The first women priests in Sri Lanka's Anglican Church have said their ordination is a dream come true.
The Rev. Chandrika Mayurawathie, along with the Rev. Malini Devananda, whose husband is an Anglican priest, and the Rev. Glory Jeyaraj, were ordained on September 14 by Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo in the presence of hundreds of church members at the cathedral in the capital.
"I have no words to describe my joy," said Mayurawathie, who completed a bachelor's degree in theology in 1996. "I have waited and prayed for this ordination for years."
"This is a historic event,” Chickera said. "We are all happy finally that we have our women priests."
The ordination was the culmination of a three-decade process that began with the debate on women's ordination in the Anglican clergy synod in 1974. The three women had been ordained as deacons in 2003 -- a decade after the diocesan council affirmed the decisions of the Lambeth Conference on women's ordination in 1988.
While eagerly waiting a decade for her ordination as a priest, the 45-year-old Mayurawathie said she decided not to marry "to serve the people of God better, and with full commitment."
Jeyaraj, who is now in charge of the Christ Church pastorate at Ragale in the mountainous southern Nuera Eliya region, said, "Now, I have full freedom as a pastor." She had served the church as a lay worker for 10 years. Jeyaraj noted she has "no problem" in dealing with the congregation despite being the first woman pastor there.
The Methodist Church and the Jaffna diocese of the Church of South India, which has congregations in Sri Lanka, had already ordained women in the region.
The Church of Ceylon is extra-provincial and falls under the metropolitical authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.