Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan - a versatile personality
IN the true sense of wisdom, human life has a distinctive attribute
that it should be employed for the well-being of others rather than a
mere self oriented journey of illusions and this universally
acknowledged truth of maturity governs the lives of many a great
personality, and one of whom is the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan, the third
Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, who has
retired on his 65th birthday, the 28th of March, 2005 after rendering
magnanimous services to the society and the church.
The more he chose the path of humbleness and altruism the more he has
risen today as one of the internationally acclaimed Sri Lankans of this
Moulding the means of his life according to the noblest impulses of
true Christian commitments, he widely and effectively utilizes his
immeasurable talents which he is endowed with, in their manifold
varieties, for the progress of the society, the church and the sphere of
intelligentsia of the country and abroad.
His personality is a multi dimensional one and beyond any doubt sets
an example to the world. As an excellent teacher, an efficient
Principal, a prolific writer, an inspiring orator, an outstanding
scholar and above all as the Bishop he seems a beacon of light of
guidance for those who are looking for the right channel for their
progress and a redeemer for those who are embedded in despair and
Like The Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan his family too is academically
sound and artistically expert. His parents were teachers and his
brothers too are highly learned; his wife is an excellent teacher of
western music and his children too hold lofty positions.
In the scholarly line of C. Y. Thamotharampillai, Carol
Visvanathanpillai, Arnold Sathasivampillai and Wyman Kathiravetpillai
the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan is one of the outstanding products of
Jaffna College of this century.
He had his earlier education at Chavakacheri Driberg College and
afterwards joined Jaffna College from where he entered the then
University of Ceylon and obtained his B. A. Degree in 1962.
Later he added himself with three M.A. Degrees, one in Tamil, and one
in English and the other one in Philosophy. Due to his abiding interest
in Theology he obtained a degree in Theology as well and to fulfill his
quest for education he obtained a Ph. D. Degree from the University of
He started his teaching career at St. Anthony's College, Kandy.
Having been instinctively stimulated by his passion towards his Alma
Mater, he joined Jaffna College in 1969 as a teacher of History and
Civics. He served the College for its progress and took unyielding
efforts to build up an outstanding student community. The students who
passed through his hands authenticate the profound aspects of his
His talents were not bounded only within classroom teaching but he
employed them in order to achieve great objectives to retain the
religious traditions of the school and encourage creative thinking among
the students, and brought about many innovative events and a favorable
atmosphere for the processes of learning and teaching at the College. He
is an aficionado of Tamil Literature as well as English Literature.
Due to his boundless inspiration towards Bharathi, a revolutionary
Tamil poet, he inaugurated a festival at Jaffna College to celebrate
Bharathi and his great literary works which places Jaffna College at a
unique position among the other schools since Jaffna College is the only
school which celebrates Bharathi Day in the peninsula and it is none
other than the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesasn who deserves the distinction
of it. He is a good dramatist and a fascinating actor.
He acted in many dramas and the film "Kalluri Vasanthathil" which was
produced by the College under his guidance as he served the patron of
the Tamil Union of the College. He had been the editor of the College
Miscellany from 1974-1993 and served as the Faculty Advisor to the
'Young Idea', a student magazine of Jaffna College, from 1979-1993.
In recognition of his academic achievements, sincere services to the
College and true faith in God he was appointed as one of the Co Vice
Principals of the College and later promoted as the Principal in 1988.
As the Principal of one of the prestigious institutions in the island
he efficiently handled the administration and raised the College to
greater heights in academic and non-academic activities. His teaching
career contributed to the University of Jaffna as well for he served
there as a visiting lecturer in Christian Civilization from 1979-1988.
In 1993 he shifted from the Principal's office to the Bishop's office
at Vaddukoddai as he was consecrated as the third Bishop of the Jaffna
Diocese of the Church of South India.
His loyalty, piety, integrity and pronounced trust in God and his
versatile attributes and academic excellence made him the unanimous
choice for the greatly respectable Bishop position. Under his
stewardship the Diocese saw a tremendous growth and several parishes
were established in the peninsula and outside.
The Bishop should be applauded as he built up the Diocese during the
most difficult periods with fortitude and courage when the nation was
confronted with ethnic war and mayhem. His messages rekindled hope in
the hearts that have lost their kith and kin in the troubles and
emphasized the need for peace in the island. He overcame all the
obstacles and successfully carried out his onerous responsibilities.
Bishop the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan is a good bilingual orator. The
way he handles the topics is of great fascination, a blend of a good
sense of humour and a deep sense of wisdom. His speeches are very
meaningful as to touch our hearts with a didactic force. His sermons
reflect the true principles of divinity. His writing skills have
profound features like his speeches.
He has written several books in both languages which include America
Missonum Illakayile Thamil Valarchium, Yaalpanathu Chreesthava
Kavignarakalum Keerthanaikalum, The American Mission Seminary
(1823-1855) and Modern Education in Jaffna, Ninaithuparkiren,
Pazaiyathum Puthiyathum, Perayar Sabapathy Kulendran (Varalatuch
Churukkam) and The Bible Trembled (The Hindu Christian Controversies of
Nineteenth Century Ceylon in collaboration with Prof. S. F. Young.) His
publications vividly illustrate his research capabilities and the power
of his deep thinking on a variety of topics ranging from religion to
politics and his comparative approach to various issues.
His articles have been published in various magazines and journals.
To enhance his wealth of knowledge he always reads books and it is his
custom that whenever he goes abroad he returns with a pile of books to
his homeland. Not only does he read books but he always encourages
others to read to widen their horizon.
To crown his academic excellence and matured wisdom, the Cambridge
International Biographical Centre declared him as one of the two
thousand outstanding intellectuals of the 21st Century.
This rare recognition, he won, brought a great honour to him and a
positive reputation to the intelligentsia of our nation, subsequently in
2002 he received the honour to be a Research Assistant at the Princeton
Theological Seminary in the U.S.A.
The Bishop also served in various councils and boards locally as well
as internationally. He has been a member in cluster IV of the committees
of CCA- the Justice International Affairs, Development and Service from
the year 2000.
In 2003 he was elected as the Chairman of the Solidarity Fund for
Theological Education in South Asia. He also served as the Chairman of
several committees of the Church of South India. In the educational
orbit too his services bear testimony to his great concern over
The University Grants Commission nominated him a member to the Jaffna
University Council in 1992, a position he is still holding.
The achievements of our Bishop cannot be easily carved by words. His
loyalty, commitment, dedication, devotion and generosity are significant
which have made him unique among the others. His retirement is indeed an
irreplaceable one; however his contributions are needed to the society
even after his retirement.
He is going to carry out his duties as the Principal of the Christian
Theological Seminary, Maruthanarmadam in Jaffna which has paved the way
for him to make use of his knowledge in a new manner and many others to
acquire its fecundity.
His presence in our society will boost the intelligentsia of the
country and the progress of the society. The noble services he has
rendered to the Diocese and the society will be undoubtedly and
indelibly imprinted in everyone's thoughts.
(The writer is a past student of Jaffna College.)