Eugene De Mazenod, from the day of his ordination, had a special dedication towards children and youth. He felt that the children and youth would be the future of the Church and society. He therefore started a youth group, a very strong and powerful group living and working together like a community of disciples. Since the arrival of the first missionaries in Sri Lanka, the members of the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have been involved in a wide range of activities. Among the many activities, ministry to children and youth has always been a priority. The special concern of St. Eugene for children and youth inspired the Oblates to start schools such as St. Joseph’s, St. Peter’s, De Mazenod, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross colleges in the Archdiocese of Colombo, and St. Patrick’s, St. Henry’s and St. Anthony’s colleges in the Diocese of Jaffna. Moreover, some institutes, such as Aquinas University College, Colombo, are the still leading Catholic schools and educational institutes in the island but which are now under the aegis of the dioceses. Oblates also started organizations like Lak-ri-vi children’s movement; St. Vincent’s Home, Maggona for orphans and rehabilitation of delinquents; De Mazenod English Institute of Negombo.
This same noble inspiration St. Eugene had for children and the youth has been continued by the present day Oblates in the Colombo Province, guided and animated by Fr. Dennis IDDAMALGODA,. He, together with Oblates and a few lay people, has initiated a “De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation”.
The vision of “De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation” is “to empower the underprivileged children and youth through education”. In view of realizing this vision, the Foundation intends to fund eligible students with no financial means to complete their university education; to inculcate in children and youth the values that enable them to transcend religious, social, ethnic and cultural barriers; to enhance the life situation of children and youth to enjoy their self-worth and to be open and available to serve the Sri Lankan society at large; to animate them through awareness programmes to appreciate and respect human values and their own human dignity; to conduct leadership training programmes to help children and youth to acquire necessary skills to equip them as future leaders of the country; to remain sensitive to people in general, and to the poor and the needy in particular.
The De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation was launched on the Saturday 21 May 2016, the day when the Oblates of the Colombo Province Sri Lanka celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Foundation of the Congregation, on the feast of the feast day of St. Eugene de Mazenod. This ceremony was held at the Fatima Church shrine and parish, Colombo. Fr. Rohan SILVA, the Provincial of Colombo Province, gave away scholarships for 12 worthy university students. It was one way of sharing the joy of the Oblates for the numerous blessings they had received from God for the past 169 years since the Oblate foundation in Sri Lanka. The De Mazenod Scholarship Foundation will be a new sign of missionary activity in Sri Lanka, re-reading and re-energizing the founder’s initial inspiration, Evangelizare pauperibus misit me, pauperes evangelizantur. (Fr. Ajith WELLINGTON)