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History about Fr. Founder and the foundation of the Congregation of the Rosarians

Fr. S. Justin Raj CR

History about Fr. Founder and the foundation of the Congregation of the Rosarians

Bastiampillai Anthonipillai was bom at Pandianthazvu, Jaffna, Sri Lanka on 7th March, 1886. When Fr. Thomas was born he appeared so feeble and sickly that fearing his survival, so the parish priest was called to the house, where the child was baptized on the very day of his birth. He was given the name Antony after St. Antony, the wonder worker and the patron saint of the neighbouring parish. Gradually the child's health improved, though ill health and weakness haunted him throughout his life. He regularly attended the Church services with his parents and often spent even his playtime in the church premises. This helped him to develop affection for religious values and devotions.

He desired to become a priest, though his mother favoured his ambition to become a priest, his father strictly opposed the plan convinced his son's poor health made him unfit for the priestly ministry. Finally, he yielded to his son's aspirations when on 26th February 1904, Antony stealthily left home and joined St. Martin’s Seminary, Jaffna. On his admission to the seminary, he was given the new name Thomas. Almost from the beginning of his seminary days, he became ill and right through his life he remained an invalid. Though fragile and week physically, he was strong in character and convictions. At the end of his philosophy studies, Thomas opted to join the OMI Congregation. He was ordained priest on 6th January 1912.

Considered unfit for mission work owing to his weak health the Bishop put him in charge of the Boarding House for non-Christian students and to take care of his health. He also taught scripture, mathematics and Tamil to different groups of students from 1912 to 1928.

The exemplary life of Fr. Thomas certainly had impact on the Hindu Students and some of them embraced the catholic faith. Three of the Hindu boarders later became Oblate Priests. Fr. Thomas was that one stood before a man who bad a dedicated mission to fulfill. Fr. Thomas served also as spiritual Director of several pious associations at the college as well as in the parish. During the time of his ministry at St. Patrick's college Fr. Thomas had ample time to read and reflect. He read much about the history of Monasticism and its contributions to Church in the West, and reflected in the light of his own experience with non-Christian students, on the indispensable role the Contemplative Religious Life has in the Mission of the Church.

When in 1926 Pope Pius XI published his Encyclical " Rerum Ecclesiae", in which he emphasized the urgent need of Contemplatives in Mission lands and exhorted the Bishops to take steps to have them started, Bishop of Jaffna who, earlier as a co-worker with Fr. Thomas in St. Patrick's college, was well acquainted with his vision and aspirations, without hesitation asked Fr. Thomas to have the Holy Father's wish realized in his Diocese in an abandoned Presbytery in the village of Tholagatty. There, after months of preparation in prayer and mortification, on 2nd February' 1928 together with six young men belonging to the working class Fr.Thomas started the Congregation of the Rosarians.

The Rosarian Monasteries in the mission lands to function as “ POWER HOUSE ” to energize the workers in the active apostolate and a fitting response to the call of our Blessed Mother at Lourdes and Fatima for PRAYER, PENANCE and PRAYING THE HOLY ROSARY for the World Peace and to evangelize the world.

The members of the Congregation is to pray the Holy Rosary (the Mysteries of Salvation) in front of the Eucharistic Lord around the clock; in order to make reparation for the sins of the world and to help the missionaries and for the conversion and reparation of the sinners.

For men, it was in 1928 the first Monastery was founded at Tholagatty, in the Diocese of Jaffna for women (Rosarian Sisters) too were started in the same diocese and in 1948. From the time of its inception up to now, the Congregation grows in strength and instrumental in initiating the growth of the missionary Church by means of prayer, penance, contemplation and its mission of the presence, and being available to the needy. At present the Congregation has 8 communities for Region of Sri Lanka and 17 Communities in India for men, among them one in Canada in the Diocese of London. The total numbers of monks are more than 220, which comprises of Priests and Religious Brothers. We have 17 Ashrams in India, 7 Ashrams Sri Lanka, one in USA and one in Canada.  Within a decade, the sisters also spread out into many dioceses in India and Sri Lanka. At present in India 8 Convents and 110 members, in Sri Lanka 8 Convents and 90 Members so the total members are 200. Ours is the First Indigenous Contemplative Religious Congregation in Asia. The members spend most of our time in prayers, meditation, Eucharistic adoration, retreats, un-interrupted recitation of Rosary etc., The Rosarian monks are perhaps one of the best examples of religious community, living a life of poverty, simplicity and totally identifying with the living conditions of the poorest of the society.

Socio-Economic Context: Purpose and necessity:

  • Thomas our Founder thought that the evangelization done at that time brought very less fruits; only 2% of Christian in spite of hard labour of the Missionaries for centuries.
  • He felt that there should be a contemplative wing to support the mission through its life of prayer and witnessing life.
  • To bring out this transformation Fr. Thomas identified three major disorders in the world and he wanted to live and make his Monks and Nuns to give a witnessing value against the current world particularly against the major disorders.

Three Major Disorders:

  1. Spiritual disorder = People give what is due to God to creature. Not due respect and worship for God. The Rosarians give Priority to God in their life. Thus Prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and praying the Rosary around the clock in style of life. The Rosarians give First place for God and set example for others through our way of life of prayer and worship.
  2. Social disorder = discrimination based on caste, creed and language. The Rosarians live in Brotherhood and never speak on anything that divide or bring disunity in the community as Brothers in Christ promote peace.  
  3. Economic disorder = discrimination based on Rich and Poor. We live a poor and simple life and help the poor. Our founder says, ‘it is not justice that the poor should beg from the rich rather the rich has to share with the poor’. The Rosarians bear witness through their simplicity of life and poverty.

Charism:

  • ‘Marian Contemplative life of love and reparation rooted in Humility’. (Const; 03, p.l).

A Rosarian lives his / her life centered on Eucharist, imitates the Holy Family in its hidden life of Prayer, Penance, Silence, and Solitude together with all its humble occupations for following:

  • For the glory of God,
  • For the honour of Blessed Mother,
  • For the conversion of sinners (oneself),
  • For the Reparation of sins of others and oneself
  • For the sanctification of Souls,
  • For the extension of the Kingdom of God, [ Dethrone Satan and enthrone Christ].
  • For one’s own salvation.[Die as a Saint]
  • According to directions of the General chapter, we adapt and update to the situation reading the signs of the time.

Apostolate or Mission:

Prayer, penance, humility, purity and act of charity are given supreme importance in our daily life. Also Retreat preaching, spiritual guidance, confession, counselling, catechism, etc Thus, the Rosarians support the universal and local church through our simple and humble life style and witnessing the kingdom of God in our own way of life.

Objectives of the Rosarians:

  1. To be a self-reliant Congregation and to have enough dynamism to restructure itself in order to be more faithful and responsive to the demands of the Gospel than to tradition.
  2. To serve with more dedication to the faithful seekers and spiritual devotees, who thirst to seek God & who are keen in search of peace and salvation.
  3. To bring God & man closer in communion through prayer, penance and incidentally for the evangelization of the world.
  4. To bring in the spiritual wisdom among common people and to create a taste of spiritual happiness and peace by way of tasting hard life, by following the foot prints of our saintly Founder, a Missionary Oblate to expose the trainees and the people to a life of Gospel simplicity and poverty as to reach the spiritual path of perfection and salvation.
  5. To prepare modem/worldly people for the revival of Christianity.
  6. To mobilize, stabilize and utilize prayer as powerful weapon for monks and help the clergy (the religious men and women) and laity to bring and build the kingdom of God on Earth.
  7. To train the seminarians systematically as Evangelists to serve the world peacefully.
  8. To enrich the spiritual wealth in human heart and life and seek God to realize Him through prayer, meditation & Bible Study.
  9. To live as active Christian community, serving the areas through agricultural development and through active participation in helping and uplifting the neighbourhood and to be the witness to Christ by both word and deed to the concept “help the neighbour”.
  10. To share and care for the most unfortunate section in their sufferings, who are helpless and are less able to care for themselves as a witness to Christ’s concern for the poor.

Fr. S. Justin Raj CR

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