|A Beacon Light |
“Bearing the cross with the crown in view” goes the final line of the College Anthem lustily sung by over 2000 students regularly, reflecting a philosophy of the 148 year old Catholic Educational institution – St. Benedict’s College.
Cradled under the shadow of the imposing dome of St. Lucia’s Cathedral of Colombo Archdiocese, the well laid rectangular buildings surrounding the vast quadrangle on three sides is literally metaphorically situated on a hill – top, like a light house.
Down the Corridors of Time
In 1863 the cornerstone of St. Benedict’s College was laid by His Lordship the Rt. Rev. Charles Hyaciatus Valerga, the Administrator of Colombo Archdiocese. The building planned by Sylvestro – Benedictine Monks, in the style of an Italian Benedictine monastery was completed in 1865, signaling the birth year of the College. During the end of the first year there were 368 boys, 170 girls and four teachers.
La Sallian Entry
La Sallian entry on January 16, 1867, with Brother Hidulphus, with two other De La Salle Brothers took charge of the school. Since then De La Salle Brothers have not only managed this school, but also assumed management of several colleges in different parts of the Island. Heading St. Benedict’s were Brothers from France, England, Ireland, USA, Sri Lanka and other countries.
Within fifty years St. Benedict’s College, emerged as a premier institute of excellence, producing outstanding academic results. Peter A. Pillai – who later became a priest, topped the list in the London Matriculation Examinations in the entire British Empire. Sir Thomas de Sampayo became the first Ceylonese Chief Justice. Sir Marcus Fernando the first physician to obtain a MD winning the gold medal. The string of firsts included Orthopedic Surgery, Bacteriology, Tropical Medicine, Physics, Agriculture, Journalism, Accountancy, Commerce, Film and Music.
The first Sri Lankan Bishop was old Benedictine, Rt. Rev. Dr. Bede Beckmeyer OSB and so was Rt. Rev. Dr. Tiburtius Roche, India’s first Latin Rite Bishop. St. Benedict’s not only produced several Priests, Brothers and Bishops but also some illustrious Buddhist monks including the globally renowned Rev. Narada Thero.
A radically deviant State education policy in the early sixties saw the Catholic Schools in the country taking a direct hit. Hundreds of parish schools were taken over in a swift move. A few Catholic Schools opted to go private. Denied government grants to cover teacher salaries and prevented from levying schools fees these schools faces Herculean challenges, even merely to survive, let alone maintain high standards. St. Benedict’s College was o n such institution. The story of it’s survival is all the more legendary considering that a substantial number of students came from less affluent families. The situation was partially reversed two decades later when the government restored grants, partially. Yet the impact of the hard times till lingers on.
Renewal and Revival
A process of renewal and revival has been set in motion since mid 1980’s. With the help of the La Sallian Community as well as the teaching and administrative staff, past students and other bodies, efforts are underway to develop the quality of teaching, training and molding to achieve excellence.
Academics, sports, extra curricular activities, spiritual and psychological formation are already bearing fruit. Moreover, several infrastructure development programmes are now in full swing. Starting from 3 story building for the senior section in 1990, followed by a 4 story edifice for the primary school in 1999 and another 5 story building for the senior school in 2003. A massive playground upgrading project has also commenced. Indeed structural expansion has become an important item in the development plan of the college.
Spiritual Growth and Religious Pluralism
Sri Lanka has a 3000 year religious tradition further strengthened by the arrival of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. In such a spiritual environment, it is not strange that St. Benedict’s College possesses the motto “Religio, Mores, Cultura”.
Christian worship takes pride of place with daily prayer sessions, Holy Mass every First Friday with the preparation for first Holy Communion and Confirmation Services taking place annually.
Being situated with the Cathedral Square, the students take a leading role in all the liturgical services of the Cathedral. Several pious associations including the Legion of Mary, Vincent de Paul Society (to help the poor), Student Christian Movement are thriving.
But what is unique is that the spiritual growth of students of other religions too are cultivated to ensure the enhancement of common spiritual values and morals. Ultimately the entire focus of teaching and training at St. Benedict’s College is geared to enable students to become, as in the words of the College anthem:
”true to our God and true to all men “
| First Holy Communion
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