Archbishop Marcus Fernando: A living saint | Sunday Observer

Archbishop Marcus Fernando: A living saint

5 January, 2020

In remembrance of the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination and the 88th birthday of the archbishop emeritus Nicholas Marcus Fernando.

I believe that a person should be appreciated during his life time. Therefore, it is with a deep sense of gratitude and honour that I write this short biography of the Archbishop Emeritus Nicholas Marcus Fernando, while reflecting upon his holy and saintly qualities I have found in him.

Most Rev. Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando, the first Diocesan Archbishop of Colombo, was chosen to shepherd the flock from May 14 in 1977 at the retirement of Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Cardinal Cooray O.M.I. He is the first and the youngest secular Archbishop of Colombo. He was forty five years when he was called to shoulder such a solemn responsibility.

He was born to a family in Munnakkara on December 6, 1932, a fishing village in Negombo. Having begun his primary education at the village school in the Tamil medium, he was admitted to St. Mary’s College, Negombo, for English medium education. God tapped on his heart through a nun who taught him Catechism. He was selected to St Aloysius’ Minor Seminary, Borella, and joined a class of friends, out of them, three became bishops; Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando (late Bishop of Chilaw), Rev. Dr. Raymond Peiris (late Bishop of Kurunegala) and Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis.

He was ordained on December 19, 1959 in Rome, and this is the 60th anniversary of his ordination. On his return to the island, he was selected to be on the academic staff at St. Peter’s College, Colombo, and before being a lecturer at the National Seminary Ampitiya, Kandy, he was sent back to Rome for his Doctoral Studies. Wasn’t it a rare instance that an ordinary priest like him lecturing at the National Seminary, was elevated to the exalted position of Archbishop of Colombo?

The Church of Sri Lanka acknowledges and appreciates that he was successful in his ministry. According to the cannon law, a priest or a bishop should retire at the age of 75. Human beings by nature are power hungry. They usually yearn for authority. His Grace was an exception and offered his scepter to Archbishop Oswald Gomis who was his Auxiliary Bishop for three decades. According to the teachings of main religions in the country ‘detachment from worldly things’is the beginning of finding the path to heaven.

I have never heard him criticizing anyone nor anyone criticizing him. The Archbishop is a genuine human being full of spirituality. He was optimistic when facing any constructive criticism. He used to teach Latin and was interested to know about the new methods of teaching to make his teaching more effective.

He is simple, down to earth, trustworthy and methodical. Greatness of humanity is the first step of sainthood. May the Lord touch him with His abundant blessings throughout!

Ajith Perera