Missionary Visit & Appeal: The Diocese of Batticaloa in Sri Lanka

Collection at All Masses on June 22-23

For this year’s missionary appeal, the Diocese of Grand Rapids has paired our parish with the Diocese of Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. Read about this diocese and its mission efforts, then pray about supporting it through a financial contribution on June 22-23, when priests from the Diocese of Batticaloa will visit Our Lady of the Lake.

About the Diocese of Batticaloa

Sri Lanka, which was once known as Ceylon, is a beautiful island nation just south of the Indian subcontinent. It is sometimes called the pearl of the Indian Ocean. It is a predominantly Buddhist country with two languages, three ethnic groups, and four religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Christianity was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1505 by the Portuguese. At present, Christians are a minority of 7% of the total population, numbering almost 21 million people in Sri Lanka.

The Diocese of Batticaloa has an area of 2,807 square miles and a population of 1,289,000. The 46,138 Catholics in the diocese make up 3.5% of the local population of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians. There are 30 parishes served by 39 diocesan priests and 16 religious priests. In addition, 93 religious sisters and brothers serve in parishes, schools, hospitals, colleges, and universities. Additionally, the diocese has more than five hundred catechists. Their role is very crucial in the diocese. Since children are not taught the Catholic religion in most of the schools, the diocese has used different methods to pass on the Catholic faith to the children at the parish level. The diocese is offering continuous training programs for these catechists through its catechetical center.

Challenges in the Diocese of Batticaloa

Batticaloa is a new diocese experiencing immense challenges. The diocese is growing in many ways and started the Mission Cooperative plan in the United States in 2016. This allowed the Diocese of Batticaloa to learn about different U.S. dioceses and their people’s generosity through missionary visits and appeals. The donations received from these appeals have helped the Diocese of Batticaloa cover expenses for projects of evangelization. The Mission Cooperative plan is an excellent opportunity for priests of the diocese to share their people’s experiences and difficulties. It is also giving the great hope that they are not alone, but are part of the universal Church. The Diocese of Batticaloa would like to acknowledge and thank all of you for your spiritual and financial contributions.

Here are some of the challenges the diocese is facing:

  • The diocese is receiving more vocations for the priesthood but has no means to provide food and accommodation for the new seminarians.
  • The diocese needs more lay catechists and more training programs. The catechists are very poor and need stipends for their voluntary work.
  • Churches destroyed by war and tsunami must be rebuilt or renovated.
  • Children need to be educated in supplementary classes.
  • The diocese needs funds to run programs like the Ozanam Center for handicapped children, livelihood projects for widows, and healing, reconciliation, and formation programs for youth.
  • More re-evangelization programs are needed in border villages among multi-religious people.

Activities of the Diocese of Batticaloa

The Diocese of Batticaloa has a number of different offices, including the Catechetical Center, Social Service Center, Social Communication Center, Office for the Youth Apostolate, Office for Pontifical Mission Societies, Office for Ecumenism, Laity Commission, Lay Theology Institute, and Office for Evangelization. Furthermore, it has 11 apostolic associations. In addition, it has ten orphanages for boys and girls. Very specially, the diocese has the Ozanam Center, a home for handicapped girls. The Siloam Hospital is the diocesan medical care center offering services to many people in the district. It is organizing many health awareness programs on prevention practices at the village level. The diocese has also made a special effort to serve the lepers in the district, who are very much neglected by many organizations.

The Social Service Center is the social arm of the diocese, through which the diocese is trying to implement supplementary classes for children’s education, widow’s livelihood programs, and healing and reconciliation programs. Through the Office of Evangelization and the Laity Commission, the diocese provides formation programs for laypeople. More attention is being given to re-evangelization. Bible classes are being held at the parish level. Furthermore, the diocese is doing border village evangelization activities amid a multi-religious society. Small Christian communities are formed, through which Bible sharing takes place. They are continually empowered through training programs.

The diocese is also trying to do more for the lay catechists who teach Sunday classes at the parishes. In small parishes, there are about 100 to 150 children; in larger parishes, there are 500 to 800 children who attend the Sunday classes. Since the diocese has many village parishes, it provides breakfast or some snacks to poor children who attend Sunday classes. Due to financial constraints, the diocese is unable to pay a stipend to the catechists, who are very poor. Furthermore, the diocese is facing a shortage of lay catechists with the increasing number of Catholics in the diocese. The Office for the Youth Apostolate is training the youth to become active leaders, new evangelizers, and coworkers to take up various types of ministries within the parishes and diocese.