Brother Theiva makes First Profession in Cork

Br Theiva surrounded by his family and Brother Martin Kenneally, Congregation Leader.
Brother Theiva during the Rite of Religious Profession...
Brother Theiva is congratulated by Novice Master, Brother Barry Noel.

Date: 24 Aug 2014

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Surrounded by family, friends and fellow Brothers, our first Presentation Brother from Sri Lanka, Brother Theiva, professed first vows at Mount St Joseph in Cork on Saturday (23rd August 2014).

View photos from the event in our Photo Gallery

The celebrant for the Mass was Fr Thomas Anthony Pillai OMI who travelled from Canada for the occasion. He was accompanied by Fr Leo Philomin OMI.

Ms Aathy Iruthayanathan and Br Kevin Mascarenhas read passages from the Book of Isaiah and St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. Mr Ramelo Gregorio was the cantor. The 'Our Father' was prayed in Tamil, Theiva's native tongue.

Our Congregation Leader, Brother Martin Kenneally, delivered this homily...

Theiva’s homeland of Sri Lanka is known as ‘the pearl of the Indian ocean’ because of its stunning natural beauty.  Sri Lanka is a country with a rich and ancient culture which has been influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.  Indeed referring to the beauty of the land, there is an Islamic folktale which says that Adam & Eve were offered refuge on the island of Sri Lanka as solace for their expulsion from the Garden of Eden!  However, we are aware too of the shadow of warfare and violence, of the suffering of the people of Sri Lanka, and particularly of the suffering of Theiva’s own Tamil people in recent years.

Our gospel story today from Luke Chapter 5 does not take place in a synagogue or a formal religious setting.  We find Jesus on a fishing landing, with the crowd pressing around him, and with tired fishermen washing their nets after a fruitless and frustrating nights’ work.

There are three lessons for us as Christians, as followers of Jesus, in today’s gospel.

Firstly, Jesus enters the world of the people rather than expecting them to step out of that world and come to him.  (Pope Francis has urged priests and religious to ‘know the smell of the Sheep’.  It’s the same point!)

The missionary must go to the people.  So here in Europe, for example, if our people are not in Churches, we must go to where the people are!  This applies especially to those called to a mission to young people.

The second lesson is that we must ask for help!  Jesus approaches Peter saying, “Peter, I need your help.  Will you help me?”  (Notice Jesus doesn’t start by telling Peter what he can do for him.  He starts by asking for help in the precise area of Peter’s expertise, as a man who can handle a boat, as a fisherman.  Maybe spreading the gospel begins by asking people to help us in the task.  Everyone has a gift.  But, do we invite them, encourage them to offer it?

The third lesson is not to be afraid to put out into the deep water!

Amazingly, in this story, Jesus (the inland carpenter!) gives orders to the professional fisherman on how and where to catch fish!

‘Put out into the deep’ is a truly preposterous and ridiculous suggestion in this particular context.  A little explanation of the text is required here and some understanding of the reality of fishing in the Sea of Galilee.

Peter and his fellow fishermen are exhausted.  They worked all night for one simple reason.  The fish in the Sea of Galilee feed at night.  In the daytime, they hide under rocks.  Furthermore they congregate around the streams and springs at the edge of the sea where oxygen rich fresh water flows into the lake.

So all successful fishing in the Sea of Galilee takes place at night and primarily near the shore where the fish gather!

No fisherman in his right mind would put out into deep water to fish in the daylight!  Yet this is precisely what Jesus orders Peter to do.  And then there is this great catch of fish!

The message is to trust in Jesus!

Jesus can draw new life and hope out of situations which on the surface may seem unpromising, even hopeless.

So go to the people, ask for help and trust in Jesus

These are lessons for all of us as followers of Jesus.  They are certainly lessons for Theiva today as he pronounces his vows.

God is doing something new here today. Can we see it? We are witnessing something wonderful, as the first Sri Lankan pronounces vows as a Presentation Brother.  Since our last Chapter, the Presentation Brothers, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus have been called to ‘see in a new way, find new hope, be called anew to mission’.

In responding to Christ’s call, Theiva embraced a missionary vocation from the beginning.  He went to a new people, asked for help, entered a new culture and trusted in Jesus.

Equally, we as Presentation Brothers, in accepting Theiva into our professed brotherhood are called to enter into a new culture, learn from it, see in a new way and find new hope’. We, too, are called to ask for help from Theiva and his people, and to trust in Jesus.

William Temple, the great theologian Archbishop of Cantebury once said:

The spirituality-minded person does not differ from the materially minded person chiefly in thinking about different things, but in thinking about the same things differently.

To see in a new way, we are called to think about the same things differently, to move from a mind of fear to a mind of trust.  We are called to go to the people, to ask for help and to trust in Jesus.

Through Theiva’s profession, the fact that Raj journeyed with us and that Duglas and Colins are now with us – God is doing something new among us. God is calling us as Presentation Brothers to a new mission.

On November 6th 1999, in New Dehli, Pope Saint John Paul II promulgated ‘Ecclesia in Asia’, a document which serves as a blueprint for the expansion of the Catholic faith in Asia.  In it he says:

"Just as in the millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the Third Christian Millenium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent of Asia."

In time, we hope that Theiva and others will return to their homeland to found a new mission and to plant the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice on Sri Lankan soil.

The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience which you pronounce today, Theiva, call you to live simply, to love inclusively and to listen for God’s call in the community of the Brotherhood and the signs of the times.  I congratulate you on making this response today and I pray that you, too, like Blessed Edmund Rice, will have a heart for the poor.  The world needs such witness.

I thank your own family and friends who nurtured and supported your call.  I thank especially Brothers Barry, Richard, Terence and Claver who have accompanied you in Killarney.  I also wish to thank especially the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters for their friendship, support and encouragement in this process.

In the spirit of ‘launching out into the deep’ and ‘seeing in a new way’, I will now try to greet you, Theiva, in your own Tamil language:

(In English): "This is a day of great blessing for our Congregation as the first Sri Lankan makes profession of vows as a Presentation Brother.  I wish you well Br. Theiva, and may God bless you in your vocation."

Theiva, may God bless you.

May Mary of the Presentation, Our Lady of Madhu guide your way.

May Blessed Edmund Rice, our founder and Blessed Joseph Vas, apostle of Sri Lanka inspire you!