Priestly Ordination - Deacon Shammi Perera

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Priestly Ordination
Deacon Shammi Perera
8 December 2012

My Dear Friends,

There are, I believe many reasons why this date the 8 December was considered to be an appropriate occasion for the Priestly Ordination of Deacon Shammi to take place. It is, as we know, a very important date in the Calendar of the Church, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception – when the Church recognises that in the case of Mary, in recognition of her unfolding role as the Mother of God, it would not be her fate to experience the effects of original sin in the way every other human person does.

The religious congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have had a strong presence in the founding and building up of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, the homeland of our candidate for priestly ordination. In his preparation for the priesthood, the Oblates played a very large part as the formators in the seminary, and the same religious congregation continues to have a very significant influence in the Church in Sri Lanka right up to the present day.

In the plan of God however, Shammi would be directed more towards serving as a diocesan priest, and as we know, he later came in contact with us just two years ago. From that time, considerable discernment has taken place on his part and on ours, and today we see the culmination of the discernment with the final step to priestly ordination.

It has all come at a considerable price, for Shammi himself, with the call to leave his homeland permanently, and also for his mother Evelyn, who we are very honoured to have present with us on this very special occasion, along with Shammi’s Brother, Lalindra and Sister-in-Law, Sriyani, his aunt Nelline,  Sabina and Yasmin, both more distant relatives, but still close to the family, and also Sr. Shermila, a Sister of the Good Shepherd congregation in Colombo. We are very aware of the sacrifice that is involved, and we wish to assure you that we will continue to thank God for the gift of Shammi to us and to the Church in Tasmania. Our commitment is to take good care of our newest priest.

The life that you Shammi, are called to live, the message you are called to give, the celebration you are called to lead, are very much in harmony with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. You, dear Shammi, like Mary, are also saying “Yes” to the invitation to commit yourself to the vocation of a priest. Like Mary, you have heard the call, no doubt you also have expressed some of your doubts and fears along the way, have made further enquiries and finally come to a point of saying “Yes” my Lord.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception reminds us of the 'Yes' of Jesus. It is something that St. Paul dwelt on frequently, namely that the responses of Jesus was not alternatively yes and no, but they were always yes.  This is the same Jesus in whom we were all chosen before the foundation of the world. This is the Jesus who, though in the form of God, did not think equality with God to be something to hold onto, but rather, he was ready to say Yes to emptying himself to taking the form of a slave, yes to coming in  human likeness, and indeed Yes to death on the cross.

One of the pleasing experiences that I believe many of us share, is to recognise the way in which a relationship has grown quickly and strongly between you, Shammi, and the people of the Archdiocese, and in particular, the members of the community here in the Cathedral Parish. I am sure it is a great comfort to you, and a reassurance that this is where, in the plan of God, you are meant to be as a priest.

It is that theme of relationship which completely dominates the understanding of the priesthood – relationship with Jesus, relationship with creation, relationship with others in the priesthood, and relationship with the People of God. In this Year of Grace, we are all encouraged to “contemplate the face of Jesus.” It is our relationship with him, where the process all begins.

As you begin your life as a priest, you will be called upon to take up more strongly the call to evangelisation. In the time when the Oblate Missionaries first when to Sri Lanka, evangelisation was more understood as moving beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Community, or into the nations where Christianity was no well established in earlier centuries. 

It is common today to speak about the new evangelisation, not in the sense that it has a different purpose, but that it is undertaking in a new and indeed challenging environment of indifference and in some instances of hostility.

I now invite everyone to surround you with their love and prayers, as we invite the assistance of the Saints at this most special moment in your life. But just before we do, I invite you, Shammi, when called to come forward and to make your profession of Faith before God, the Church, and those who here with you today.