Silver Jubilee of Bishop of Badulla  Most Rev. J. Winston Fernando SSS

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Bishop of Badulla Winston Fernando is another pastoral hand dedicated to perpetuating the work of Christ, our High Priest. It is the 25th anniversary of the service rendered by Lakdiva in the most difficult position in the service of God, always reminding its priests of the importance of the Christian faith and giving great strength to the religious community.

 Rev. Winston Fernando, served under the visionary guidance of Most Rev. Edmund Fernando, the late Bishop of Badulla, was ordained as the new Bishop of Badulla on 2 April 1997 and on 14 June 1997, he was ordained as the third Bishop of the Diocese of Badulla.

 Winston was born on 16 January 1945, in the city of Moratuwa. He is the second eldest son of Joseph Victor Fernando and Colin Gertrude Fernando, from a devout Christian family at St. Sebastian’s Church. The family had five sons and one daughter. Winston was educated at St. Sebastian’s College and joined the choir of St. Joseph’s Church at Uyana, Moratuwa where he participated in church activities. His parents admitted the young student to the St. Aloysius Junior Seminaries in Colombo in 1961. At the Seminary, he was loved by his Teaching Staff as well as his fellow clergy students. He entered the Ampitiya National Seminary in 1968, where his perfection was in seeking and doing the will of God, and glory and honor followed him. Leaving the Seminary, he joined the editorial board of the newspaper on the ‘Day of Understanding’ at Kotte and also worked as a teacher at St. Thomas’ College.

 He was ordained a priest on 6 September 1975 at the Philip Neri’s Church, Colombo. He was also the first Sinhala priest of this sect who served with foreign priests. He served as the Parish Priest of St. Thomas’ Church, Matale from 1984 – 1990. It was the only church in the denomination which was under sectarian rule. He also served as the Convening Father of the Sect (1988 – 1989) and as the Regional Instructor of the Sect (1985 – 1988), the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

Serving in the Diocese of Badulla was a very challenging task and the Bishops actively engaged with the Diocesan Fathers in seeking the spiritual and social well-being of the Diocese by seeking various donations.

 Its purpose was to rebuild the lives of the scattered Christians. Accordingly, the number of churches in the diocese has increased to 21 and the number of priests in the diocese has increased to 35. Missionary, educational and biblical work was carried out with the focus on improving the religious life. Church development and Mission Houses for priests were also built and the convents of the nuns were renovated. All those designs were plans of the architectural abilities within him.

 The nursing home in Hali-Ela was converted into a new three-storey building, a large mansion that provided free care to any elderly person who had no one to turn to. An inactive hospital has been redeveloped and its provisions have been used to conduct medical camps once a month to improve the health of the people. As the teaching of Christianity was challenging for all the Catholic children in the diocese, the Sunday Schools were systematically activated every Sunday in all the churches. The cathedral provides care for Catholics scattered over a wide geographical area. For the spiritual needs of those people, the sacraments are given at the initiative of the priests to offer sacrifices in the church, and the necessary instructions and donations are made.

The Centre for Social, Economic and Community Development is active in many churches and assists in pre-school management. The Bishop has also launched a scholarship scheme from primary level to secondary level. Despite being a mountainous country, the bishops’ contribution extends to the national level as well. He is the National Director of the Catholic National Religious and Cultural Commission and is the current President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Badulla Diocese on 18 December 1972, apart from the Diocese of Kandy.

 But the challenges are many. Serving the Christian community, a minority in the upcountry, with a focus on religious harmony, has grown through interfaith friendships. May God grant us the power of the Holy Spirit to carry it forward, spiritually and socially to help the people affected by the current political crisis and poverty in the country. There is an urgent need to make arrangements for the future of the Christian people, especially those living in the plantation areas of the Diocese. The development of clergy calls for difficult religious services in such areas and the establishment and development of various sectarian services and the re-opening of the Moneragala Inactive Technology Institute should brighten the future of young children.

 Blessings of all citizens and religious people in religious coexistence are bestowed on the bishops, and in accordance with the motto “Let us unite by sharing with all,” The Bishop of Badulla Will provide spiritual guidance to all. We wish the Bishop good health and God’s blessings. Invite Jesus Christ!

By Chinthaka de Mel Moratuwa