The Global Church at the Mount
Snow falling to the ground and covering the Mount campus is definitely a shock for Eranga de Silva, and many of his fellow seminarians studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary.
In his first winter at the Mount, de Silva said he wore six layers of clothing. Who can blame him? He is used to the weather in his native country of Sri Lanka, where temperatures hover in the 80s for most of the year.
The Archbishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka, His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, studied in Rome as a seminarian and believes in the importance of studying in other countries. Along with de Silva, seminarians and fellow countrymen Asitha Hettiarachchi, Shanaka Mendis, and Gerald Ferreira are also studying at the Mount seminary. The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska is sponsoring the men.
The four seminarians bring a witness of hope and sacrifice, and their enthusiasm and dedication to the faith is inspiring.
Hettiarachchi says he really enjoys the “friendship” and “fraternity” at the Mount and because he is “far away from home this great friendship helps in many ways.” Gerald agrees: “I love the opportunity I have to hang out with seminarians from different backgrounds, to learn their faith and to experience God’s love for us in many different ways.”
The Mount is a very appropriate place for Ferreira. He has studied at institutions in Sri Lanka dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God — completing primary studies at Ave Maria Convent; middle school and part of high school at St Mary’s College Negombo; college (pre-theology) at Our Lady of Lanka Seminary Kandy; and now theology here at the Mount Seminary. Hettiarachchi also “fell in love with the place. The Grotto, IC chapel and quiet paths around the campus are special. I love doing walking rosaries around the campus.”
Separated by almost 9,000 miles, Emmitsburg is a long way from home for the men. And thanks to modern techonology — especially Skype, email, text messaging and Facebook — they are able to keep in touch with their families and friends. But it has taken some time to get adjusted to the English language and food. In their diocese, seminarians are required to learn three languages — Sinhalese, Tamil, and English, which is the second language in Sri Lanka and taught in schools from first grade through college.
“Sometimes I have difficulty with the accent,” de Silva says. “But the ESL program at the Mount is awesome and the two teachers are very dedicated and help me a lot with the language.”
Each of the seminarians has his own story and particular calling to the priesthood. For Ferreira, it was very clear. “There is one thing I remember my mother telling me about my childhood, and that is I wanted to be a Catholic Priest since grade school,” he said. Mendis says he was inspired to the priesthood by his parish priest in Sri Lanka, and by his own Catholic family.
“I come from a teaching family,” says de Silva. “Both my parents and one of my uncles are teachers in the same school where I studied. I was asked by many when I was a teenager whether I would also be a teacher one day. My answer was no, because, I had already decided to join the seminary as soon as possible. But now I realize that my answer was not completely true — being a priest of Jesus Christ is to be a teacher of His Word. God willing, I will be a teacher of God’s Word one day.”
After ordination, each will return to Sri Lanka — where only six percent of the population identifies with the Catholic faith — and work towards a revitalization of the faith. Hettiarachchi and de Silva will be ordained as deacons in 2013 while Ferreira and Mendis will be ordained as deacons in 2014.
The excitement is building for de Silva.
“It is always nice to realize that every day spent is another day closer to ordination,” he said. “God is so good!”
Learn more about the Seminary at Mount St. Mary's.