Fr. Gihan Senadeera tells of the missionary commitment of the Church in Padaviya.
The parish of Padaviya dedicated to Our Lady Of Perpetual Help is belong to the diocese of Anuradhapura, the most under Privilege diocese in the county, situated at the north central province in the historical ancient Kingdom of Sri Lanka. Padaviya is considered as the most difficult and the rural parish in the diocese of Anuradhapura covering a large area of around 200 square kilometers catering also to the Sinhala speaking community at the borders of three large Tamil speaking dioceses of Jaffna, Mannar and Trincomalee. There are around 100 catholic families scattered in the vast area of the parish among more than 15000 families of Buddhist majority, struggling their best to protect the catholic faith.
There is one substation for the parish at Kawantissapura dedicated to our founder St Eugine De Mazenod. Padaviya is a paddy farming area basing from the huge tank call Padaviya Lake. People have to work heard for a good harvest fighting against the climate and the wild¬ beast. Among the Catholics, majority of them are farmers and there are few fishing families as well.
As the parish Priest in this mission field of Padaviya, I have worked for more than three years in collaboration with the Good Shepherd Sisters. In spite of difficulties (especially financial) we have struggled to be faithful to God who has called us to leave comfort zones to care for the less privileged people who are struggling in the periphery to safeguard their dignity and self-esteem.See More
According to my understanding of mission, I feel I am not just only the parish priest of the few Catholic families who come to church activities. I am aware that there are good number of catholic families who are not coming to church due to various practical reasons. Therefore we pay a regular visit to their homes and have zonal masses, gatherings, catechism classes and English tuition classes for them. I do not consider myself only as an administrator of sacraments. I think God has placed me in this part of the country to be with the disadvantaged groups, and cry out to God for help. I believe in an apostolate of presence. To respond more effectively to people’s aspirations there is need for more dedicated competent persons, ready and available to become partners with us.
Padaviya GOVIJANAPADAYA is created by adding number of villages and colonies. It is true that we cannot cater to all those villages but we work in the most abandoned villages like Namalpura, Janakapura, Sampathnuwara, Nikawewa, Sri Pura, Parakramapura, Buddangala, Wahalkada and Kawanthissapura which are 30 to 50 km away from Padaviya.
We visit those places every weekdays to teach English to children, and to animate LAK¬RIVI (which is a movement for children without considering their cast and religion). Good Shepherd Sisters from Padaviya and from take a keen interest in working with these people. They impart life education to the women, helping them to develop their skills, to resolve the problem of malnutrition in the children. The parish provides lunch on Sundays to the Daham Pasal (catechism) children.
Most of these area people do not have proper drinking water. They have to travel miles and miles to get supply the drinking water. They often have to face the threat of wild animals, mostly wild elephants. Access to safe drinking water is an acute problem that has continued for several years. Many people have got cronical kidney failure due to this problem.
The Good Shepherd Sisters and I do our best since people’s nutritional needs are barely met and many of them get only a meagre meal, as the bread winner of the family is affected to kidney failure, we see the need to provide them with dry rations.
Since the catholic families are very much scattered, the children can hardly afford to travel to the church and also to purchase the required stationery. The children are intelligent and talented and we try our best to help them attend the Sunday school. I try to give them monthly scholarships for most needed children in spite of their cast and religion, with the help of some good hearted donors and well-wishers. However our resources are very limited. If and when the children are to participate in activities organized by the diocese, and the teachers are to participate in the training programs / seminars, and completions, they have to travel to Anuradhapura and we do not have adequate finances to meet their expenses. Each trip costs approx. Rs.850/- per child/teacher. However, the active participation at Sunday school and other activities will certainly help to transform the lives of these children.
Finally, I am great full to Congregation and particularly to Colombo province for all the support that they give for the mission at Padaviya. Also sincerely remember the Good Shepherd Sisters who work with me sharing my burden as a one team at the service of the people of God.
Fr. Roshan Vaz OMI,
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church,
18th Mile Post,