Mannar, the Institute of the Holy Family closes the jubilee
by Melani Manel Perera

Founded in 1820 in France, the association arrived in the country in 1862. For Archbishop Fernando, it enriched the local Church. The Sisters focus on education, the care of poor children, empowering women and the fight against cancer. Its members emulate the simplicity of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.


Colombo (Asia News) – The Holy Family celebrated the closing of the jubilee for its 200th anniversary with a ceremony last Saturday in the presence of 1,200 members, including Bishop Emmanuel Fernando of Mannar, as well as several priests from the provinces of Colombo and Jaffna.

The Association of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux was founded in France on 20 May 1820. Since then, it has opened chapters in 13 other countries. At present, it has 1,474 members, including 480 apostolic and nine contemplative Sisters in Sri Lanka.

The first nuns arrived in the country in 1862 and began their mission in the Diocese of Jaffna. Sister Jesmin Fernando, provincial of the capital area, explains that the local association is divided into two provinces – Colombo and Jaffna – and has 86 communities working in all of the island nation’s 12 dioceses.

“We have created a new community in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world,” Sister Jesmin explained. “The climate is scorching hot and there is no water. Even basic necessities are difficult to find, but we persevere.”

All these efforts are geared towards keeping alive the founder’s dream, Fr Pierre-Bienvenu Noailles, who saw the Holy Family as "a large tree, with green branches, flowers and fruits in all seasons, birds of all colours and species with their own song, forming a single voice, in perfect harmony.”

The jubilee celebration was preceded by three years of preparations: 2017 was dedicated to giving thanks to God for all the blessings received, 2018 to deepening one’s spirituality, and last year to sharing the fruits of the missionary community.

In his homily, during the thanksgiving Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, Bishop Fernando said that he greatly appreciated all the services offered by the Holy Family to the Church and the people of Sri Lanka.

"For a long time, in many domains, such as education, care for poor and abandoned children and empowering women, you Sisters and other members of your community have enriched the Church in a very admirable way,” the bishop said.

The five "souls" of the Holy Family – apostolic Sisters, contemplative Sisters, consecrated secular women, lay associates, and priest associates – are also involved with other issues, such as the fight against cancer, carrying out awareness campaigns on prevention, and coming together to support the poor and the marginalised.

The members of the association say they are very happy with their experience because they are called to emulate the simplicity of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Their mission is “to seek God in everything”.

“The Sisters are always close to everyone, in sadness and happiness,” said Chamudi Fernando, Holy Family national youth coordinator, speaking to AsiaNews. “They appreciate people's values, and respect others’ differences. Since my school days I have enjoyed their support.”

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