Plea for prayers over Easter bombings

By Wendy Shaw

Catholic parishioners throughout Tasmania are urged to pray for the victims of the Sri Lankan massacre perpetrated on Easter Sunday three years ago.

That is the plea from the new parish administrator of Campbell Town, Fr Sunil De Silva, on behalf of the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.

Fr Sunil, former secretary to the Cardinal, saw first-hand the devastation of the blasts on 21 April, 2019 that claimed more than 270 lives, and the ongoing trauma of the injured and the bereaved. Coordinated suicide bombings struck at three churches, four hotels and a housing complex.

“The investigation is still not completed and justice has not been fulfilled for these victims,” Fr Sunil said.

Fr Sunil, 58, arrived in Tasmania in November at the invitation of Archbishop Julian and is settling in to life in the sprawling Midlands parish.

New horizons: Campbell Town Parish administrator Fr Sunil De Silva outside historic St Michael’s Church. Photo: Wendy Shaw

“As a parish priest, pastoral work is a fulfilment for a priest: the celebration of the sacraments and visiting and meeting people and especially going in search of the Catholic families and encouraging them to come to the church  – to the Eucharist  –  on Sunday. The Eucharist is the centre of any parish and the centre of any life for a Catholic and it is from there that an individual draws life.

“When they come for Mass, they are nourished by the word of God and reflections and the Eucharist.

“We have to find a new way of approaching these people who have lost their faith, or rather those who keep religion at a distance, so it is a challenge for priests to look at new strategies, new ways to approach these people in a friendly, pastoral way. We cannot stop going in search of people and thinking of new ways of reaching out to them.”

Fr Sunil was born into a Sri Lankan Catholic family of five boys and three girls. One of his sisters is an enclosed Carmelite nun.

Trail of destruction: More than 270 people died in a series of Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lank in 2019. Three churches and three hotels were among the scenes of devastation. Photo: Fr Sunil De Silva.

He was an altar server as a child and this had a profound effect on him.

“You see the priest and the altar at very close range and I took inspiration from that,” he said. “I was going to Mass every day. [From there] I got the idea to become a priest.”

He was ordained to the priesthood at St Lucia’s Cathedral, Colombo, in July 1990 by Cardinal Jozef Tomko. Since then he has served the Catholic Church in a variety of roles in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, briefly in Egypt and now Australia.

Prayer intentions: The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has spoken out in the lead-up to the third anniversary of the Easter bombing atrocity in Sri Lanka. Photo: Fr Sunil De Silva.

He was secretary to the bishop in the Archdiocese of Colombo for almost ten years.

His early enthusiasm for basketball, cricket and athletics have since been replaced by a keen interest in photography and journalism, and he maintains the Catholic News Sri Lanka website, Facebook page and YouTube channel from Campbell Town.

The Campbell Town Parish includes: St Paul’s Church, Oatlands; Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Ross; Our Lady of the Perpetual Succour Church, Swansea; St Brigid’s Church, Tunnack; and St Michael’s Church, Campbell Town.

Tags: Campbell Town, News, Northern Deanery