St. Benedict’s College in Weerakoon gardens at Kandy, the “BABY” of Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus Perera OSB [former Conventual Prior of the Sylvestro Benedictines in Sri Lanka, now the Bishop of Ratnapura] as is popularly known, was conceived way back in 2005. On 25th May 2006, the Monks at the Conventual Chapter made a decision to make it become a reality.
Rev. Fr Cletus Perera together with a few educationists, directors of education and experienced teachers studied the pros and cons of founding a school and came to a conclusion that the above school would be born in January 2007 in the unoccupied buildings of the Marian Hill premises at Katugastota. The name St. Benedict’s was given because of St. Benedict being the founder of our Order. Fr Clement Gnanapragasam OSB was appointed to take up the mission of leading the school as the first principal of the College.
On 29 January 2007 the College was inaugurated with the Holy Mass and the blessing of the College. There after the first College assembly was held. Among the Priest Monks who were present at the inauguration were, Rev. Frs. Titus Rodrigo OSB, Araliya Jayasundara OSB, Michael Ekanayaka OSB, Soosai Nathan OSB, Gregory Leonidas OSB, Hilarion Fernando OSB and other Monks. On 31st January 2007, the school sessions began with the grade ones in parallel classes.
There were 60 students and five members in the staff. Organizing the curriculum, planning study sessions for the staff and other school programmes were the responsibilies of the Rector. In the first year, monthly religious days on first Fridays of the month, national New Year celebrations, sports meet, staff and student outings were held. As the years passed by all these became annual events. Staff meetings were regularly held in order to discuss the progress of the classes and also to plan for the future. Parents’ meetings were also held. There were guest speakers who were invited to enlighten the staff and the parents. The post of administrator or bursar was held by Rev. Frs. Prasad and Shansana at different stages. No doubt they were a great source of strength for our school. Of course their stay was short and others too came to fill the vacant place. As days passed by Religious Sisters and Brothers too joined the staff. Once again they too served for a short period as they were transferred by their respective Superiors. The only male member of the staff was Mr. Pradeep Gunathilaka, past student and sportsman of St. Sylvester’s in Kandy and a Kandyan dancer. A great transition took place as the founder of the College; Rev. Fr. Cletus Perera OSB was elected as the Bishop of the Diocese of Ranapura. The College was then handed over to his successor – Rev. Fr. Anselm Fonseka OSB. He did encourage us and visited as chief guest at the sports meet. Then Rev. Fr. Leonard Ranasinghe OSB was elected Conventual Prior. He appreciated the work that is being carried out and commissioned us to continue. Each year a class was added, there was a great demand for admission into the College. New teachers were recruited. Apart from the ordinary subjects all the religions were also taught.
During this time the Rector composed the lyrics and music of the College anthem and also got the College Logo attended to. The motto is “Love peace, Give Peace”; the College colours are Gold and double blue. All the students were obliged to wear the College badge. The College bag was done in keeping with the College colours. And later for the second year sports meet we had the College houses – Gold house, light blue house and dark blue house. Thanks to the members of the Staff for sharing the burdens of guiding the little tots to what they are today.
Many thought that the new school would have an untimely death or may fade away into disillusion. In the second year St. Benedict’s began to blossom, many talked about the School, they spoke of the studies, English and discipline. Not only in Kandy did they talk; but in towns, in many a big institution, the elite as well as the poor spoke and wanted to admit their children. The doors were open to all of them. Of course they were tested with an oral and written exam to know the eligibility of the student. School fees and other charges were very nominal compared to other international or even local Schools. The poor were not overlooked; and so long as they were qualified and could pay some amount to defray the expenses, they were given a chance. Besides the first batch of Staff there were others who were recruited by the Rector with the approval of the Superior. The College continued with its work from strength to strength.
The sports meets and the College days were celebrated in pomp and glory as this would be the last time that St. Benedict’s would celebrate in Katugastota. The Bishop of Kandy Rt. Rev Dr. Vianney Fernando was the chief celebrant. This his first visit to the College. He was mesmerized to see was the growth of the school as he had only got negative reports of the college from his reliable sources. In the meantime 11 parents started to protest the shifting of the school and went as far as taking the authorities of the college to courts. They wrote to all catholic denominations demanding for justice. The Bishop of Kandy, Bishop Cletus and Fr. Leonard were to appear in courts; but they made the Rector to do the mean job. The eleven parents were persisting that justice should be meted out and demanded compensation. The Rector also consulted the lawyers and continued in going to courts. At the end the parents could not face the financial situation demanded by their lawyers and wanted to call the case off
The new building for the College was almost complete in august 2011, in the environs of the Benedictine Fathers Monastery in Monte Fano and the School was shifted on 6th September 2011. It was blessed and declared open on 8th September 2011.
Rev. Fr. Clement Gnanapragasam OSB, the Rector of the College, stepped down as Rector and made way for a new person take over. As such the new Rector was Rev. Fr. Sylvester Jayakody OSB, the former Principal of Joseph Vaz College in Wennappuwa. He had retired from his services and offered himself to be the Rector of St. Benedict’s. On the 8th September Rev. Fr. Clement handed over the reins officially to Rev. Fr. Sylvester in the presence of the Conventual Prior.
From then on the new administrative body continued with the school mission. Rev. Fr. Prasad Fonseka OSB was appointed as the Administrator and Vice Rector. The surrounding of the School was changed. And a large play ground was made at a colossal amount for the students of the College. As times passed by Rev. Fr. Prasad Fonseka OSB left the College and his vacancy was filled by Rev. Fr. Shansana Wasara OSB. Many sports activities and celebrations took place.
In the year 2013 another transition took place. The Sylvestro-Benedictine Monks had their Conventual Elective Chapter at which Very Rev. Fr. Shamindra Jayawardene OSB was elected Prior Major. He made a few immediate changes in the Priory and one of the changes was to reinstate Rev. Fr. Clement Gnanapragasam OSB as the Rector of the College. The news no doubt made a change in the minds and hearts of everyone.
On the 6th of January 2014 Rev. Fr. Clement took over the leadership of being the Rector again while being the Director of the Junior Seminary in Katugastota. Fr. Shreen Lowe OSB was appointed as the vice Rector and the Registrar.
Hail St. Benedict’s …….