How I Became the First Sri Lankan Augustinian in 500 Years
By Fr. John Arulthas, O.S.A.
Each Augustinian has his unique path to the Order. My path of discernment took me from Sri Lanka, to the Order of Rosarians, through Canada, and finally to the Augustinians at Marylake Shrine in King City, Ontario.
I first entered religious life at the age of 16, when I was accepted into formation with the contemplative community of Rosarians, near my hometown of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. With this Order, I did my studies in theology and philosophy and was ordained a priest in 2006. Immediately following my ordination, I began to discern that I was not quite content with living a contemplative life. For the first four years of my priesthood, I served in the formation house in Sri Lanka, until 2010, when my community moved to Canada. It was there that I began to take my discernment very seriously, feeling called to a more active ministry as a priest. Thankfully, I came to know about the Augustinians through a good friend of mine in Chatham, Ontario, who informed me of the community at Marylake Shrine.
In the spring of 2012, I went to Marylake for the first time for a week-long retreat. In the fall of the same year, I got permission to make a one-month retreat directed by Fr. Henry Mc Erlean, O.S.A. From that moment on Fr. Henry became my spiritual director, mentor, and a friend during my journey with the Augustinians. After completing my one-month retreat-with the confirmation from the Lord I departed from my contemplative call to join the Augustinians.
I remember praying in the church on the Feast of St. Augustine and reading the great passage from St. Augustine's Confessions, "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside." These lines struck me and drew me closer to the Augustinian way of life.
On January 21, 2013, I moved to the Marylake Augustinian community. The Augustinians at Marylake had shown their support for me and my discernment. The transitional and transferring process took three years of waiting in patience, perseverance, and prayer. On February 7, 2016, I was released from my Rosarian vows by the intervention of the Congregation to the Consecrated and Religious Life in Rome, and, on August 15, 2016, I entered the Augustinian Novitiate in Racine, Wisconsin.
The beginning of my second novitiate was a bit challenging, but I learned to view the time as my sabbatical in the tenth year of my priesthood. Now, I can boldly say that the Lord has loved me, will love me, will continue to love me, and wants me to be faithful to His call for a deeper relationship with Him during this time of transition.
It has been a struggle and great battle within me, but I completely surrendered my will to the One who has called me to follow Him. I have experienced a series of conversion, repentance, transformation, and intimate moments with God, myself, and others in the community. I am not saying that every day is perfect, but each day God gives me the necessary grace to navigate through a life directed towards Him.
I am glad to have made my Solemn Vows on Pentecost Sunday, saying yes to the Lord's call to journey with my Augustinian brothers in this common life. I believe that my story as it winds through countries of greatly different cultures, and Orders of greatly different charisms-is a great testament to the character of the Augustinian way of life. It can also be a sign of hope for the Order, as I have come to learn now that I am the first Sri Lankan Tamu Augustinian in the past 500 years.
I look forward to what new surprises and blessings the Lord has in store for my and my new Order.
Learn more about what it means to be an Augustinian by checking out our other blog posts here