Rev.Fr.S.Charles Mathews (OMI)
1938 – 1943
Rev. Fr. Charles S. Mathews O.M.I.(1879-1969)
Father Charles Soubry Mathews was born at Messein, Nancy, France on Nancy, France on 27 May, 1879
His father was Mr. Soubry a Frenchman and his mother was Miss. Mathews an English woman.
Both met on board of a French Liner, forwhich Mr. Soubry was the Captain, fell in love and got
married and the result was Charles Soubry Mathews. Young Charles lost his father very early in
life and was brought up by his virtuous and valiant mother, who had from the beginning dedicated
him to service of God. Till the end Fr. Mathews would speak of his mother with great love and
Young Charles spent his boyhood at Normandy, the land of William the Conqueror. He
received his education in England, France and Belgium until he joined the University of Ottawa in
1896. He decided on a missionary vocation and joined the Oblates in 1897 and was ordained as
priest on 24″ May 1902 and in 1903 he passed the M.A. in Divinity at the Ottawa University. The
same year he was sent to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and was assigned to the North, where he was
made a staff of St. Patrick’s College and took charge of the College in 1925 as its Rector when he
was only 25 years of age. He had a marathon stretch of 33 years, the golden era of the College, as
ts Head and built the greater St. Patrick’s College. On relinquishing his tenure at St. Patrick’s, he
took charge as Rector of St. Xavier’s College Mannar (1937) and then to St. Henry’s College,
llavalai in 1938. Then again he returned to St. Xavier’s Mannar (1946) and returned to St. Patrick’s
in 1948 as its Prefect of Studies. On 30″ April 1954 he was appointed as Principal of St. Henry’s
Henry’s College; from there he went to the National Seminary, Ampitiya as Professor.
Due to advancing years he came back to his beloved Jaffina in 1964 and retired to A
beloved Jaffna in 1964 and retired to Amala
Utpavam the Oblate House at Colombuthurai and led a quiet and peaceful life and died
and the 67 ofhis priesthood year.
In 1938, the educational hierarchy of the Office of the General Manager Catholic
Schools had chartered altogether a different course for the Management of Catholic
Schools of the Jaffna Vicariate with a view to enhance both standard and productivity of the Ins
necessitated new elevation in the standard of English education was characterized by the
increasing demand for English educated youth needed by then British Colonial Masters for their
administrative machinery. This came all too evident, by the move to shift the administration of St.
Henry’s from the hands of SSJ Brothers to Fathers of the Order of Oblates (O.M.I.). The men
entrusted with the enormity this task were Frs. Charles S. Mathews and Paul J. Jeevaratnam both
appointed as Rector and Deputy to St. Henry’s College respectively. Fr. Mathews’ mission to St.
Henry’s was: “transformation” with which he set out so elaborately having the younger lieutenant
Fr. Jeevarantam at his elbow.
Given the above backdrop, there dawned a rejuvenated era at St. Henry’s, set in motion by
the grand old man – Fr. Charles Mathews as its Rector. Giving a new impetus and stimulus, Fr.
,Mathews enshrined a new motto for the College: Labor Omnia Vincit Improbus meaning hard
work conquers all. Fr. Mathews was getting old, yet his mere presence alone transcended all
barriers of caste creed and transformed the lives of scores of boys. A strict disciplinarian that he
was, no mistake was allowed to pass uncorrected. While teaching, Fr. Mathews gave his time in
knowing the boys and helping the boys during and after school. Out of school hours he was the
most lovable man. Compassion is prerequisite virtue of religious life, of which, Fr. Mathews had a
reservoir of it, those who needed had it in boundless abundance, thus he grew into the boys and
boys grew into him.
He shaped, fashioned, moulded and nurtured the character and disposition of boys
towards right ways of life. There were more than one thousand reasons as to why Fr. Mathews
came to be called a legendary missionary of the Northern Sri Lanka. A distinguished educationist,
comforter of the afflicted, he was truly a worthy priest and everything else stems from this reality.
Fr. Charles Mathews indeed was a great man in every sense of the word. The ancient Romans had
a term for such a great man ‘Paterfamilias’. The impact is lost in translation from Latin.
Paterfamilias really means dynasty starters, father in the grand sense of the word, caring concern
for each individual allowing each to grow at his own pace but with guidance, allowing each to
become his own person but proud of the name: “St. Henry’s”!