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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2679

Sri Lankan Educator and Patriot Father Flavin Wilathgamuwa dies

By Walter Jayawardhana

Reverend Father Flavian Wilathgamuwa (89), the legendary former Director of St. Benedict's College, Kotahena, a close friend of both Bandaranaike and Senanayaka families who ruled Sri Lanka and a person who played a leading role against the separatist movement of Sri Lanka by working hand in hand with the Buddhist clergy in the United States of America, passed away at St. Theresita Hospital on Duarte California, close friends announced.Reverend Father Flavian Wilathgamuwa ( Pix: courtesy Sunil Ranjith de Alwis)Reverend Father Flavian Wilathgamuwa ( Pix: courtesy Sunil Ranjith de Alwis)

"He passed away at 1 a.m. June 11 in the hospital adjacent to St. Therasita Home Care and Convalescent Center, where he lived for the last many years," said long time friend and caretaker Vicky Lopez speaking from Carson, California.

Sri Lankan activist Ananda Markalanda in Los Angeles said, "the death of Father Wilathgamuwa marks the end of an illustrious career of a great patriot who fearlessly fought against any separation of Sri Lanka." At a time some pro-separatist Sri Lankan priests were working for the Tamil Tigers, he fearlessly represented Sri Lanka and brought the matters to the Catholic hierarchy, he said.

Born on January 7 1919, Wilathgamuwage Don Maximus, was a son of a small village cultivator of Welivita. Maximus, came to Colombo clad in a coat and a sarong barefooted, accompanied by his father to join one of the biggest Catholic Colleges in the city. He was rejected for not being able pay the school fees of fifty Ruppes a month. Ironically, he became the Director of the same school, St. Benedict's College many years later.Reverend Father Flavian Wilathgamuwa  with Late Srimavo BandaranaikeReverend Father Flavian Wilathgamuwa with Late Srimavo Bandaranaike

Rejected by the then Director of St. Benedict's College, Rev. Brother Luke, brother of more famous Father Peterpillai, Maximus later learned free at the Vidyalankara Piriven at Peliyagoda. Later with the help of the parish priest of Welivita who collected some money for his expenses, he was admitted to the De La Salle College, Mutwal. From the school he transferred himself to be educated in the novitiate of the Del La Salle Brothers and became a teacher, ultimately finding his way to the St. Benedict's College, to become its Director.

Before becoming the Director of St.Benedict's College, he also taught at St. Bede's College Badulla, St. Anthony's College, Wattala, St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa and St. Anne's College, Kurunegala. He later became the Provincial leader of the teaching sect administering schools in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Burma.

He was the first educator to start the practice of singing the national anthem to start the day in a school, which he introduced in St. Benedict's College, which made some sections revolt against it by starting a boycott campaign of not paying the facilities fees of the school. So, to pay the salaries of the teachers, Brother Flavian then sought the help of some of his American friends.

He was the first one to invite a Buddhist monk to be the Chief Guest at a Catholic school function by inviting Dr.Walpola Rahula to be the Chief Guest at the Annual Prize Day at St. Benedict's College. He was the first Christian Brother (He was then Brother Flavian) to be included as a delegate in the Sri Lanka delegation at the United Nations in 1958. Later when he became a Claretian Priest, in the United States, he proceeded to Washington DC, to sit down and perform a Sathyagraha with a dozen Buddhist monks in front of the Indian Embassy, when the LTTE killed scores of Buddhist monks at Aranthalawa.

When he visited Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony accompanied by this writer (He was my teacher at St. Bede's College, Badulla) to complain about some pro-LTTE Catholic priest who was using church facilities to further the propaganda purposes of the terrorist group, he famously said, "I am a patriot of Sri Lanka. There is no conflict between loyalty to my country and loyalty to my church."

- Asian Tribune -

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