Diocesan News

Bishop to Ordain Two for Sri Lankan Diocese

LINCOLN (SNR) - Two of the men who will be ordained transitional deacons May 24 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln are Sri Lankan citizens who are studying for the priesthood for their home Archdiocese of Colombo.

Eranga de Silva and Asitha Hettiarchchi have been studying at Mount Saint Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and will intern at Lincoln-area parishes this summer before starting their final year of formation.

Bishop Emeritus Fabian W. Bruskewitz explained how the men came to the Diocese of Lincoln.

"The present archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, was previously secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline for the Sacraments, and I invited him to come here and do a study day for our priests," Bishop Bruskewitz said.

After Cardinal Ranjith became Archbishop of Colombo in 2011, he contacted Bishop Bruskewitz and asked if he would take a pair of Colombian seminarians and oversee their studies as his own seminarians.

"His Eminence believes that studying in other countries always broadens the horizons of a person," noted Mr. Hettiarchchi.

Bishop Bruskewitz readily agreed, and Mr. de Silva and Mr. Hettiarchchi arrived a short time later. Two other Sri Lankan seminarians have since come to study under the direction of the Bishop of Lincoln as well.

"We found them to be just wonderful seminarians, wonderful men," Bishop Bruskewitz said. "Their presence gives a broader outlook for the Church."

Born in Pamunugama, Sri Lanka, Mr. Hettiarchchi has always wanted to be a priest. He enrolled in seminary in Colombo when he was only 14 years old. Likewise, Mr. de Silva said he cannot remember a time when he did not want to become a priest. The Colombo native entered seminary when he was 19.

While all kinds of religions coexist peacefully in Sri Lanka, Catholicism is a minority faith. Only 6% of Sri Lankan citizens identify themselves as Catholic. But the Church is growing.

There are currently close to 400 priests in Sri Lanka, an island nation that is geographically about the same size as the Diocese of Lincoln, but with a denser population. Twelve men were ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Colombo April 20, and quite a number of Colombians are studying for the priesthood, including those in the U.S., France and Rome.

"Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo plays a major role in deepening the faith of the people of God in Sri Lanka," Mr. Hettiarchchi  said.

Mr. de Silva has faith that there will be a surge of Catholicism in his homeland. "Personal relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist and Sacred Scripture by each individual, as I believe, will bring about a revival of Catholicism in Sri Lanka," he said.

Mr. Hettiarchchi agreed. "I think we also have to build Eucharist-based spirituality."

The men see similarities between the Archdiocese of Colombo and the Diocese of Lincoln.

"Both the Archdiocese of Colombo and the Diocese of Lincoln are very orthodox dioceses in many and various ways," Mr. Hettiarchchi said.

"People of both dioceses are vary faithful to their bishops," added Mr. de Silva.

Mr. Hettiarchchi is grateful to have had the opportunity to witness the universality of the Church.

"Though we are a country far away from here, we have the same faith in Jesus Christ," he said.

Mr. de Silva said, "Studying here in the USA — especially at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary — I could learn many things about different cultures, people and notions in various subjects."

He is very happy to be ordained a deacon. "It is always nice to realize that every day spent is another day closer to the priestly ordination. God is so good!" Mr. de Silva exclaimed.

For Mr. Hettiarchchi, his years in the U.S. have brought a great deal of personal growth.

"I have really broadened my horizons in many and various ways. But I think the most important thing that happened to me is that I was able to build a Marian-based, Eucharistic spirituality at the Mount. I thank God for all these gifts every day," he said.

During the summer, each man will have an internship to help them get acquainted with priestly duties at the parish level. Mr. de Silva is assigned to St. Teresa Parish and Mr. Hettiarchchi will be at North American Martyrs Parish, both in Lincoln.

Both men extended their thanks to Bishop Bruskewitz and Bishop James D. Conley for welcoming them to the Diocese of Lincoln. And for his part, Bishop Bruskewitz is thankful that these Sri Lanka seminarians have come to Nebraska.

"They’re very impressive," he said. They will be wonderful priests."

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