Updated: July 27, 2021 10:44 AM GMT
St. Anthony's Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo: AFP)
Sri Lankan Catholics showed their support for clergy on Indigenous Clergy Day.
Priests and laypeople offered prayers, attended Mass, recited the rosary and gave material support to young priests and nuns who work to change the lives of people.
The event was held in all parish churches across the country on July 25.
Father Basil Rohan Fernando, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Sri Lanka, said his office had sent posters and leaflets to every parish to inform the people and ask them to support the formation of future priests.
The theme of the day was "You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and summoned from its far-off places, you whom I have called my servant, whom I have chosen and will not cast off."
Our support and prayers are essential for those who serve in God's vineyard
Father Fernando said financial contributions will be forwarded to all major and minor seminaries to help the formation of priests.
"Like last year, this year the contribution of Catholics was very low due to the pandemic," he said.
Many missionaries from countries like France, Italy and the US have served in Sri Lanka.
"Most of them are dead or have left the country. Today there are a good number of local priests who serve in all the parishes," said Father Fernando.
Ruwani Maria from Anuradhapura Diocese said Catholics prayed for all priests, nuns and seminarians on Indigenous Clergy Day.
"Our support and prayers are essential for those who serve in God's vineyard," said Maria, whose parish has about 55 Catholic families.
Anuradhapura Diocese, about 200 kilometers north of Colombo, has over 15,000 Catholics in a population of 1.3 million. Buddhists comprise about 90 percent of Anuradhapura, considered the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Despite the hard times caused by the pandemic, Maria and other faithful gathered in small numbers in churches to pray for indigenous vocations.
Father Lal Pushpadewa Fernando, national director for social communications, said priests and nuns must live on the contributions of the faithful and need to keep Jesus alive in the problems and issues that people bring to them.
"Lay Catholics change their lives when they experience that Jesus lives in them," said the Oblate priest. "The day challenges us to be a priest of the people, not someone who goes behind power or money."
Priests should empower lay leaders and provide proper leadership in the Church
Father Reid Shelton Fernando, former chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Movement of the archdiocese, said it is essential for priests to dedicate themselves to a life of prayer.
"Every day I say the foot-washing prayer for everyone. I have healed non-Catholics with Jesus' foot-washing prayer but I never ask them to convert," said Father Shelton.
"Priests should empower lay leaders and provide proper leadership in the Church. Priests should not be kept where laymen should be given."
Sri Lanka has 12 dioceses including one archdiocese. Catholics account for 1.6 million out of a population of 21.8 million. There are 953 diocesan Catholic priests, while 580 belong to religious congregations.
Churches that were closed due to restrictions because of the third wave of Covid-19 were reopened a week ago.