[APPRECIATIONS - (03-06-2019)] | Daily News

[APPRECIATIONS - (03-06-2019)]

Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody

An unsung visionary

“I respect the temple because I respect the church.”

Gifted to mankind as one of the greatest lyricists, authors, composers, and musicians, owning many talents one could rarely possess; Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody was truly an unsung hero of the 21st century. Thorough scrutiny over this great maestro’s written pieces overwhelmed me with awe, considering his broadened vision of thought that was brought to life through pen and paper.

Musical compositions and thought-provoking harmonies among various religions and ethnicities, as well as the Rev. Father’s outgoing character that closely knit people from all walks of life into one family, are the many layers of this diamond.

We, as a country struggling to find peace, need to adopt the true form brotherhood that Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody illumined while being true to the symbolic representation of it that is depicted in our national flag. He infused traditional Sri Lankan identities and culture into the westernised Catholic Church brought to life on Sri Lankan soil by the Portuguese and directed it towards an architectural uplift through the Dutch.

Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody, widely known with the epithet of 'Priest in the Temple', bagged various awards such as the National State Literary Award and the Ramon Magsaysay Award in recognition of his exponential services to Sri Lanka's arts and culture. As we celebrate his 117th birth anniversary today, sharing a moment to appreciate and look back at the Rev. Farther's thoughts, are pivotal amidst the current unclear and unfathomable period of this country.

The timely requirement to Mother Lanka is the harmony among all religions and ethnicities. Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody was a soul who brought in that active harmony among the multi-religious and multi-ethnic communities. As a country that is recognised in the world as a place of paradise for people of all walks of life, Sri Lanka is a country that sheltered Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims. We always sang that we are Eka Mawakage Daruwo (the children of one mother) in our National Anthem, but the tides of the times are painful and excruciating with the acts of extremism led by certain religious entities that devoured hundreds of innocent lives.

Rev. Fr. Jayakody raised his pen back in the days where the Catholic Church was severely strict and obscure on Christians, which led their way towards peaceful harmony and brotherhood among other religions. Some critics wrote that, for the same reason, the Rev. Father was mostly kept outside the church community in order to minimise the impact caused by his influential words. However, little did they know that he was a diamond that could not be buried and kept; and for his writings, the people who looked after his needs and came to visit him for Christmas were mostly Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.

Being born to a family formed from the marital union between a Catholic and a Buddhist, the Rev. Father's allure for Buddhist doctrines and philosophies were anticipated. In his writings, he said, “The blood running in the body of a mother that turns to milk with love has no race or religion. It’s mankind that differentiated human beings as Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, etc, before all these religions formed in this world, we were all human beings—and we still are. The inability to perceive the truthful teachings of love being spread in every religion has blinded us as we are engulfed by our traditions, practices, and customs that we have legally owned to be ours.”

Rev. Fr. Jayakody wrote, “I respect the temple because I respect the church. A church is a holy place and so is a temple. At church, you meet the earth and the sky; it is so at the temple as well. God that speaks through the cassock can also speak through a monk's robe. Buddhism speaks about maitriya and Christianity about love and at times, I feel maitriya is deeper than love as even the animals in this world fall under it. The head that I bow at church also bows at temples.”

As a priest that inculcated unique Sri Lankan traditions and culture to the Catholic Church from proceedings to hymns, Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody played a pivotal role in building harmony, especially among the Catholics and Buddhists; and for his great work in the past—even during the recent turbulent times Sri Lankan Catholics had to face—it was mostly our fellow Buddhists brothers and sisters that stepped forward to help in all the ways possible.

Recalling myself to an incident amidst the Easter Sunday Attacks; one day, when I was taken over by fear while burning the midnight oil at my relatives’ funeral in Katuwapitiya, a person dropped in and said, “I am a Buddhist from Gampaha, but I have brought some rice packets for you all.”

It was nine in the night; never in my life have I witnessed such kindness.

“The Rev. Father's timely efforts to infuse Buddhist practices with the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has immensely supported in bridging the gap between these two religions, and for that matter, Buddhist monks from neighbouring temples were rushing towards the church ever since the Easter Sunday attacks to shower condolences and ensure my safety”, the Parish Priest of the Balangoda St. Joseph’s Church said.

For the same reason, Vesak lanterns were also lit at churches this time, showing the true pride of the cross and the dharmachakraya. The song 'Krishna' by the Colonial Cousins says that “Religion is the reason the world is breaking up into pieces,” to which no one could simply disagree. However, as Sri Lankans, we should admit that our true identity remains in the trait of diversity. People are propelled to fight because of our religious differences in order to satisfy political agendas of certain country leaders. Timely appropriate artworks by great personalities such as Rev. Fr. Jayakody are undermined, unprotected, and unpublished. The words of the past speak of the present.

Rev. Fr. Jayakody was an iconic personality that breathed life into the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka by infusing opulent Sinhala melodies into meaningful Sinhala literature. From his first hymn, Sapiri Sama, the immense contribution made to the Catholic Church as collections of hymns are still the melodies profoundly sung at churches today. These harmonies have moved the westernised Catholic Church towards inter-religious congruence and understanding. Adding a twist of literature to Sri Lanka’s Catholic newspaper Gnanartha Pradeepaya, Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody played a prudent role in uplifting the Catholic Church. Personal views rest on the platform that we Catholics, especially, are less literate about our forefathers of whom we have great arts and culture and hymns that illuminate divineness.

As a person born into poverty, the Rev. Father’s soft spot was always towards the needy communities in the country. He was one of the greatest of the clergy that associated the affluent lot but had his heart with the poor, reiterating the greatest advice by Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘If’: Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch...you’ll be a man, my son.

Sri Lankan Catholics today are experiencing a period of despair and trauma with the recent Easter Sunday attacks that disrupted the well-being of the nation. At this crucial time, reminiscence of thoughts by great visionaries and writers would light rays of hope in our hearts, to remain truthful to the teachings we live by as well as the dhamma we follow. A beautiful country with beautiful hearts should not let a limited group of extremists misuse and risk the lives of the innocent.

Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody envisioned a future for this motherland in which people of all religions and ethnicities shared the same meals and lived peacefully under one sky. Bearing in mind that the power of the people is greater than all what black money and political agendas could muster; as the Rev. Fr. envisioned, through our thoughts and actions, let us spread love and maitriya.

Bhagya Senanayaka


Charlette Wickramasinghe

She was true to herself

Charlette Wickramasinghe passed away peacefully on March 24. She was 99 years old at the time of her demise. As a mother, she led a very simple yet exemplary life and was admired by all those who knew her due who to her virtuous qualities. Charlette was very generous and decisive in all her dealings and was always true to herself.

As her husband predeceased her, the responsibility of bringing up their four sons rested on Charlette, and she worked hard and instilled qualities of leadership in them. Her efforts went not to waste as the eldest son; who was a student of Ananda College, Colombo; went on to become Chief Manager of the Bank of Ceylon (Merchant Tower branch).

The second son, a student of Thurstan College; as well as the third and fourth sons, who were students of Royal College; all went on to become Deputy Inspector Generals of Police. Charlette's sons loved her dearly and were always obedient to her. They always looked after their mother.

Charlette was always hospitable and she treated her relatives and neighbours with abundant cordiality. She was a prominent dayaka of the Dalada Watta Temple in Wadduwa and was always concerned with the improvement and development of it. Her virtuous qualities and cordiality will ever remain in the memory of all those who knew her.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, as well as ministers, members of Parliament, members of local bodies, police officers, as well as a large gathering of well-wishers and relatives, paid their last respects to her.

May she attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

R.L. Gurugamage


Nissanka Wijewardane

Man of integrity

"If there is to be peace on earth and goodwill toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations."

- Martin Luther King, JR.

The recent demise of Nissanka Wijewardane has brought us closer to thinking that death does become a part of the process which one has to go through. Men of the calibre of Nissanka Wijewardane belong to a fast-diminishing group often referred to as 'men of high ethic, decorum, and morality', and finding such an individual today is like looking for gold in a barren land.

Nissanka Wijewardane showed us what we all who know of him as a role model, whom we tried to emulate in word and deed. The legacy he left behind holds much more meaning today, especially at a time in our history when parents should take stock of which direction their children are heading in.

From the year 1948, when he annexed second place in the Ceylon Civil Service Exam, Wijewardane set his sights high at accomplishing his goals in life.

Hailing from a well-known family, he knew that education, family, and religion were the foremost principles to adhere to. In 1949, he joined Import Export Control as a Cadet under N.U. Jayawardane, who was a Controller. Later, he worked in other locations such as Trincomalee, Galle, and Kandy, as an administrative cadet.

He later served in different capacities such as the local government, the Public Service Commission, the Assistant Director of Immigration, Government Agent to Badulla and Kandy; and whilst at the Import Export Board, he was picked by then Governor General William Gopallawa as his Secretary, which he cherished much from 1967 to 1970. Buddhism was his main focus at the Governor's office in the 'Queen’s House', where bana was recited once a month.

Nissanka Wijewardane was also the Chairman of the Ran Weta (golden fence) committee who led a team to build the golden fence around the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura.

He retired from the then Ceylon Civil Service in 1972 and was recruited by the World Health Organisation (WHO). He was also the General Manager at Walkers Ltd. Later, from 1977 to 1984, he was the Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon.

In April, 1984 to December, 1987, President J.R. Jayawardena appointed him the Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, USA, and also Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Brazil whilst in the US.

Ambassador Wijewardane and his wife, Iranganee Madanayake, both from influential families, were mindful of the Sri Lankan community's activities in the Tri-State Area of New York. He and his wife attended most Sri Lanka Association of New York (SLANY) events and later, were awarded the Honorary Life Membership of the SLANY.

Also, the fact that they were both to be invited by Rotary International as chief guests when I was appointed the first Sri Lankan President of a Rotary Club in the US, brought him closer to the discipline of Rotary itself and, in his own inimitable way, he worked into the district hierarchy of Rotary's 'Gift of Life' movement.

This was my post-presidency period and, at a highly-attended conference, the then District Governor and Chairman of Gift of Life announced, "Ladies and gentleman, using his gentle persuasive diplomacy, Sri Lankan Ambassador Wijewardane was able to convince the GOL Board to bring to the US, Sri Lanka's first Gift of Life child for open-heart surgery here." This child was sent by the Matale Rotary Club and was the beginning of hundreds of Sri Lankan children later benefiting from this programme. The programme has now taken root in Sri Lanka itself since such surgery is done in SL today. This is indeed a monumental legacy to help future children live normal, healthy lives.

From the year 1989 to 1991, he was appointed Director-General of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) in Colombo.

On February 4, 1992, he was honoured with the Deshamanya title by the government. In February, 1995, he was appointed the Chairman of Janashakthi Insurance, a position he held for 10 years. Wijewardane passed away on May 9.

His illustrious career was attained not only through accomplishment and achievement, but also through religious fortitude as well. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.

Jay Liyanage, Chairman (Sri Lanka), Gift of Life International


Mangaladasa Jayasinghe

Irreplaceable friend

Mangaladasa Jayasinghe, known as Mangala among friends and relations

Milestone significant octogenarian past Biblical span sans complications

Amiable amigo reminiscences too much to recall down memory lane

Astounding memory power, accurate details ever ready, always sane

Needless mentioning negligence; in his realm, it is never heard

Nonsensical utterances missing in lexicon, unfailingly kept to his word

Received primary education at Devapathiraja MV, secondary at Mahinda College, Galle

Gallantly excelled in all activities beyond expectations of all

An indispensable, diligent member in the college debating society

Academic career in high esteem, risky ventures held responsibility

Longevity achieved 84 years; a brief ailing period, my brother-in-law

Lacuna created by your departure irreplaceable, recovery rather slow

Active youthful accountant attached to Police Department for 15 years

Anxiously joined private sector MD Mendis and Sons, served several years

Devout Buddhist parents with five girls, two boys, in Karaputugala,

A respectable family of which the youngest sibling was Mangala

With my sister, Science teacher Pearl, wedlock he happily entered

At Narammala Central, Isipathana, Yasodhara, Devi Balika; her dedicated service was rendered

Joyous union blessed with two daughters residing at Rukmalgama

Attached to General Hospital, Kandy; Dr. Yanusha; Manori, Bank Executive Officer, Maharagama

Year 'round busy, Dr. Aruna; Teaching Hospital Peradeniya; Lijith, a businessman in private sector

As pillars of strength, sons-in-law Aruna and Lijith always in good temper

Sterling qualities with penchant for charity proved his actual mettle

Involved in temple matters for decades silently, unhesitatingly, could settle

Never be tempered by whims of unkind, prolonged karma in Sansara

Kindhearted Mangala, may you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana

Heartfelt deepest sympathies I extend to all bereaved family members

Epitome of simplicity; your fragrance of togetherness, forgiveness, and faithfulness lingers

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon


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