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75 years of a true Victor of Christ

Fr. Victor Silva

18 March 2023 01:08 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The picture shows the author of this article Avishka Mario Senewiratne (second from left) speaking to Fr. Victor Silva who served as the 11th Rector of St. Joseph’s College Colombo


“Life is like a box of chocolates,” said a wise man. He further went on to say “you never know what you’ll get”. When it comes to my dearest priest-friend, all those who associate with him can ably claim the fact that they would know him after speaking or listening to him for a few moments. His charming demeanour coupled with his open mind and astute sense of humour has made him one of a kind. I do not wish to bore the readers with a strong historical record on this priest, whom I personally admire. Instead, I wish to bring out his role as an apostle of Christ in his sojourn of three scores and fifteen years. Truly, he is one of those who refused to shine; yet did in the firmament of presbyters of this Island nation.

I first came to know Fr. Victor Silva some twenty years ago in 2003, when he served as the 11th Rector of St. Joseph’s College. It was at that time that my parents decided to enrol me at St. Joseph’s. Fr. Victor admitted me with no hesitation. I was not ‘big’ enough to know Fr. Victor then. However, I did come to know that he was loved by all, teachers and students alike. He was an administrator par excellence who would call a spade a spade and yet not fail to be kind and open to all those who came to him. I remember this popular Rector had a sudden yet memorable farewell in College in 2005. I did not see Fr. Victor for nearly a decade after his exit from College. I learnt that he was in the United States for some years and then in a Parish and Seminary. He did later visit College for special events and feasts. However, it was only in 2017 that I met him well enough to know him. The occasion was the College Prize Giving and I was to receive a couple of prizes. By this time, he was the Director of Subodhi Institute of Integral Learning and I was an Assistant Head Prefect of the College. 

The administrators of the College decided that the students fresh from their O/Ls, ready to face the fire of A/Ls, needed a place to retreat to. Subodhi was decided as a fine solution for this endeavour. Four classes of students in the Science stream had to go to Subodhi to stay for three days. The burden or the blessing of being the SOLE prefect to supervise 100+ boys for the three days and three nights fell on me. Fr. Victor was furious to know the College had let me handle this task all alone. Struggling to silence them when silence was in need and keeping order and discipline from the retreats or the long food lines of boys asking ‘we want more’, was a good spiritual, mental and physical exercise for me. Over the process, Fr. Victor and I clicked well. We realised that we had quite a few common interests and shared the same opinion from mundane to controversial topics of discussion. We kept in touch over the phone at least every fortnight. Unlike many of his generation who fail to get on well with the younger crowds today, Fr. Victor knew the art of winning their hearts. His people skills were his forte. He was a great strength to me when I underwent a difficult period striving to publish my maiden book based on the history of St. Joseph’s College. Though I was a victim of clericalism, presbyters like Fr. Victor gave me hope. He would go on say “Don’t stop what you started. I will back you”. 

During his day as a young seminarian, I am told through his contemporaries that he was a brilliant student who was good in both his academics as well as sports, basketball in particular. The late Fr. Kenneth Perera played a major influence on his life as a seminarian and then as a priest. Ordained in 1976 by the late Cardinal Thomas Cooray OMI, he was brilliant in his ministry as an Assistant Parish Priest and then later a formator at St. Aloysius’ Minor Seminary. He won the hearts of the people whom he met in these missions for he made all of them feel ‘important’. 

Apart from his routine mission for the Church, he realised his zest and talent in music. One was the pre-eminent legendary, Fr. Marcelline Jayakody OMI. Fr. Victor would often visit him and pick his brains on composing and writing Sinhala hymns. I must say as a lyricist Fr. Victor has kept a very low profile. Through his hymns such as Aethin Asena and Pottupottu mal pohottu remain very popular to date, not many know that it was he who wrote them several decades ago. 

He was a firm Rector, who knew how to get things done albeit, never failing to stand his ground. 


He was an administrator par excellence who would call a spade a spade and yet not fail to be kind

Now Fr. Victor has passed his 75th year on Earth: A truly remarkable life, which he has lived to the fullest. Many seek retirement at this age, but Fr. Victor still has plenty of gas in his tank. His brilliant apostolate in Subodhi bringing young men and women together, renewing their mission, the counselling is a noteworthy endeavour.

While I wish him a blessed 75th Birthday, I hope the Lord keeps this stalwart priest, healthy and vibrant, for he has more to do for the people of this county. May many men and women emulate him and be ‘Victors’ of Christ. Ad Multos Annos!

(Avishka Mario Senewiratne is an Old Boy of St. Joseph’s College. Being a historian, his major works are Till the Mountains Disappear and Fruits of Virtue)

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