“My life and vocation is a story of God’s mercy. I have found that real mercy in the Church and I want to be a minister of that same mercy for others.”
Since a very early age, Deacon Sasika knew he wanted to become a priest. The eldest of three children, he was raised in a devout Catholic family in Sri Lanka. It’s in this faith-filled and yet simple family, which has a deep love for the Eucharist and the daily Rosary, that his calling grew. Following the footsteps of his uncles, young Sasika became an altar server and got involved in several clubs in his parish. Holiness and cheerfulness of the Salesians in his home parish motivated him to pursue the Salesian priesthood.
“I had a feeling that God was calling me,” Deacon Sasika said. “If people asked me what I wanted to be, I had no hesitation saying that I wanted to be a priest.”
Deacon Sasika entered the Salesian high school seminary at the age of 16 as an aspirant in January, 1997. In September 1999, after a two-year education, he became a pre-novice. “Even though it meant sacrificing their oldest child, my parents never discouraged me, but always made it clear that our home is always open,” he said. “My grandmother prays the rosary every day for my vocation, and that’s where I get part of my strength.”
Deacon Sasika professed as a Salesian of St. John Bosco in 2001, and graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy in 2003. He began his first assignment as a practical training cleric at the Don Bosco Tech School in Sri Lanka, where he taught English and Religious Morals and Catechism, and helped take care of the boys in the school’s boarding house. He spent his second year of practical training as an assistant to the novices. Deacon then spent the next four years (2005-2009) studying theology in Jerusalem and graduated with a B.A. in Sacred Theology.
After receiving his degree, he had some doubts as to if he had the courage to pursue a priestly life. His last year of theology was a storm of doubts and confusion, as if God was telling him to wait. Thus, he discerned out and stepped away from the Salesians for some time.
As he continued to search where God might be calling him, Deacon came to the United States to take some college courses in Psychology at Wichita State University in Kansas. While there, he was involved in the Newman Center working with youth, which helped Deacon understand that he still had a calling to priestly life. He went back to Sri Lanka after a semester, and then returned to the United States to study at St. John’s University in New York, where he enrolled in the Theology program.
Meanwhile, Deacon also worked for Project Hope, a not-for-profit organization on Staten Island, that worked with people recovering from Hurricane Sandy. “This is when I strongly heard God was calling me back,” Deacon said. “I felt like I was wounded, with no particular goal in my life, but God still wanted me to help those who were suffering. I felt like I was a wounded healer.”
While living on Staten Island, Deacon became very involved in the Our Lady of Good Counsel Church community, where the pastor, Fr. Liam O’Doherty, an Augustinian priest, and his religious community, helped him in the discernment process of coming back to Salesian religious life.
Deacon rejoined the Salesian Religious Society and was assigned to Don Bosco Prep for a year of candidacy teaching theology in August 2015.
“I am really grateful for Don Bosco Prep and for the Salesian province who welcomed me,” Deacon said. “I felt so much at home the first day I stepped onto the Bosco campus. It was an environment of family, and of holiness and joy, and it really struck me.”
He renewed his Salesian profession in September of 2016 at the school’s opening Mass of the Holy Spirit. He made his final profession last August and was reinstated to the Diaconate in December 2019.
“I want to follow God’s will,” Deacon said. “My life experience taught me that when I started following my own will I wasn’t truly happy. Some days are challenging but with the help of my brothers, and community and family, if I follow God’s will I know I will be truly happy.”
Deacon Sasika said that his mother did not give up praying for him to ask for God’s will in his life. “Sometimes she would be on her knees with tears in her eyes praying for my happiness,” he said. “I know I have that support, and I am not afraid to say yes to whatever God wants for me.”
Sadly, Deacon’s family will not be able to make the trip from Sri Lanka for his ordination due to the current restrictions on travel. “I wish they could be here for me but God has a better plan and a perfect plan,” he said. “God sees the bigger picture.”
“I have gotten so many green lights,” he said. “People have received me as I am, my unique gifts, and my human limitations. I feel I am loved and that I matter. The daily interaction with our community is so welcoming.”
Deacon Sasika will be ordained a priest at Saint John Bosco Parish in Port Chester, NY on Saturday, June 27 by Most Reverend John J. O’Hara, Auxiliary Bishop of New York and a member of Don Bosco Prep’s Class of 1963. He will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Don Bosco Prep with the school community on Sunday, June 28, the day after his ordination. “It is an absolute blessing to celebrate my first mass here, for me and the community,” he said. “It will be a moment of thanksgiving to God, the Salesian family, and my family and friends. I want to celebrate all the things I have received at Don Bosco Prep. The students, colleagues and families have been so much a part of my life, and we have this opportunity to celebrate this moment of thanksgiving together.”
Deacon Sasika’s future looks bright for him and for the community around him. He will spend this coming year continuing as Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Don Bosco Prep. He echoes the sentiment of Saint John Bosco. “Don Bosco said that he felt completely at home among the young. I desire to continue finding my home among them.”
He also understands the fact that, as Salesians, changes in assignments happen often. “I have experienced God’s mercy in my life, especially in difficult times,” Deacon said. “And I want to bring that mercy to others in whatever apostolate to which I am assigned. I want to bring healing and do it cheerfully. I want to share all my gifts the best way I can.”
And we pray for him and thank him for all of the gifts he shares with us!