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New Bishop of Chilaw:

His Lordship Valence Mendis: A gentle shepherd



His Lordship Devsritha Valence Mendis, the new Bishop of Chilaw

YOUNGEST BISHOP: His Lordship Devsritha Valence Mendis has been enthroned as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Chilaw at a solemn Eucharistic celebration held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Chilaw on October 28. At 48, Bishop Valence will be the youngest amongst the bishops who serve the flock as the Shepherds of 11 Catholic Dioceses of Sri Lanka.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Edmund Peiris, OMI of revered memory became the first Bishop of Chilaw on 12th January 1940 at a time of national resurgence. He was an eminent historian, an accomplished literary scholar and a musician of no mean stature and served the diocese for 32 years.

The second Bishop of Chilaw, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando took over the reins on 27th December 1972 carved out for himself a niche in the hall of fame as an eloquent preacher of the Lord, a charming writer and a fearless fighter for the cause of justice. He guided the flock for 33 years up to the last month.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Valence Mendis who becomes the third Bishop of Chilaw is another trailblazer.

Bishop Valence pursued his Doctoral studies at the Urban University in Rome and within just two years obtained his PhD in 1994. On his return, he was appointed as the Dean of Philosophy at the National Seminary.

He is a valued teacher of philosophy and theology but 'Natural Theology' and the 'Theology of Religions' are his forte. His fluency in Sinhala, English and Italian and the working knowledge of Tamil, German and Latin added finesse to his teaching skills.

Bishop Valence was born on 21 May 1958. He is the eldest son of late Bertram Mendis and of Iranganie Mendis of the Parish of Koralawella in Moratuwa.

Bishop Valence was educated from the Kindergarten to Grade 9 under the guidance of the De La Salle Brothers at St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa from 1963 to 1973. Then, he joined Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa and successfully completed the GCE (OL) in 1974.

After a brilliant school career, Bishop Valence was beckoned by God to His vineyard to enable him to fulfill his allotted vocation. The effusive showering of talents made him more and more conscious of his obligations before God.

These ideas and ideals which matured in him from childhood made him what he became. Due to the sincerity and persistence of their son and the great love that the parents had for the priesthood, he entered St. Paul's Minor Seminary, Marawila in 1975.

A year later, he joined St. Julian Eymard Intermediate Seminary in Haputale for his Propaedeutic studies and finally entered National Seminary in Ampitiya in 1976. In the National Seminary, he set his goals straight and chartered the correct course.

His perfection was to seek God's will and fulfill it and as a result glory and honour followed him. As a gifted musician, a keen sportsman and as the Dean of Students, he not only won the admiration of his superiors but also successfully completed his philosophical and theological studies.

And the day dawned for him to approach the alter and Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando ordained him a priest of the Diocese of Chilaw at St. Joseph's Church, Wennappuwa on 20th July 1985. Immediately after his ordination, Bishop Valence responded willingly to serve as a 'Fidei Donum Priest' in the Diocese of Kandy.

His first appointment was as the Assistant Parish Priest of St. Anthony's Cathedral, Kandy from 1985 to 1987. Thereafter, the Bishop of Kandy, Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando appointed him as the Parish Priest of Padiwatta where he traversed new paths to uplift the living conditions of his parishioners from 1987 till 1989.

Apart from his pastoral ministry, he made use of his leisure to develop his knowledge in different fields and succeeded in earning a Master of Arts degree from the University of Peradeniya in 1987. Later, he served as a visiting lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the same university.

Youngest Rector

In 1989, at the request of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, Bishop Valence joined the permanent staff of the National Seminary. A paradigm shift in 'Priestly Formation' in Sri Lanka took place in the National Seminary with the separation of Philosophate and Theologate.

Bishop Valence had the honour of becoming the first Director of the newly created Philosophate in October 2000. On 4 February 2001, the Catholic Bishops' Conference placed their trust and confidence on him once again by installing him at 42, as the youngest Rector in the 50-year history of the National Seminary.

Bishop Valence will strive to bind all those people in the bonds of charity to open the doors of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the World, the joy of every human heart, and the fulfillment of all our hopes!

Ad Multos Annos - Vivat.

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