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Christian Perspectives

Let us spare a thought for our priests of yesteryear:

Marian Grove - a sanctuary for retiring priests

Priests and religious play a vital role in moulding the lives of the people who come under their influence. They dedicate their lives to serve the flock voluntarily, entering the religious and priestly order.

Being human, they are also feeble, weak and fragile like any other. With the passage of time, like all men and women they enter the age, where they need the help and support of those who are healthy and strong.

Mostly what they need is to see that they are being cared for by the flock whom they looked after in the prime of their youth. But the stark-naked truth is the world forgets them easily as the saying goes “out of sight- out of mind”. The feeling of being forgotten, discarded and forsaken is the worst thing one has to endure.

When we enjoyed Christmas parties did we ever think of the priests who live away from our midst due to old age and being incapacitated. Have we ever bothered to find out about `that priest’ or `this priest’ who blessed us, our houses, baptised us, officiated at our marriages and participated to share our joys and sorrows and never forget to pray for lost ones of yours and mine?

If we have failed to give a thought, just think about them. The priests with whom we moved and worked with and at times with whom we had had heated arguments or had waged wars of words or whom we have humiliated, taken to courts, against whom we had made false allegations and sat on the judgement against them it is time to amend and make friends.

Because we are now wise enough or as the mother of the cured boy said “ask him, he is of age”; we are now able to understand why it happened that way and not the way you and I thought.

So those priests who now live away from the public eye or from the limelight as we say, still love us and care for us for we are a part of their flock in someday somewhere in your life, my life and their life.

They would love to see, love to hear our loving voice.

They do not want anything but that feeling they get that we care for them, is more than all the happiness, the world could offer. If you could see him and if one of us feel-that we like to reconcile with any priest that we had a fight, as misunderstanding. Christmas and new year season is the time to make a mends.

Like there are Homes for the Elders, there are also Homes for the Old priests. But many of us are unaware and do not brother to find out what happened to them after leaving our mission or parish.

I happened to visit one of these homes recently. I saw some of the Priests and Brothers with whom I had shared my life and time in the days of my youth.

It was like entering the House of God to offer my sacrifice. I entered bowing my head to the “Marian Grove”, the House for the Oblate Fathers and Brothers, at Green Path, Kohuwala, Nugegoda.

The House has come up in the former playground where the juniors played football and held the Annual Sports Meet. It was blessed and opened on December 8, 1981, by Colombo Archbishop Emeritus Nicholas Marcus Fernando for the benefit of the Priests and Brothers willing to rest and spend their golden years. That House is now in its Post-Silver Jubilee era providing shelter to those under its roof.

It was the brainchild of former Oblate Provincial Fr. Beranad Quintus OMI. He saw the need for such a House for the retiring priests.

During his second term in office as the Provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate he put into action an idea that was haunting in his mind for some time while serving his first term in the Province.

The House he initiated was meant to provide shelter to the retiring priests, or for priests looking for a place to rest for a period, or for those priests who are in need of medical attention.

The Juniorate is close at hand and the students could be of assistance to the ailing and aging priests. This is a good opportunity for those willing to show love and care in whatever way they wish. It is better for one to step into the House and see for himself what he could offer.

The House is manged by the Oblates and Rev.Fr. Dennis Iddamalgoda OMI is the Director of the House.


St. Patrick’s College 158 this year

Jaffna Vicariate Apostolic erected in 1847, completed 240 years. This year St. Patrick’s College setup by Patrick Foy, an Irish Catholic layman in Janaury 1850 where the present college is found will be 158 years in January 2008. This is the story of that college.

The Matthews Block featured in the stamp, built in 1950.

Ceylon, which for nearly 300 years had been part of the Diocese of Cochin, was erected in 1835 into an Apostolic Vicariate. At the request of the Catholics of Ceylon, Rome began to send European Missionaries to Ceylon from 1842.

The first such Missionary to arrive in Ceylon Fr. Horace Bettachini, an Italian Oratorian was, in 1845, appointed titular Bishop of Torona and Coadjutor to Dr. Gaetano Antonio, Vicar Apostolic of Ceylon.

Bishop Bettachini was also specially charged with the spiritual care of the Catholic Northern portion of Ceylon. Therefore, soon after his Episcopal Consecration, which took place in February 1846, he arrived in Jaffna to carry out his new duties.

The Egg

By then, the English schools of the Protestant Missions in Jaffna were about 25 years, and Catholic children were being attracted to them due to the lack of Catholic schools to provide English education.

In order to provide good English education to the Catholics, Bishop Bettachini had set his heart to establish two English Schools in jaffna itself, one for boys and the other, for girls. One of the first things he did towards this end was to establish the “Jaffna Catholic Schools Society”, with the professed aim of providing English education to Catholics.

Ceylon, in 1847, was divided into two Vicariates Apostolic, namely Colombo and Jaffna. On the invitation of Bishop Bettachini, Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Jaffna, the first band of Oblate Missionaries arrived in Jaffna led by Fr. John Stephen Semeria, who was to succeed Bishop Bettachini later as Vicar Apostolic of Jaffna.

The Caterpillar

The Christmas crib displayed by Hatton National Bank, Wattala branch Manager Kanchana Karunagama and his staff at the Bank premises.
Pic. Nimal Perera, Wattala Group Corr.

The Nativity Play staged by students of the Sherill Montessori North Kudahakapola to celebrate their 44th anniversary.
Picture by W. Wilfred Silva, Ja-ela Group

The Jaffna Boys Catholic English Schools was officially opened in January 1850 with Mr. Patrick Foy, an irish Catholic layman, as Principal in a building that stood where the present day Administration block of St. Patrick’s College stands.

At that time the school had 50 boys on the roll, and a teaching staff of two, inclusive of the Principal.

In 1860 this grew to 81 day-scholars, 14 boarders from St. Mary’s Boarding School, and five orphans. By a common accord adopted by the School Commission and the Catholic Mission in Jaffna in 1861, the Catholic English schools were renamed the “Jaffna Boys” Seminary and the “Jaffna Female Seminary”.

The teaching Staff of the Jaffna Boys’ Seminary, in 1862, was composed of Rev. Fr. J.C. Mola O.M.I - Superintendent, who taught the Holy Scriptures, Philology, English Literature and Geography in addition to his duties of general supervision, Brother P.J. Conway - the Principal, Mr. Joseph and Mr. G. Bastian - the Monitors, Borhters J.J. Brown, A.M. Bennet, R.R. Dowling, and Messers Arthur Fletcher and John Bastian.

The Chrysalis

Under the direction of Brother Conway the Jaffna Boys’ Seminary made great strides and succeeded in 1862 itself at the first “Local Examination” ever to be held in Ceylon. The successful candidate was J.M. Kavanagh, who later became a teacher in the Catholic Boys’ School in Trincomalee.

History was created in 1866, when Lopez Manuel, who later became an Inspector of Schools, passed out first in the Order of Merit at the Local Examination. He obtained the highest marks in English and Geography and did brilliantly well in Euclid. The School thus established its reputation as one of the best in the Island within 16 years of its establishment.

About the year 1878, leading Catholics of Jaffna led the agitation for higher education. This resulted in Bishop Bonjean, amalgamating the Preparatory Ecclesiastical Seminary and the Jaffna Boys Seminary under the name St. Patrick’s College in November 1880, and applying to the Department of Public Instruction for its registration, as a complete High School under the Revised Code. The registration was granted without any difficulty, as the school had the necessary, qualified staff.

The Butterfly

The College was christened under its present name of St. Patrick’s College and formally inaugurated on the 10th of January, 1881, by Bishop Bonjean. Rev. Fr. J.R. Smythe, an erstwhile member of the Ceylon Civil Service, was appointed principal of the College.

From this point onwards, the College started developing by leaps and bounds in all fields. The College library was opened in 1884. Shorthand and book keeping courses were begun in 1889.

Surveying and Levelling, Architectural and Mechanical Drawing and Typewriting were introduced as early as 1901. The year 1911 saw the College becoming the proud owner of a fully equipped Science Laboratory. Powerhouse and workshop was established in 1913.

A new chemistry laboratory was built in 1914. The College Chapel was built and blessed in 1930. The new physics laboratory was completed in 1931. A New Hall and the New Library were opened in 1935.

Since St. Patrick’s was excelling in education and sports, pupils flocked from all over the island. This demand necessitated the expansion of the College. Hence, foundations for the Greater St. Patrick’s were laid in 1913.

When the results of the 1921 London Matriculation Examination were released the next year, St. Patrick’s secured not only

The statue of Our Lady of
Patricians erected in 1925.

 best results of all the Colleges in Ceylon, but of all Colleges in the Colonies and Dominions.

We were on top of the world in education when we came out first in the Empire in Matriculation results for the third successive year in 1932.

Still being the leading College in Ceylon heading the Overseas list. St. Patrick’s became first in Ceylon for the sixth consecutive year in the Matriculation Results in 1935. St Patrick’s once again headed the overseas list in the Matriculation Results in 1937.

It was not all work and no play in St. Patrick’s. In 1911, we won the Lawyers’ Shield for cricket for the third time. The Patrician Cadets secured for the first time for Jaffna the envied title of All Ceylon Cadet Champions in 1925. Basketball and boxing were introduced to St. Patrick’s in 1927 and 1929 respectively.

The College Junior Cadets brought to Jaffna for the first time the Physical Training Challenge Shield and the Best Commander’s Cup in 1934. The Triple Championship in Cricket, Soccer, and Athletics was won for the fifth year in secession in 1940.

And St. Patrick’s won the Inter-Collegiate Athletic Championship for the tenth consecutive year in 1943. In 1958 at the Ceylon Public Schools Athletic Meet, we won the V.M.D. de Silva Challenge Cup for the first time in the history of Jaffna.

Patricians did another first by bringing the Tarbart Challenge Cup for Outstations for the first time to the North in 1959. Our Tennis Squad won the O.L.F. Seneviratne Cup for the best Outstation School Juniors, for the first time in the history of Tennis in Jaffna in 1966.

St. Patrick’s stood proud when Cambridge University in 1939 honoured a Patrican, Prof. A.W. Mailvaganam, conferring the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, for the discovery of a certain type of inter-atomic collision process.

The Matthews Block, which is portrayed, in the stamp issued by the Government of Ceylon to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the College, was declared open, on the 12th of April, 1950 by the Hon. Dudley Senanayake, as part of the Centenary Celebrations of the College.

With a Midas touch, by the middle of the 20th century, St. Patrick’s College reached its zenith in whatever activity it undertook. This together with the strict code of discipline made all parents, immaterial of race or religion, wish to send their children to St. Patrick’s to study, play and work together as one happy and peaceful family.

The introduction of the conscience clause, by which no one other than Catholics were allowed to be present at religious instructions, except at the request of their parents made the College non-sectarian.

St. Patrick’s had a vision for the times and laid the foundation for the education of thousands of youngsters of all races and religions who later became the leaders and backbone of the country.

The long list of persons honoured each year on Prizegiving days shows clearly how many old Patricians are involved in shaping the administrative, political, intellectual, health, cultural and economic life of the people of this country.

Despite the tension, turmoil, displacement, destruction and death during the last couple of decades St. Patrick’s, unyielding like the native Palmryah, maintains its high standards in education, sports, and discipline.

This many not be comparable to that of the golden period of the twenties to the sixties. This reality hurts like fire. But like the Phoenix that rose form its ashes, the College will rise, with a new lease of life and youthfulness.

The silent pillars of the upper school quadrangle, the serenity of the college chapel, the tranquillity of Mathuram square, the ever-vibrant football field and the majestic view of the Matthews block rising above the horizon of the plains and the lagoon proudly proclaim the past, present and the future of St. Patrick’s - Patrician spirit glowing for ever.

St. Patrick’s College had been a Ruby in its chosen field. From early days the Ruby has been the jewel of jewel - the ratnaraj. Not attraction the filmy nacre of the ocean pearl, the glittering purity of the starry diamond, the cool richness of the alluring emerald or the crystal perfection of the blue sapphire has ever ravelled the crimson fire of the Regal Rubgy.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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