On December 19, Rev. Fr. Benedict Joseph, the writer, TV, radio and print media personality, celebrates the Golden jubilee of his priesthood. On December 19, 1970 the late Thomas Cardinal Cooray ordained Fr. Benedict as a Priest of the Catholic Church at St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena. Since then he has served as a TV, radio, cinema and print media personality in Sri Lanka. At present he is working as a lecturer and consultant at the Aquinas University College in Colombo 8. He is a treasure trove of media experience and knowledge in overall social communications media, whether in print, radio, television or cinema. He is consulted by many media personalities in Sri Lanka as well as Asia.
During his long career as a media personality and a teacher he has served as the editor of Gnanartha Pradeepaya, the oldest Sinhala newspaper in Sri Lanka, the Director of the Catholic Press and the Social Communication Center (SCC) in Borella. At present many Catholic television and radio programmes are produced at the SCC. In his capacity as the media coordinator of the Catholic Church, he also organised the annual SIGNIS/OCIC Film Awards, and was directly responsible for the Catholic television and radio programmes over Rupavahini, ITN, SLBC and Radio Veritas (RV) Manila. He represented Sri Lanka at several Catholic international, worldwide media conferences.
During the eighties and the nineties, Fr. Benedict Joseph was a member of the Sinhala Dictionary Advisory Committee, Catholic-Christian Advisory Committee and Committee for the Ministry of Cultural airs, Tele-drama Script Committee and the Advertisement Inquiry Board of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. He was a panel member of the Program Previewers of the ITN and a member of the Sri Lanka Kala Mandalaya. He was the Chief Media Coordinator during the visit of the Holy Father, St. John Paul ll to Sri Lanka in 1995. Fr. Benedict produced a movie and a serialized tele-drama on the Life St. Joseph Vaz. He is the first person to produce a TV studio Mass in Sri Lanka and the person who introduced the bi-monthly TV programme “Supuwatha” which touched on current national and international events in the Catholic Church.
His first appointment after his ordination was as a teacher at St. Aloysius’ Minor Seminary in Borella
His first appointment after his ordination was as a teacher at St. Aloysius’ Minor Seminary in Borella. Thomas Cardinal Cooray had a policy to place his best priests in the seminaries, where the future priests are formed. Fr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando who was the Rector at the time and later succeeded Cardinal Cooray as the Archbishop of Colombo. Fr. Benedict also used his teaching experience in inculcating media principles to the seminarian’s at the National Seminary in Kandy and the students of Aquinas University College.
Besides his apostolate to media activities he also served as a pastor of three Churches in the Archdiocese of Colombo. He was appointed the parish priest of the All Saints, Church, Borella, in January 1995. From 2002 he was the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Church, Dehiwela, till he was appointed as the National Director of the Social Communications Center in 2008. In 2014 Fr. Benedict was transferred as the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Church, Eldeniya, Kadawatha. It was during his tenure that this parish (Eldeniya) was elevated to the level of a self-supporting parish of the Archdiocese of Colombo. He got his present appointment as a lecturer at Aquinas University College in June 2018.
He wrote book on the Church Social Media which is still used as a valuable handbook by the pupils of Communication Media. He also wrote two books appreciating the contributions made to the history of Christian hymns and songs composed and put to music by the late Fr. Marceline Jayakody OMI, the late Fr. Moses Perera and the late Music Maestro Sunil Santha. He compiled a souvenir commemorate the visit of Pope St. John Paul II in 1995 in Sinhala called “Eda Meda Tura.”
Fr. Benedict Joseph was born on the December 16, 1942 in the remote village of Tarala, Pugoda. He is the son of the late W.A. Don Thomas, an Ayurveda Physician and S.M. Dona Anna. His primary education was at the Holy Cross Catholic School, Tarala. He started his secondary school studies at St. Aloysius’ Seminary, Borella in January 1956.
Fr. Benedict remembers his former Rectors who were responsible for making him a priest and the personality that he is today. In the minor seminary of St. Aloysius, he had two illustrious Rectors who formed him, the late Fr. W.L.A. Don Peter and Fr. Frank Marcus Fernando, later Bishop of Chilaw. Frs. Fred Sackett, OMI, Dalston Forbes, OMI and James Cooke, OMI were the rectors of the National Seminary of our lady of Lanka, Ampitiya, Kandy, during his time of formation in this revered institution.
Fr. Benedict Joseph still remains a humble, helpful and unassuming priest in spite of his fame and all the national and international awards that he has won for the service he has rendered to the social communications media. He is a serene and tranquil person, kind and courteous to everyone who comesin contact with him.
He is ready to give a helping hand irrespective of the fact whether the person is rich or poor, Catholic or non-Catholic. He has served his Master, Christ Jesus and His people for fifty long years. Ad multos annos!
text: Francis Madiwela
pic: Jayadewa Mendis