Oblate Highlights: Fr. Philip Singarayar, OMI
For a time in the 1980s, Fr. Philip Singarayar, O.M.I. was a man without a country. Father Philip was studying Pastoral Counseling in the United States. When his courses were over he planned to go home, but that never happened.
Originally from Sri Lanka, Fr. Philip couldn’t go there because a civil war was taking place in the country. Complicating a return to Sri Lanka was that Fr. Philip had the same name as a priest wanted for war crimes.
Father Philip then looked at going to India, where he had worked for seven years with Oblate seminarians. But he had visa problems with India and authorities wouldn’t let him go there.
“So the Oblates in the United States welcomed me,” Fr. Philip jokes. “And they have been stuck with me for the past 30 years.”
Father Philip was born in Talawakelle, Sri Lanka. He was ordained in 1964 and ministered at several Oblate parishes in the country, included a few that were bilingual. He was then assigned to work in the formation programs for Oblate seminarians in India.
What was supposed to be a few months of academic study in the United States turned into four decades of missionary work in America. Father Philip’s U.S. ministries have included parish and formation work in large cities such as New York, Washington D.C., Miami and Chicago.
Today, Fr. Philip is part of a team of Oblates working at Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland, California. Father Philip’s international background comes in good use at the parish which has members from about 25 different countries. About one-third of the parishioners are Filipino and another one-third are African-Americans. “It is a wonderful place to work because there are so many different cultures here,” said Fr. Philip.
In December Fr. Philip will celebrate 52 years as an Oblate priest. He said his life is a great example of how the Lord works in mysterious and wonderful ways. “The Lord has been walking with me all the time, at times visible and at times invisible,” said Fr. Philip. “My priesthood has been a mystery filled with blessings, surprises and challenges and it has made my life a joyful one.”