel very close to Mother Mary and prayed extensively for our vocations pleading of her to make us worthy followers of her Son. This experience also brought us closer to Mother Mary our common Mother. We were able to practice our intercessory role as future priests, praying for various individuals and their intentions. The simple faith of the devotees flocking to the Church touched all of us and reminded us, as Seminarians, of the importance of trusting in the providence of God and the powerful mediation of Mother Mary. We also had the opportunity of visiting Poondy Maatha Church, and places that were special to St. Thomas. We visited the grave of St. Thomas and a few other shrines which helped us to grow in our own faith. At the end of the pilgrimage, we felt very privileged and blessed to have had that wonderful and memorable experience.
We also greatly appreciate the Eucharistic hospitality of our SSS Indian Province; personal interest was shown by Rev. Fr. Peter Jeyakanthan, sss, the Provincial Superior himself to accompany us to a few places of importance and interest. We were deeply touched by the concern and love shown by the other SSS confreres as well. The friendly attitude of the brothers demonstrated that we all belong to one Eymardian family. We had a great encounter and sharing of experiences with Bro. Infant Lawrance, sss, one of our Scholastics in Chennai, about his enriching Regency period. We were also very happy to meet up with young SSS priests who demonstrated their commitment and love for the Congregation, giving us a lot of hope and confidence in our own journey towards priesthood.
With humility, therefore, we thank our Directors, Fr. Justin and Fr. Sunil for taking the initiative to make this pilgrimage such a memorable reality. We are grateful too to those of our benefactors and friends who supported us financially. A note of appreciation goes also to Fr. Peter, other Fathers and Brothers of the Indian Province for their great hospitality. We keep all of them in our special prayers. Thank you all for leaving such a rich experience and lasting memory in our lives. We will treasure this experience and promise to pass it on to all we come in contact with in our Priestly vocation.
O Mother Mary lead us closer to Jesus and make us worthy of serving your Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Bros. Rohitha and Lakshan, sss