1989 – 2002
Fr. Justin Bernard Gnanapragasam (1989-2002)
Fr. Justin Bernard Gnanapragasam was ordained a priest by the late Bishop of Jaffha Rt.Revd. Dr. B. Deogupillai on 24 June 1974 at Our Lady of Refuge Church, Jaffna. After his ordination, Fr. Justin began his missionary career with much commitment in the spheres of education as expected ofhim by his superiors. He was groomed by Bishop B. Deogupillai. He was always sharp and quick to grasp the emerging trends and the educational needs of the students.
In June 1976 he was given to Fr. Anton Rajanaygam as his No: 2 to assist and manage the affairs of St. Henry’s in the awake of the College being handed over to the State (1977). He was mentored for a period twelve years by Fr. Anton Rajanayagam, during this period he was the Vice Rector of the College and acquired his Masters from Hull University and then his doctorate from Southampton University. UK.
In 1989, Fr. Justin assumed the rector-ship of St. Henry’s College. His period at St. Henry’s
was the most arduous and difficult one, perhaps no other Rector of St. Henry’s had to face with. On 20 August 1992, when the Sri Lankan army marched into Ilavalai region, people were dispossessed ofeverything over night; they fled for life and safety.
At Manipay, Fr. Justin gathered the teachers and students, put up Cajan sheds on a leased out plot of land and carried on the great task imparting the education to the displaced students of St.Henry’s. Once again another bigger painful exodus took place when the troops marched into Jaffna.
The fleeing masses went further to Thenmarachchi on 30h October 1995. Fr. Justin indefatigably
organized the school in the premises of Nicholas’s Church at Mirusuvil. After all these untold
miseries and turmoil he brought back the school to llavalai, its traditional enclave on 13th May 1996.
During this exodus era 1992 to 1996, Fr. Justin swiftly got in touch with the Old Boys groups
in Colombo, London, Paris and Toronto reorganized, regrouped, revamped, reinvigorated made
them as individual entities to function and support the Alma Mater. The spontaneous response from the Old Boys was so immense that Fr. Justin helped both school and the community alike, during the post 1996 period ofresettlement, recuperating and rebuilding of St. Henry’s.
The rapport he built then with Alumni community did not end there; he campaigned for his
fond idea of launching a Trust for St. Henry’s and got the Old Boys and well wishers to contribute
funds into it.
He introduced the computer education at school and made the soccer teams as champions in
the regional tournaments continuously from 1992 to 1994. In 1995 the drama “Thanam” became
first in the regional dramatic contest. The same year saw seven Henrician students enroll into the
University. In 1997, K. Visakan obtained all four “A” at the Advanced Level and entered into the
Engineering Faculty of the Moratuwa University from St. Henry’s.
Member ofthe University of Jaffna are a few to mention. squarely. Fr. Justin displayed his administrative acumen combining it with understanding, patience While at St. Henry’s, he also played many roles as Parish Priest, Vicar Forane, Council Fr. Justin had the steel in him and the temerity to countenance the troubles fairly and On 24 April 1999 Fr. Justin celebrated his Sacerdotal Silver Jubilee and on 23rd May 1999
Colombo Henricians honoured with a grand celebration of his priesthood Silver Jubilee and 23 year service to St. Henry’s at St. Peter’s College Hall, Bambalapitiya Fr. Justin Gnanapragasam’s both vision and action blended with consummate ease, it was the Justinite thought of posterity for St. Henry’s that epitomized THE HENRICIANS TRUST, which is now a living legacy