Monday, December 15, 2008

Rev. Dr. Joseph Vianney Fernando

Nation Snday Nov 30 3008

Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Vianney Fernando

His guidance and contributions are immense

His Lordship Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Kandy, celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his Episcopal Ordination on the 21st of May, 2008 at the Kandy Cathedral where he had spent ten years as the Vicar General and prior to that as a schoolboy at the adjacent premises of St. Sylvester’s College. The birth of St. Anthony’s College Kandy in 1854, took place at these very same premises and prospered for 74 years before moving to its present home at Katugastota.Many appreciations and tributes were written and published during and after the Episcopal Silver Jubilee highlighting the spiritual, intellectual and humane achievements of this wonderful servant of God, Bishop Vianney Fernando. This reflection however is to set down the huge role of influence His Lordship has had on the growth and sustenance of St. Anthony’s College Kandy and to express gratitude and appreciation of all Antonians, young and old.Initially it was as Vicar General for the Diocese of Kandy that the then Rev. Fr. Vianney Fernando began his association with St. Anthony’s College. Those were turbulent times when the then Bishop of Kandy was compelled to hand over the educational section of this institute to the Government. As this was a unique situation, it demanded extraordinary measures to be set in place for future governance, and Rev. Fr. Vianney Fernando had a role to play in structuring an administrative policy between the Government and Church. Nearly thirty years on, these policies are still in force resulting in St. Anthony’s College being the only Government Boys’ school that has continued to have a Catholic Priest as its Principal. It must also be said that even prior to his ordination as a priest, two very prominent Antonian personalities were the influential forces behind his chosen vocation. His mentor was Rev. Fr. Lawrence Hyde osb, the first Principal of St. Anthony’s College after the shift to Katugastota, who was also an Old Antonian. Then the great builder at the Katugastota premises, Rev. Fr. Theophane Wickramarathne osb, was responsible for sending him to the seminary to become a priest. The fact that he was consecrated Bishop at the grounds of St. Anthony’s College was a fitting tribute to these two very Revered Priests.After his Episcopal Ordination in 1983, Bishop Vianney, by virtue of his capacity as Bishop of Kandy, became the overall Church authority in the joint management of St. Anthony’s College with powers to appoint or remove the Principal in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. Dubbed the “Gentle Giant of Kandy”, he has built a solid base over the last twenty-five years for a satisfactory administrative process between all parties involved in running the school, commanding respect from all.The Old Boys’ Associations of College have found him to be their guiding-hand in all matters. The Colombo Branch of the OBA in particular, has worked very closely with His Lordship who is also the Patron of the Association. Despite his many commitments in Sri Lanka and abroad, he has always found the time to meet with delegates of the Association and give ear to their suggestions and proposals or even grievances and advice or support them accordingly. The OBA (Colombo Branch) has played a vital role in the development of infrastructure and facilities for the young Antonians, none of which would have been possible without the guidance and support of His Lordship, Bishop Vianney Fernando. In 2004, when the College celebrated its milestone of 150 years, he was a major source of encouragement to the Principal, staff, students and old boys, being involved from the inception in planning and setting out an appropriate programme of events and being present at all of them. His guidance and contributions were also great attributes in the successful production of the ‘Sesquicentennial Publication’ by the Colombo Branch.In appreciation of the major contributions he has made to the success of both our Association and our Alma Mater, the Colombo Branch of the OBA has arranged a ‘Thanksgiving Service’ to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of his Episcopal Ordination, at St. Theresa’s Church Thimbirigasyaya on December 1, at 6:30 p.m.

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