It was the pioneering effort of a visionary priest, then young and educated, who dreamed of an Institution to cater for the youth with holistic and value education – A centre for Integral Education – Subodhi.
Rev. Fr. Mervyn Fernando, of revered memory, who had returned from USA after his higher studies in Psychology and Counselling expressed his deep desire to His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Cooray, then Archbishop of Colombo, who assisted and encouraged him to realize his dream. He was also responsible in finding necessary funds through Church funding agencies such as “Missio and Missereor” in Germany. Fr. Mervyn along with Fr. Anslem de Croos, selected a piece of land along the scenic Bolgoda Lake, Piliyandala and built this “The Centre for Integral Education – Subodhi” in the year 1981. The marvelous blocks of buildings and landscaping were planned by the architect of international repute, Geoffrey Bawa, to accommodate the young for residential programmes which included two lecture rooms, a restaurant for meals, a playground and accommodation for around 100 persons in bedrooms and dormitories. Later an auditorium with a capacity for 350 people and a curved chapel were added to make it a full-fledged campus.
It was in April 1981, “Subodhi Institute of Integral Education” was inaugurated and blessed by His Grace Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando, then Archbishop of Colombo, who appreciated and supported the keenness and enthusiasm and the pioneering effort of Fr. Mervyn Fernando, the Founder and the Director of the Subodhi Institute.
The Mission of the Institute as formulated by the founder
- To provide programmes and services to young people, irrespective of creed, language and ethnicity.
- To assist the youngsters to grow into maturity and fullness of life and to become persons of high human and Christian stature.
- To train the youth to be true and committed leaders in the society, with social responsibility of serving others.
Since its inception, the main thrust at Subodhi Institute is in the two programmes that are conducted for residential groups of students and youth, namely, “Life Education” and “Leadership Training” for senior students and young adults which run for 3 days. The content for the “Life Education Programme” is on self-awareness, emotional maturity, love and relationships, sexuality and related issues, values and virtues, friendships and aim of life. It is a live-in programme. The Education for Life Programme embodying directly the principal objective of “Subodhi” has been its main stay over the years. From the feedbacks and evaluation reports we get from the participants, it is clear that it makes a deep impression on them resulting in broadening and widening their perspectives, making them deeply aware of their self and about the world around and making them to explore their talents and hidden skills and to bloom in life and to become the best version they could be in the society.
Leadership Training programme which is more for the school Prefects and Stewards and youth leaders in parish Daham Paasala, helps participants to become mature leaders. It lays stress on every person as a leader and to become a mature person. Leadership is more effective when it springs from within, within the qualities of mind, heart and the spirit of the leader. We introduce leadership topics such as different types of leadership and qualities of a good leader, problem solving and conflict resolving, the strength of teamwork with application and qualities of an inspired and mature leadership in the school, church and in the society. Both these programmes include meditations, talks, group dynamics and sharing sessions with the use of video clips and presentations. Group activities, games and sing songs, variety entertainment programmes, singing and dancing make these programmes come alive for youngsters. Very often these programmes for students conclude with the parents participating in a fruitful encounter with questions and challenges.
For School Staff and Sunday School Catechists
Christian leadership for school teachers and catechists is conducted by Subodhi staff and presents teaching, as a service and a noble duty. A teacher can play a vital role as a “guru” in our Asian culture, in the psycho-social development of the pupils, making formal education much more holistic and relevant to life. Many parishes send their “Daham Paasala” teachers and prefects for these training programmes.
To school principals and teachers
The 3-day Life Education Programme and the Leadership Programme provide your school and your students much needed value and holistic education not in a piecemeal way as already done by schools but in a “Live in” setting, with much participation and heavy involvement of student participants. These programmes certainly include inculcating of Christian and Human values and provide an opportunity to experience and share together their young lives and anxieties and fears, their hopes and expectations for the future. They are guided and prepared to become mature in life as they leave the schools and go into the society and to the world to meet challenges courageously.
Subodhi Youth Club
A main component of Subodhi Institute is a gathering of young boys and girls – “Subodhi Youth” – from the parishes around Moratuwa, who had previously taken part in one or the other programmes conducted by the Subodhi Institute. It was established by Fr. Mervyn around 35 years back and continues with ups and downs in numbers and activities. Today they are a well-motivated team around 40 young persons who meet twice a month or so, especially on every Poya Day for few hours. The sessions they conduct with sharing experiences help them to deepen their self-awareness of life and assist them to deepen their relationships, and also to understand their duties and responsibilities towards the society, especially to the needy, elders and orphans. Their year planner consists of talks on different contemporary issues, sharing sessions, a visit to an elders’ home and an orphanage as a charity project, an educational tour and a day out for relaxation. Annual Christmas and Vesak programmes are conducted with a charity project under the guidance and motivation of the priests in-charge. These programmes are well planned and meticulously implemented using and developing their God given skills and talents and make them mature leaders.
To Parish Priests and Assistants
Do you wish to provide the youth in your parish, an opportunity to grow in life and maturity, to meet together as young people and to take up social responsibilities in the parish level and in the parish community? Do the youngsters have a forum to meet with you as young leaders and help in different pastoral work and parish ministries? They can become the live wire in the parish and add more life and vigour to the parish family by engaging in useful and youthful activities. We have here at “Subodhi” animation programmes for youth and “Leadership Training programme” to help them to bloom in life, as leaders in the community.
Other Ministries and Institutions
“Subodhi” as a place for seminars and workshops, retreats and conferences, is ideally situated with a beautiful scenic environment in a large land area with many artistic buildings, trees, birds’ hills etc. adjoining the Bolgoda Lake. The facilities such as an auditorium, lecture halls with and without A/C, playground, restaurant, chapel, plantations of rubber, coconut and cinnamon are available. The institutions, companies, departments and NGOs are invited to sponsor and use of our facilities by conducting their own group sessions, or make use of our programmes.
Towards the Future
This year 2021 will be very special year for “Subodhi” for the simple reason that it completes 40 years of its vibrant existence and immeasurable service granted to the lives of people, especially the youth in the country.
Subodhi, is very grateful to all those who supported its existence and its work for the realization of the objectives one way or another, during these past 40 years. “Subodhi” needs the support of all, spiritual, moral and financial to strive even harder in the next decade leading up to its “Golden Jubilee”, in 10 more years to come.
Even as this article is being written, the country is going through the menace of Covid-19 in different forms, which has affected the life patterns of all walks of life and the economy of the country, much adversely. The schools and the whole of educational system in the country has taken a back step and almost at a standstill for a year. With the uncertainty that looms around, the health situation of students and teachers is also at a risk. In such a situation, “Subodhi” Institute of Integral Education brings a ray of hope, through its mission and services to help the kids to meet the present crisis situation and grow into maturity by developing their personalities in a holistic environment of education.
We look forward to a Sri Lanka of peace, justice and reconciliation. Sri Lanka’s tomorrow is the strength of the youth today. “Subodhi” provides the youth with that enthusiasm and the zeal to leap towards a new humanity in peace, unity and harmony.
May Subodhi – The Institute of Integral Education – continue to grow from strength to strength with God’s abundant blessings to keep up the tremendous task of rendering the services to the nation and to the Church and in particular to the youth in Sri Lanka.
Rev. Fr. Victor Silva