|Saturday, 19 January 2002|
Amiable and remarkable Bishop Deogupillai
by a Special Correspondent
It was ten years ago that the Diocese of Jaffna joyously celebrated the Triple Jubilee of His Lordship B. Deogupillai, observing the 75th year of his birth, 50th year of Priesthood and the 25th year of his Episcopate, thus ending a golden era of his active Pastorship in the Church of the North and East.
We recall the manner in which His Lordship took residence at St. Martin's Seminary his Alma Mater spending his last ten years in the midst of the Seminarians.
During his early years he spent much time reading and writing and also teaching English to the Seminarians. His presence there had been an inspiration and greatly beneficial to the Seminarians in many ways. His health has been gradually declining and presently he is mostly confined to his bed. He is enriching the Church through his bed of pain and physical sufferings that have become his daily offering to the Crucified Lord.
As we gratefully recall his priestly life and Pastoral accomplishments, we quote from the felicitations sent by His Holiness Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his retirement; "We will be personally present in heart and soul when you commemorate your happy anniversaries applauding harmoniously and as it were putting together the congratulation of all that bear witness to the many years you have spent, fostering the ecclesial community having therein lasting monuments of your labours.
We cannot in fact forget that you are an outstanding one in the midst of the people whom you governed wisely and learnedly as a devout Guardian.
It is not possible to enumerate the many facets of the life and work of Bishop Deogupillai as we cannot do justice to all his accomplishments and achievements. He inherited his love for the Tamil Language and especially for the folklore of Catholic Literature, Ammanais and Nadagams. etc. and developed and fostered these to grow unhampered, encouraging all works of this nature. His contributions in these fields have been well recognized at the National level.
His performance as student at St. Patrick's and later at the Propaganda College in Rome gained him rare distinction and recognition as one of the most brilliant students of his time.
He served with distinction mostly in the field of education in the diocese as Principal of Sacred Heart College, Karavoddy, St. Josehp's Anuradhapura. St. Henry's Ilavalai and St. Joseph's Teacher's Training College Colombagam, Jaffna. While serving as the Parish Priest of St. Anne's Ilavalai as well as the District Dean, he was nominated Auxiliary Bishop of Trinco/Batty to H.L. Bishop Ignetius Glenni S.J. Having Served in Trinco/Batticaloa Diocese for five years he took the reins of the diocese of Jaffna on the January 9 1973 as the First Diocesan Bishop of Jaffna.
During the period as Chief shepherd there has been remarkable growth of the Church of the North in many fields. It was to his credit that the Diocese of Mannar became a reality and the Vicariate of Anuradhapura was created to be Diocese.
He was indeed happy to see the new Diocese blossoming into full fledged vineyards under the shepherding of H.L. Bishop Tom Savundaranayagam and Bishop Joy Gunawardene respectively. The second decade of his twenty years as Bishop of Jaffna he faced the painful and tribulant years in many ways. He braved this period with extraordinary courage, wisdom and tenacity.
He founded the St. Francis Xavier's Major Seminary out of dire necessity that arose from the ethnic conflict in the country, to safeguard the interest of the Church in the North.
It was begun under trying conditions and strong opposition from many others. Thank God it proved to be a correct and timely step taken in the right direction by him. Now it has grown and developed into a well established Major Seminary comparable to any such Institutions.
He was thus able to promote the growth of the Diocesan Clergy nearly fulfilling the needs of the diocese.
In order to encourage the Tamil Catholic writers and to reprint and re-edit ancient Catholic publications he founded the Tamil Catholic Literature Society, which is functioning meaningfully at present.
Those who know him well and have been close to him will attest to the Grand Old Gentleman that he is an amiable and remarkable personality and acclaim him as a leading light to the Northern Church. May the Lord Good bless him with peaceful retirement.
Meanwhile another triple Jubilee was celebrated this week in the Jaffna diocese, for his eighty-fifth birthday, sixty years as a priest and thirty-fifth years as Bishop.
Produced by Lake House