REV. ANTHONY MALAVIARACHCHI A man of God who was humane and michievous I remember vividly my first meeting with Fr. Anthony as a pre-novice way back in 1977, some 38 years ago. He was the regional superior of the Redemptorists in Sri Lanka at that time. It was just last August that Fr. Anthony celebrated [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka




A man of God who was humane and michievous

I remember vividly my first meeting with Fr. Anthony as a pre-novice way back in 1977, some 38 years ago. He was the regional superior of the Redemptorists in Sri Lanka at that time.

It was just last August that Fr. Anthony celebrated his 50th year of priesthood. As a Redemptorist priest, he has been a preacher, parish priest, teacher of theology to the seminarians both here in Kandy and in Bangalore, a formator for future Redemptorist priests, and simply a good Catholic priest for hundreds and thousands of lay people.

During those 50 years of his priestly life, there is no area in Sri Lanka that was not covered by his preaching ministry, either in retreat or parish mission or novena preachings.

It is no exaggeration to say that there may be no other priest in Sri Lanka who was so well-known among nuns or religious sisters mainly because of his preaching at retreats to them.

He was also a well-known preacher in parishes, well-known for his simplicity and unique style of using whatever language in preaching. He was a much sought after counsellor by the clergy, the religious and the laity.

He also served both as parish priest and assistant parish priest in our parish at Thimbirigasyaya for quite a number of years.

He was also a well-known teacher of dogmatic theology in the Kandy national seminary and at our Redemptorist Major Seminary in Bangalore.

I am proud to say that I have been one of his students in my theology studies in Bangalore, India. His teaching gave me not only a solid theological base but also a firm foundation for my own faith as a Catholic priest.

In all these ministries Fr. Anthony came out to me as a man of God and a man of the people.

His simple way of putting across profound theological and spiritual truths especially in his preaching, the unique parallels he used in teaching, clearly showed that he was a man in constant contact with God.

We who lived with him in the community knew very well how faithful he was at his prayers. In a way, he could be called a strict ascetic which made him first of all strict with himself.

And in his over-enthusiasm, at times, he tried to demand the same strict asceticism from his fellow Redemptorists, too. It was this characteristic in him as a man of God that led to him getting invited for many a religious retreat, especially of the nuns.

It was the same characteristic of his that made even almost all Sri Lankan bishops respect him and his views.

Fr. Anthony while being a man of God was also very humane. He had a streak of being mischievous even till the end of his life. His own seminary colleagues still recall what sort of a ‘rascal’ he had been in the seminary.

He was fun-loving, and behaved at times almost like a little child. You never knew when you would be an unsuspecting victim of his pranks.

But most of all, he was a decent gentleman. One could always rely on him. I have never seen him being rude to anyone though he could be quite firm even to the extent of being stubborn, on what he believed to be right.

On a personal note, I simply cannot but mention how he always stood for what he thought to be the right thing, especially at a time when I as the Regional Superior, and the Redemptorist Congregation in Sri Lanka itself had a few hiccups a few years ago.

If there is one thing for which he would be remembered for a long time to come, that is his simplicity. At times such simplicity reached ridiculous proportions.

Once I saw him crossing the floor of an airport with an old suitcase which did not have even proper locks; he had it tied instead with a rope.

And often, during our Redemptorist parish missions (which last for weeks), I have seen him coming with a plastic bag that contained the bare essentials.

Until he was confined to a wheelchair, he travelled by public transport even when he was quite feeble, against the advice of doctors and superiors. Such was his simplicity.

His realistic spirituality came alive more than ever while he was confined to a wheelchair with a life-encompassing disease during the last few years of his life.

The immense patience with which he bore all the pain both physical and psychological, and the ability with which he could make a humorous comment even being in such a state, are clear testimonies to his inner peace and joy which have to surely spring forth only from a deep spirituality.

Last but not least, he loved nature and its innocent pleasures.Often, even while in his wheelchair with immense pain of body and mind, he would listen carefully to the bird calls that abound at the ever-green Sancta Maria.

Knowing well that my hobby was bird-watching, whenever he happened to hear a strange bird call, he would inquire from me as to what that bird could be. Only a man with a deep spiritual life could forget about one’s pains and aches and do such a thing.

With his death, his dear family has lost a loving brother and devoted ‘swami uncle’, the Sri Lankan Church has lost a priest who was a living witness to what he preached, the Redemptorist congregation has lost a loyal and formidable pillar, we in the community at Sancta Maria have lost a companion and confrere, and I have lost not just a confrere but a teacher, friend, and someone who stood loyally by me and our congregation when we had difficult moments in our history.

May God grant you eternal rest. Amen.

- Fr. Vimal Tirimanna

Walter Gunawardena

He served the poor silently and with dedication

Lion Walter’s unexpected demise came as an unbearable shock to all of us. It was only a few days ago that he delivered the Vote of Thanks at our October meeting.

It was a welcome change from the mundane and I told him so and thanked him. The last project he organised was a unique and memorable one.

On October 1, to commemorate World Children’s Day and Elder’s Day he arranged to bring the students and staff from Vidyatillaka Vidyalaya,Thimbirisgsayaya and the elders from Lankadara Home, Wellawatte to the BMICH for the screening of the film ‘Siddharatha’.

The icing on the cake was the presence of Gagan Malik the star of the film. The children and elders enjoyed meeting and talking, and posing for photographs with Gagan Malik.

Walter was the most senior member of our club, having joined the Lions Club of Kandy in the late 60s and later transferring to the Lions Club of Maharagama.

I recall attending a meeting at his residence at Rowland’s Maharagama. What a feast Mitabi and he had arranged for us!
He left Lionism to work in West Asia.

When I heard that he had returned to Sri Lanka for good, I made a bee line to invite him to join our Club, the Lions Club of Havelock Town, which he did in 2004.

What assets his wife Mitabi and he have been to our Club? Ever since, they have played a lead role in almost everything the Club did.

Walter in his enthusiasm and dedication served as President for three terms and had a stint as Zone Chairman as well. He wanted Mitabi to get fully involved in the affairs of the Club and made her a full member in 2007.

Fulfilling Lion Walter’s aspirations she too served our Club as President and Zone Chairperson. Leadership was an inborn trait in the Gunawardena family.

Walter’s contribution to our Club is immense and too difficult to quantify. However his burning desire was to provide education to the underprivileged.

Our continuous assistance to the Vidyatillaka Vidyalaya provided him an ideal platform. He channelled funds from various sources to the school, including a handsome donation from the proceeds of his talented daughter Surekha’s dance shows.

The children in the school had no place for their music lessons. In fact their class was under the staircase, a far cry from a decent environment. Lion Walter built a ‘Music Room’ for them.

The broken dance floor was repaired and levelled. Dengue was prevalent in the Colombo district and school children were easy prey.

Walter got the trees cut, stagnant water drained out and the toilets upgraded with separate toilets for girls and boys.
One day when I visited the school I saw a bunch of young men and women busy cleaning and painting the desks and chairs.

The Principal told me that they were from Walter’s office. Silent service was one of his noble traits. In fulfilment of his education for underprivileged he set up a ‘Computer Lab’ for the school.

The many Lions, the principal, staff and students who paid their last respects were a testimony to the noble service rendered by Walter ably supported by Mitabi.

The void created by the demise of Walter could never be filled in the manner he did things; identifying felt needs, meticulous planning, perseverance, motivating others and achieving his goals at any personal cost, The Lions in general and the Lions Club of Havelock Town in particular has lost a colossus.

We will miss him dearly. To Mitabi and the family we express our heartfelt sorrow. Lion Walter may your journey through samsara be short.

- Lion Neil Seneviratne

Charles De Silva

Simple with the virtue of honesty, he was loved by all

If Charles de Silva was living, he would have celebrated his hundredth birth anniversary, this year. But he left us at the age of 93, dying peacefully while sleeping.

As in life, he did not want to inconvenience anyone even in his death. He was a man of virtue. He was a gentleman in the true sense of the word. He was loved by everyone who came into contact with him. He was a model of self-discipline. He was and is my father.

He had his education at Berrewaerts College, Amptiya, which was a school of repute in the hill country, founded by the well-known educationist Rev. Fr. Augustine Berrewaerts.

Later, he moved further uphill to the Nuwara Eliya district for his employment. He dealt with accounts and was in charge of salaries of all employees in the establishment that he was working for.

If those who worked with him were asked to name one virtue that he demonstrated, it would certainly have been honesty. He was a symbol of honesty and he lived in such a way so that the others too were automatically encouraged to cultivate and experience the value of honesty. It is said that an honest person is the noblest work of God.

He had disciplined habits and was deeply religious. After work, he always took time to play with us, his children, and thereafter pray as a family.

He was an extraordinary story-teller and he used this talent to teach us to develop religious beliefs and ethical values. Perhaps it was this upbringing that facilitated the eldest child of the family entering into monastic life dedicated to prayer and charitable work.

It is such a happy coincidence that she will also be celebrating fifty years of monastic life, this year. He understood the value that education plays in the formation of the character of a human being.

He, along with his wife, my mother, whose demise took place three years before him, took great pains to provide a sound education for the four children and later even the grand-children.

He was a simple man with austere tastes. His greatest happiness was to be surrounded by his children and their families. He loved laughter and had the innate ability to make other people happy.

He enjoyed walking rather than being driven in a vehicle until his physical condition compelled him to limit his movement.

After his retirement, he spent more time in prayer and meditation. Knowing his prowess with account keeping and traits such as honesty and integrity, the Bishop of Kandy asked him to be in charge of the accounts of the Diocesan Centre, which he continued to do with dedication even after reaching the age of 80 years.

- R.N.A. de Silva

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