Sri Lanka exhibition shows the face of Mary in Asia
by Melani Manel Perera

This year, the Daham Sevana seminary hosted an exhibition for Lent centred on the images of the Virgin in Asia, giving both seminarians and visitors a chance to go beyond a superficial devotion, and discover in Our Lady the one who walked with her Son on the path of Easter.


Colombo (AsiaNews) – A special initiative marked Lent this year at the Daham Sevana Propaedeutic Seminary, Sri Lanka, namely a catechetical exhibition titled the “Asian Face of Mary".

The event elicited great interest, drawing the faithful from across the country to see the exhibition at the seminary, which is in Palathota, Kalutara South, Colombo.

Inaugurated on 26 February in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Brian Udaigwe, the event ended today, a day after the Solemnity of the Annunciation, with a celebration led by  Bishop Raymond Wickremasinghe of Galle.

The exhibition showed several images of Mary as seen through the eyes of the peoples of Asia: statues and unique images such as the Blessed Mother of Vietnam, the Blessed Mother of Dong Lu and Sheshan in China, the Blessed Mother of Akita in Japan, and the images of the Virgin in Vallarpadam, India.

One stall was dedicated to dispel some of society's misconceptions about the Virgin Mary; another one, to Marian items, hymns and prayers; and a third one, to miraculous medals.

Fr Cecil Joy Perera, rector of the seminary and organiser of the exhibition, spoke to AsiaNews about it.

“We love Mother Mary very much. There is great devotion to her in Sri Lanka and all over Asia. But our knowledge of the Virgin is very limited;  it is often limited to devotion,” he explained.

With the exhibition, “Our aim was to help people grow in theological, doctrinal and historical understanding of Mary's motherhood, Mary's virginity and Mary's role in the history of Salvation.”

Indeed, "We are really happy when we read the comments book kept by our bishops, priests, nuns, lay people and children,” Fr Cecil said.

This initiative allowed “the youth in our seminary to train in a different way.” Some 38 brothers from the seminary were trained to explain everything related to the exhibition to visitors in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

"We selected the Via Matris based on some meditations written by the Servants of Mary from 13th century Florence, Italy, where they also had a rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Mother,” Fr Cecil noted.

He went on to explain why the exhibition was held during Lent. “Because the Blessed Mother is the one who genuinely and completely walked the Way of the Cross with her son, so it is the Mother who leads us in our lives to Easter.”

With this exhibition, “We were able to know in depth the stories behind the statues and paintings of the Blessed Mother, the deep meanings and background of why they were created in such a way,” said Cyril Gamini Fernando, editor-in-chief of the Catholic weekly Gnanartha Pradeepaya.

"Through this exhibition, knowledge and understanding among Sri Lankan Catholics about Mother Mary has been broadened,” said Priyashantha Warnakula, speaking to AsiaNews. The Sunday school teacher is happy to have new content to use in the classroom.

"We are happy to have had the opportunity to correct our mistakes and deepen what we know [about Our Lady]," added Celine Fernando, a visitor from Galle.