Sri Lankan monks stand by the crucifix at Our Lady of the Rosary Shrine grounds.

PHOTO | COURTESY OF FR. JEYASEELAN

Sri Lankan monks stand by the crucifix at Our Lady of the Rosary Shrine grounds.

June 6, 2011
VANESSA SANTILLI
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

MERLIN, ONT. — At Our Lady of the Rosary Shrine here you’ll find trails dedicated to the rosary, saints, approved apparitions and the Stations of the Cross.

Helping you through these trails, you’ll also find three monks from Sri Lanka — the first of their order to come to Canada.

Since last July, Father Francis Jeyaseelan, shrine director, and two other monks from Sri Lanka, Fathers Arulthas Mariyanayagam and Anthony Kamalathasan, have been living in a monastery on the grounds of Our Lady of the Rosary Shrine.

Members of the Rosarian Order, a contemplative order, this is their first foundation outside of India and Sri Lanka. The order was founded by Father Bastiampillai Anthony Thomas in 1928 in Sri Lanka.

“The Congregation of the Rosarians in their general chapter in 2006 decided to extend their monastic and prayer apostolate to other parts of the world in order to give a witnessing life of prayer and penance,” Jeyaseelan said in an interview.

The Rosarians also strive to do reparation for the sins of the world by praying before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, he said.

Completing his licentiate studies in canon law at Saint Paul University in Ottawa at the time, Jeyaseelan was asked by his prior general in India and his regional superior in Sri Lanka to explore the possibility of founding one of the monastic religious communities in Canada.

After they approached London Bishop Ronald Fabbro, the bishop invited the Rosarians to the diocese and to the shrine. The London Diocese placed the monks at the shrine since it is conducive to prayer life away from the hustle and bustle of society, he said.

Jeyaseelan said when he came to Canada, he experienced culture shock.

“But it didn’t take long for me to become used to the new lifestyle in Canada and to the people,” he said. “I think this was because of my common identity as a Catholic and priest. I really felt and still feel at home in Canada because the Canadians are a welcoming and happy people.”

At the shrine, which took up its current post on two hectares of land near St. Patrick’s Church in 1998, the Rosarians follow a daily monastic schedule of prayer and work — and are also available for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims, said Jeyaseelan.

PRAYER MINISTRY

He is convinced of the importance of prayer ministry. Pope Benedict’s pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland after that nation’s abuse scandal only affirms this.

“He says what we can do now in this moment of crisis is to pray before the real presence of the Lord and to do penance to make reparation for sins,” said Jeyaseelan.

“This is the life of the Rosarian monks: prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and penance to make reparations for the outrages committed by the world against the Divine Majesty.”

He is proud to do reparation in the presence of the Lord for the sins of the world.

“People should be reminded of the holiness of the Church and the priests in this critical moment in the history of the Church. My desire and prayer is this shrine may become a prayer-house for all — in the Diocese of London and outside.”

The Rosarians currently have about 250 members. The order has 13 monasteries in India and five in Sri Lanka, said Jeyaseelan.