I have great pleasure in welcoming you to the golden jubilee celebrations of Rev. Father Vernon Saturninus Panteleon Regis, who was born in Dehiwela and named Vernon because Monsignor Vernon Johnson, the Anglican Priest who became a Catholic, was passing through Ceylon at that time. Born on July 27, 1936, his father was John Francis Regis of Diyalagoda, Maggona and his mother, Lucy Fernando of Payagala. At the age of five, Rev. Fr. Vernon was boarded at Franciscan Convent of Our Lady of Victories. He spent only two years there and went on to St. Sebastian’s College at the age of 7. Rev. Fr. Vernon was an avid cricket fan and had the distinction of captaining both the Under-14 and Under-16 teams. He played for the Combined Schools team against the Tamil Union Club and had a top score of 64 runs out of 76. When he played against Zahira College, he missed his century because he was 99 not out.
His father was keen that he should join a Jesuit School. So in 1955, he joined St. Aloysius College, Galle. In two and a half years, he captained the soccer team and scored a goal from the centre line against Mahinda College. He was made Captain of Cooreman House. Although he was elected captain of the cricket team, he declined as he was awaiting his visa for India to join the Jesuit Novitiate in Kohikode. Eventually, he ended up playing cricket for the whole season as his visa came only in July and to his great joy scored a century for St. Aloysius against Richmond College.
On his retirement, a family known to him for many years kindly gave him a plot of land in their compound to build himself a small, one-bedroom house
In August 1957, he joined the Jesuit Novitiate in Kohikode, Calicut in the State of Kerala and stayed there for two years. From there, he proceeded to Bangalore, in the State of Karnataka, for his juniorate studies for a further period of two years. He began his philosophical studies in Shembaganur at the Sacred Heart College in the State of Madras. However, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts back in Ceylon and did his regency in Galle and Batticaloa. Having completed two years there, he left for Pune in the State of Maharashtra. After four years at the Papal Athenaeum, he obtained his Bachelor of Theology; after which he was ordained at this very Cathedral on March 25, 1969, by His Lordship Dr. Anthony de Saram.
Back in Ceylon, his dreams were dashed to pieces when he found St. Aloysius College had been handed over to the government. However, he stayed in Galle and worked with the youth at the Catholic Schools Federation. He moved on to Lewella in Kandy to begin his work as a retreat master and conducted many retreats for the sisters of various congregations, including a lot of girls’ schools. In 1984, he was made chaplain of De Mazenod College, Kandana. He readily made himself available to coach the cricket teams and had the distinction of leading the school’s Under-14 into the finals where they fell short of just one run to capture the championship in the all-island trophy.
After his stay at De Mazenod, he was sent to Canada for a refresher course. While he was there, however, Rev. Fr. Vernon spent some time deliberating whether to remain a Jesuit or not. When he came back to Sri Lanka, he finally asked for a Leave of Absence from religious life. However, in 1990, he returned to Canada and was accepted by the Bishop of Calgary Diocese in the Province of Alberta. Subsequently, the Bishop of the Edmonton Diocese accepted him as a fully-fledged diocesan priest. Rev. Fr. Vernon served the Diocese of Edmonton for 23 years and in 2012, he retired and came back to Sri Lanka as a retired priest.
On his retirement, a family known to him for many years kindly gave him a plot of land in their compound to build himself a small, one-bedroom house. This is where our dear Rev. Fr. Vernon intends to end his days.
We all join in wishing you a pleasant and peaceful retirement dear Rev. Father. May the Good Lord bless and hold you always in the Palm of His Hand.