An oak of the East falls to the ground | Sunday Observer

An oak of the East falls to the ground

The entire Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, especially the district of Batticaloa, and in particular, the past students of St. Michael’s College, Batticaloa, wherever they are, greatly mourn the passing away of a great icon, Father Miller, at the age of 93 on January 1, 2019.

With his demise, the era of of highly educated Jesuit Fathers who renounced the comforts of life in America to labour in far-away Eastern Sri Lanka has almost come to an end - I am told there is one more of this precious band still living in retirement, namely, Father Lorio. Practically all these Jesuit priests were highly dedicated and motivated young men, who volunteered to go out from the Jesuit Order in the State of New Orleans in the US to serve God and the people of our country when in their late 20s or early 30s.

Also, engaged in Father Miller’s calibre of selfless, arduous service to fellow mankind were the late Fathers Harold Webber, Herbert, Cook and a few selected others. Their tremendous and invaluable contribution to the progress of the Eastern Province in general and in particular to the growth of St. Michael’s College, Batticaloa, to enable it to become one of the foremost and distinguished schools in Sri Lanka cannot be ever forgotten.

Father Miller was not only an educationist but also a passionate and ardent social worker, counsellor and friend to the rich and the poor.

He was Principal of St. Michael’s College at one time and later the Rector of the College. When the College was taken over by the Government, my late brother, Kingsley Somanader was appointed the Principal of the College and I had the pleasure of serving as the Prefect Of Discipline there. I am ever so thankful that in that period of change and uncertainty we had the great privilege of sharing Father Miller’s wisdom, foresight and values to enable us to continue the good work and heritage of the Jesuit priests and to maintain the high standards of the College which they had built over the years.

As author Kenneth Hildebrande has said,“The poorest of all men is not the one without a penny to his name; but he is the fellow without a dream “ This I believe describes exactly the much loved motive of Father Miller and all other Jesuit priests who served at St. Michael’s College, Batticaloa and the Eastern Province and the essence of their direction and advice to the students to achieve their dream and make them shine in every aspect of life wherever they settled down at home or abroad.

On his retirement, Father Miller was given the option to go back to America and resettle in his country of birth. Half-heartedly, he took the opportunity to try it out but he felt so home sick, according to him, he decided to come back to Batticaloa in a couple of months, saying, “I could not part with my much loved adopted homeland and its people”. Nothing would satisfy him except to live and die here.

All the Jesuit missionaries though they could have had successful worldly lives came over the miles to fulfill the call of God, May their good souls rest in peace. As the Scriptures say, “Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it shall not bear fruit.”

Father Miller was given a fitting farewell by the people of Batticaloa and the Eastern Province and his body was committed to the very ground he had so faithfully served.