The 8th Asia-Pacific Common Study Program for this year was held in Sri Lanka and was hosted by the Dominican Province of the Philippines. The 22 participants came from five Provinces and a Vice Province of the Order in the region: Vietnam (5), Philippines (5), India (4), Pakistan (3), Papua New Guinea (2), Solomon Islands (1), China (1), and Myanmar (1). The participants of the Dominican Province of the Philippines were Br. Rommel Olivar, OP, Br. Arden Xerxes Dacuma, OP, Br. Jayson Gonzales, OP, Br. Don Dominique Marco Antonio Go, OP, and Br. John Paul Sontillano, OP. The program, which has been held annually since 2008, has the threefold objectives of providing newly-ordained friars and those in solemn vows to learn to live in an inter-cultural community, strengthening the brothers’ commitment to the spiritual and intellectual traditions of the Dominican Order, and deepening their formation for mission in the context of the region. This year’s Common Study is doubly significant, as the universal Church celebrates the Jubilee of Mercy and as the Dominican Order itself is celebrating the Jubilee of its 8th centenary.
The month-long program has been held in various countries since 2008, the most recent being Hong Kong in 2015. This year, Sri Lanka was chosen due to its unique multicultural character and history, providing appropriate exposures in both inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, and the work of the Catholic Church for justice and peace. The first week, July 1 to 7, were held at Negombo, where Catholicism retains a very visible presence. Br. Amirtha Raj, OP, talked about the human formation of the Preacher of Mercy. The second week, from July 8 to 14, were spent at Tulana Research Center in Kelaniya, and Kandy, the center of Buddhism in the country. In the latter, they were able to visit theKelaniya Temple, the Temple of the Tooth Relic, the mountain fortress of King Kasyapa in Sigiriya, and the sacred city of Anuradhapura. They also had conferences with Fr. Aloysius Pieris, SJ, and the Venerable Galkande Dhammananda on the dialogue between Catholicism, Buddhism and other religions of Sri Lanka. Br. Enrico Gonzales, OP, in that week reviewed the participant’s understanding of the Fundamental Teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. From Kandy, the participants moved in the third week to the North of the country. On the way to Madhu, they had exposures to many of the areas affected by the civil war, such as Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, and Jaffna. They were accompanied by several Church workers and other people who have been affected by the violence, and are now deeply involved in thework of reconciliation, among them Mr. Ruki Fernando, the Anglican Bishop Duleep De Chikera, and a Muslim historian, Prof. Abdulla Hasbulla. These exposures and encounters provided the Dominicans with materials for reflection for the third week of the Common Study, held last July 14 to 22, at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Madhu. Aside from affording the brothers the chance to be with Our Lady and imbibe the shrine’s tranquil environment, the venue was the ideal place for reflection on the work of the Church and the Order for justice and peace as facilitated by Br. Prakash Lohale, OP, and on the spirituality of the Dominicans by Br. Edmund Nantes, OP. Fr. Emilianus Pillia, the administrator of the Shrine, also gave them a talk about the history of Our Lady of Madhu and shared about his experiences during the war. From Madhu, the participants went for a weekend at Nuwara Eliya, and then to Negombo for a meeting with the other members of the Dominican family in Sri Lanka. The last days focused on further conferences on interreligious dialogue. Br. Jayalath Balagalla, OP, and his team composed of Religious Leaders from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Baha’i Faith, Methodist Church and Anglican Church served as facilitators. The Common Study ended on July 30, 2016.
The twenty-two participants were accompanied in by two of their formators, Br. Amirtha Raj, OP, from India, and Br. Edmund Nantes, OP, from the Philippines. The convenor and organizer is Br. Manoj Rasanjana Angodage Don, OP, one of four Sri Lankan Dominicans who areaffiliated with the Philippine Province. The Province of the Philippines has one canonically established house in Sri Lanka, the House of St. Dominic in Ketawala, Kandy, which has an extension community, the Holy Rosary Formation House, in Negombo.
by Br. Rommel P. Olivar, OP