Fr. Neil Dias Karunaratne from the Region of Colombo celebrated his 70th anniversary of profession on Saturday, February 22. In the Redemptorist parish of St Theresa’s which was full to overflowing, parishioners, friends and confreres, came to celebrate with Fr. Neil as he renewed the vows which he first professed at Sancta Maria in Kandy on March 15 (the Feast of St Clement), 1950.
Fr. Neil was the principal celebrant of the Mass of Thanksgiving and was assisted at the altar by Fr. Michael Brehl (Superior General) and Fr. Shiran Fonseka (Regional Superior).
Together with confreres from the Region, Fr. Sebastian Ani Dato (Consultor General) and Fr. Ben Ma (Conference Coordinator – Asia/Oceania) were also present for the celebration. Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis (Archdiocese of Colombo) who has enjoyed a long association and close friendship with Fr. Neil over many years, was a special guest for the occasion. The presence of the Archbishop Emeritus was also recognition of Fr. Neil’s nearly 64 years of service to the Sri Lankan Church as a Redemptorist priest.
Fr. Shiran the Regional Superior, described Fr. Neil’s 70th anniversary of profession as “a remarkable achievement and a testament to Fr. Neil’s faith, commitment and perseverance.” Fr. Shiran thanked Fr. Neil for his “extraordinary dedication, service and generosity to the Congregation over 70 years; and also in the name of the Congregation through his care and ministry to so many people, especially the faith community of St Theresa’s.” Fr. Shiran remarked, “Fr.Neil, your life and legacy are an inspiration to all of us gathered here and especially to your confreres.”
Fr. Shiran also acknowledged the presence of Fr. Michael Brehl the Superior General. “Fr. General, despite your busy schedule, you willingly accepted our invitation to come to Sri Lanka to celebrate this special occasion with us. Your presence, together with Frs Sebastian and Ben is a reminder to us that the Region belongs to a much larger Redemptorist family.”
Fr. Neil was presented with a special memento honouring his 70 years. After mass, Fr. Neil cut an anniversary cake and greeted all those who came, while refreshments were enjoyed and people shared many stories with each other of how Fr. Neil had touched their lives.
A special celebratory lunch was enjoyed by the confreres with Fr. General proposing the toast to Fr. Neil.
David J. Hore, C.Ss.R.