1943 – 1953
Rev. Fr. P.J. Jeevaratnam O.M.I. (1903-1985)
ather Paul Joseph Jeevaratnam was born on 29 January, 1903 in Madras-Mylapore
India where his father was a government functionary. He hailed from the predominant Catholic
village of Naranthanai, Kayts. He had his early education at Cudalore and his secondary
education at St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna. He was a favorite pupil of Fr. Guyomar. Joined the
Oblates in 1924 glided through St. Francis Xavier’s, Bambalapitiya and St. Bernard’s Borella
Seminaries, he was ordained a priest on 27h December, 1929 by Bishop
J.A. Guyomar OMI in Jaffna.
Briefly he served as an Assistant in a Parish, before he was put in charge of St. Joseph’s
School, Mathagal for a short time and he set off for England in 1933 in pursuit of higher studies
He was among the triad at King’s College, London and the others were Frs. L.A. Singarayer and
Joseph. He obtained B.A. (Hon) in Psychology and Diploma in Education from University of
London and on his return he was posted to St. Patrick’s as a Professor in 1938
From St. Patrick’s he came to St. Henry’s as second in command for Fr. CharlesS
Mathews, a distinct shift came about with the administration of the school changing hands from
SSJ Brothers to Fathers of the Jaffna Diocese, the year was 1939, thus Fr. Paul Jeevaratnam began
his longest march at St. Henry’s in later years to end up as the longest serving Rector of the
Fr. Jeevaratnam, the No.2 at St. Henry’s, was an able and energetic young priest, with his
fierce zeal, solidified staunch support to his Rector Fr. Mathews for his great transformation
process in the College. Fr. Jeevaratnam had the grit of determination that was in-built in him and
the knack to actualize the reforms that he deemed right for the School. His vision, ability
forthrightness and fearless qualities overshadowed any opposition from the teachers or students.
It was during his time on I March 1951 that St. Henry’s acquired the “A” Grade School
ng ample testimony for his good many achievements. As a Teacher of English
language and literature, he had the competence to guide students to work their way, rather tharn
spoon feeding them as that was in vogue then. Fred Balasingham, a student of his time recalls
fondly, that Fr. Jeevaratnam teaching Milton’s “Paradise Lost” to the students he adopted a simple
status, bearing ample testimony for his good many achievements. As a Teacher of B
method, which made the learning with perfect ease devoid of hardship
He also built up a formidable football team which won the Northern Championship in
1945, a bench mark Fr. Jeevaratnam created for St. Henry’s, which in later decades was to lead us
to national level as all island football champions.
Discipline, is yet another faculty that became synonymous with Fr. Jeevaratnam. He
institutionalized and regimented discipline to the highest possible order at St. Henry’s College
and it was widely known those days that unruly elements from other Schools were sent to St
Henry’s for correction. He would never ever put up with discourtesy, indecency, indolence,
impertinence, cheeky or any form of unethical behavioral pattern by his students or teachers.
He was the longest serving Rector of St. Henry’s (1939-54). From Ilavalai he went St.
Antony’s College, Kayts in February 1954. In January 1960 he was made Rector of St. Patrick’s
College. That year he had to countenance the upheavals of takeover blues of private schools by the
government. He spent his retirement at St. Patrick’s tutoring English to the seminarians and
celebrated his golden jubilee of religious life in 1975. In the moments of sickness and discomfort,
he was cared for by his relatives and friends. The last few years of his life he spent on reading and
lived up to the ripe old age of 82 and passed away under the care of Sisters of Holy Cross in their
nursing home on 13 March 1985.
Fr. Paul Jeevaratnam was gifted with a silver tongue, with his puckish sense of humour, a
great visionary of his time, a celebrated reformer and had a sense of civilization and will be best
remembered as a dignified gallant Knight Public School Head – at St. Henry’s he had a singular
aura of legend that he indeed was.