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The Founder of St. Benedict’s College, Kandy

Bishop CletusBishop Cletus was born in 6th September 1947 and had his early education at Dhavisamara Maha Vidyalaya in Seeduwa.Among his academic qualifications are a Bachelor’s degree in Theology from Rome, a Licentiate in Liturgy (Rome) from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Anselmo and a diploma in Philosophy.

Having entered St. Sylvester’s Monastery at Monte Fano in Kandy in January of 1964 he was ordained on August 4, 1973 by Rt. Rev. Paul Perera, Bishop of Kandy. Soon after, he was appointed Chaplain to Hospitals and Prisons in Kandy and was assistant pastor at Fatima church, Padiwatta, Kundasale. In 1976 he was made the assistant pastor at St. Anthony’s church, Wahakotte in the diocese of Kandy.

Fr. Cletus served as assistant pastor of Sacred Heart Church Rajagiriya, before becoming the parish priest and administrator at St. Anthony’s Shrine, Wahakotte in 1984. As the priest in charge of the Shrine of St. Anthony at Wahacotte, he proved his mettle as an able administrator as well as a caring shepherd while strictly adhering to the requirements of the OSB congregation to lead a pious life as a monk.

His Lordship Bishop Vianney Fernando appointed him the Vicar General of the Kandy Diocese in 1992 and from 1995 to 1998 he served as Parish Priest of St. Anthony’s Cathedral, Kandy. After functioning for 8 years as Vicar General he reverted to his much-preferred role of Parish Priest. He was the Parish Priest of Katugastota when the OSB congregation unanimously elected him their Conventual Prior in April 2002. He held this position, and served as General Manager of the Catholic private schools in Kandy until his elevation to the episcopate.

On May 4,2007, Pope Benedict XVI made the solemn announcement of appointing Fr.Cletus Chandrasiri Perera O.S.B., Prior of the Monastery of St. Sylvester in Kandy, Sri Lanka, as Bishop of Ratnapura. The appointment of Very Revd. Fr. Cletus Perera, the Conventual Prior of the Sylvestro Benedictine Congregation (OSB) as the 3rd Bishop of the Diocese of Ratnapura by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI was received with much joy by the Catholics of Sri Lanka. Fr. Cletus was installed as Bishop of Ratnapura at a simple ceremony on the 28th of July 2007 by Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Kandy.

Bishop Cletus is the third bishop of Ratnapura – Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith was the first, followed by Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony, Rt. Rev. Dr. Ivan Tilak Jayasundera who was to succeed him resigned due to ill health and Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus Perera OSB was chosen to fill the vacancy.

Simplicity & Humility

Knowing very well his unassuming disposition, I am sure he will feel quite embarrassed at the publicity given to these qualities.

Nevertheless, I will be failing in my duty if I do not do so, for, his simplicity, concern for others, and his deep piety are an example to all. In this regard I wish to highlight the following: Though he has held high office in his priestly life, he never lost the common touch. He was always available to the people at any time of the day. He was humble enough to acknowledge his limitations and seek the guidance and advice of professionals when acting in areas beyond his capabilities.

His sense of obedience and respect towards his superiors and his humility have been exemplary. This great quality was observed by many as recently as the 25th of April 2007 by the manner he very respectfully knelt and kissed the ring of Rt. Revd. Dr. Harold Perera (Bishop of Galle and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ratnapura) when His Lordship arrived at the Blessed Sacrament Congregation Scholasticate, Ampitiya to confer the diaconate to three brothers preparing for priestly ordination.

What is most significant in his gesture is that by this day (25th April) it was very likely that he would have been officially informed about his appointment as Bishop and that it was from His Lordship Bishop Harold Perera he would take over the reins of the Ratnapura Diocese.

This simple man of God showed his utmost respect to a Bishop despite the fact that he too was soon to be elevated to the episcopate. This, I believe is a very good lesson to all of us on humility, respect and obedience.

His concern for others, especially for the poor and the down-trodden irrespective of their race or religion has been and still continues to be an example to many. No one who turned to him for solace, be it spiritual or material was turned away.

He always made them feel welcome, spoke to them warmly and did his best to console and assist them. In fact, it was this great quality that impressed many and endeared them to him. In this regard it is fitting for me to make public what was narrated to me recently by someone who has been very much touched by Fr. Cletus.

“I recall an experience I had when I was discerning my vocation to the priesthood. As a school boy, I used to travel by bus to return home after school. On a rainy day, in 1993 when I wanted to get into a bus from the Kandy (Clock Tower) bus stand, I saw a middle-aged blind man struggling to collect his spilt coins scattered all over the place as a result of the pressing commuters.

Then, there was this priest, with his big travelling bag. He kept his bag aside, collected all the coins, gave them to the blind man, and quietly went on his way. This sight made such a strong impact in my mind that it still reminds me of the spirituality of a priest, formed after that of Blessed Joseph Vaz, the beloved Apostle of Sri Lanka. Only later I came to know that this priest was Fr. Cletus”. (This young boy subsequently joined the OSB congregation and was ordained a priest in 2005. It is a happy coincidence that Fr. Cletus was the Prior at the time of his ordination).

Piety

It is quite well known that Very Rev. Fr. Cletus is a devout man of prayer. He catered very much for the spiritual upliftment of his flock. I have observed him seated at the Confessional for long hours awaiting the penitents who come to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It is now time for me to make public something I observed nearly 16 years ago, which left in me a lasting impression of this holy priest. On a Thursday in July 1991, around 3 p.m.

I happened to pay a visit to St. Anthony’s Church, Wahacotte and I observed Fr. Cletus making the ‘Way of the Cross’. It is the usual practice among Catholics to make the Way of the Cross during the Season of Lent and there are also those who do this pious exercise every Friday (even outside the Season of Lent). But, here was Fr. Cletus making the Way of the Cross not during the Season of Lent and on a Thursday.

Subsequently I came to know that Fr. Cletus carries out this pious exercise daily to contemplate the passion and death of Jesus. (No wonder then, he has chosen as his Episcopal Motto ‘PER CRUCEM AD LUCEM’ which means ‘Through the Cross to the Light’.

St. Benedict’s College and Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus C. Perera OSB, the Bishop of Ratnapura

St. Benedict’s College, Kandy, is the “BABY” of Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus Perera OSB [former Conventual Prior of the Sylvestro Benedictines in Sri Lanka, now the Bishop of Ratnapura] as is popularly known, was conceived way back in 2005. He added this service to the educational mission of the Congregation and thus he initiated this project. On 25th May 2006, the Monks at the Conventual Chapter made a decision to make it become a reality. Rev. Fr Cletus Perera together with a few educationists, directors of education and experienced teachers studied the pros and cons of founding a school and came to a conclusion that the above school would be born in January 2007 in the unoccupied buildings of the Marian Hill premises at Katugastota. The name St. Benedict’s was given because of St. Benedict being the founder of our Order.