.- A group which aims to foster a missionary spirit among children celebrated the 25th anniversary of its establishment in the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, with a Mass said Sept. 7.
The Mass was held at St. Joseph's College, a primary and secondary school located in the Sri Lankan capital.
“It’s an important event that coincides with the Year of Faith, which impresses upon us the importance of rediscovering our faith mission, in our life and our diocese,” Father Sunil De Silva, parish priest of St. Mary’s in Colombo's Bambalapitiya neighborhood, told CNA Sept. 18.
While the Holy Childhood Society had been in Sri Lanka for over 60 years, it was Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, presently the Archbishop of Colombo, who first introduced it to the diocese when he was a priest there, in 1988.
In his speech, Cardinal Ranjith invited the children to be the “torchbearers of faith… to be the little lamps of faith in the world.”
Thousands of children participated in the Mass, which was concelebrated by two of Colombo's auxiliary bishops, Maxwell Silva and Lionel Fernando, as well as the archdiocese's Holy Childhood Society director, Fr. Kithsiri Thirimanne, and the organization's national director, Fr. Reginald Saparamadu.
Bishop Silva, addressing the children in his homily, said that “as the children of the Holy Childhood Society, you have been commissioned with a special mission of learning the Word of God deeply, living what you learn, and sharing it and bearing witness to the Word in all of life's circumstances.”
“It is for this purpose that God has called you and commissioned you. If you continue to bear witness to your Christian life and God's love in your own way and capacity, surely you will make a difference in the world."
The Holy Childhood Society was founded in 1843 by Bishop Charles Forbin-Janson of Nancy, in France, to awaken in every Catholic child a strong sense of commitment to Christ and a zeal for the spread of the Good News everywhere by deepening one’s faith, living it faithfully, and sharing it joyfully.
Today it functions in many dioceses, under the Pontifical Mission Societies office of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The group helps educators to rouse in children a universal missionary conscience; to move them to share their faith and material means, especially with the children of the neediest dioceses; and promotes missionary vocations.
“It assists the Catholic children in Sri Lanka towards a deeper and stronger experience of their faith, through a spiritual communion with Christ, and awakens a stronger sense of mission in them, enabling them to proclaim their faith boldly and authentically,” Fr. Sunil said.
Sri Lanka is a primarily Buddhist country; six percent of the population is Catholic. Most Sri Lankan Christians are found on the western coast of the island, where Colombo is located. In the Colombo archdiocese, roughly 12 percent of the population is Catholic.