orn on April 20, 1934, Rev. Fr. Mervyn Fernando entered into eternal rest on December 20, 2017.
He was ordained as a priest on December 21, 1959 by His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Cooray at St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena and served in priesthood for 58 years.
He was not only a warm and loving human being but also an eminent scholar, award winner, an astronomer and a great lover of nature.
I first met Fr. Mervyn at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo 10, at a series of talks on child development arranged by the college. What Fr. was offering us was not just theory but a truly meaningful approach to understanding and handling the child, an approach that I adopted with each student in my class and which led to my being able to cultivate meaningful relationships with my students to the extent that many of them still continue to keep in touch with me even 35 years later. Such is the success of Father’s work.
I was then appointed student counsellor. However, before my appointment, I followed the counsellor training course first at Aquinas College and later at the Family Studies Services Institute which was based on building the person, leading into total well-being and self- awareness. Raising self-awareness or the task of discovering ‘Who I am’, was the base of Fr. Mervyn’s programme which led to a deep level of discovering and understanding oneself and one’s emotions leading to self-discovery and maturity. Upon completing my training I began working with A/L classes adopting his method of ‘heart listening’, listening and responding to my students with empathy. My experiences have gone into a handbook that can be used by any teacher even today who wishes to adopt his methodologies.The full six-day life education programme at Subodhi founded by Fr. Mervyn saw much success. Any student who followed the programme will tell you what it meant to them. The strong, challenging, deep, sessions brought out the best in them winding up with an encounter with their parents leading to tears of joy and happiness and an understanding of the ‘true love’ that their relationships were based on.
While all this was going on the country was struggling with racial and religious problems and working for inter-racial peace was central to his work. With the support of Save the Children, Norway, Subodhi, launched the Rainbow Children’s project in 1996 which brought the children of all races and religions together in a variety of activities across the country. It was Fr. Mervyn’s belief that for a true solution to be found hearts must be healed and mutual trust and goodwill cultivated amongst the communities.
An avid reader of books, I too have been lucky enough to sample some of his prized possessions from his large library which now stands empty as he has distributed to them to public libraries across the country so that all people of all communities can benefit.
A lover of people with no word of judgement or criticism for anyone, Father lived a life of 83 years guided by these words of our Lord,
‘May I reflect the glory of the Lord. Let Him shine through my face, my smile, my eyes, my words, my actions; transforming myself and others into his likeness. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)
His legacy will remain in his scholarly work but most significantly in the hearts and minds of those he has touched. May his soul rest in peace.
Rev. Fr. Mervyn Fernando was the founder of Family Studies Services and Subodhi Institutes of