Our founding father
Archbishop Christopher E. Bonjean
Christopher Ernest Bonjean was born on the 23rd of September, 1823 in Riom, Clermont, France to Yvonne Tardiff and Jean-Baptiste Bonjean, an Attorney-at-law of the Court of Appeal. Though his parents were born Catholic, their faith had withered and become obsolete. In fact, it was his elder sister who guided young Christopher to the light of his Faith, where he would eventually receive his calling to the Holy Orders. After successfully completing his degree, Bonjean joined the Seminary in October 1842, at the young age of 19. At long last, he was ordained a Priest of God on the 19th of December 1846.
In the fall of 1847, Fr. Bonjean of the Paris Foreign Missionary Society journeyed to India —where he would spend the next nine years of his life working in Coimbatore Tamil Nadu. He would eventually join the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Ceylon and arrive in Jaffna on the 28th of November 1855.
In 1883, nearly 30 years after his arrival in Ceylon, the now Msgr. Bonjean was transferred to Colombo as Vicar Apostolic of the Southern Vicariate. By then, he had come to be known as the “Father of the Denominational School System” in Ceylon, and had started the weekly publication of the Jaffna Catholic Guardian. When the hierarchy was established in 1887, he was appointed the first Archbishop of Colombo.
Dr. Bonjean, who had made education the study of his life; paved the path for the foundation of a Catholic College in Ceylon. This was owing to his firm belief in the importance of a College where children were given an outstanding secular education within a Catholic atmosphere and in the absence of a threat to their Faith. This vision of his, would in due course, grow to become the cornerstone for St. Joseph’s College.
Though this eminent prelate did not live to see his ideal of a Catholic College come to fruition —having being called to eternal rest on the 3rd of August, 1892; his dream would be carried on by his successors —thus, it would be no error to call Archbishop Bonjean the Founding Father of our hallowed institution.
The founding of a timeless education institute
At St. Joseph's College, students receive so much more than an ordinary education. We pride ourselves on creating a unique, exciting environment that embraces all types of learners and promotes growth both academically and personally. Students and families are also welcomed into a dynamic and supportive community.
Past Rectors of St. Joseph's College
Rev. Fr. Charles Lytton OMI
He was formally appointed as the 1th Rector of St. Joseph's College on 27th November 1896. The building was solemnly blessed on 27th November 1896 by his excellency Msgr. Zaleski. The Governor General of Ceylon, His excellency Joseph West Ridgeway formally declared open the school on 2nd of March 1896 with 211 students after much pioneering work in those early days which also saw changes. Fr. Charles Collin retired as Rector of the college in March 1910. Hardly six weeks later on 1st May 1910 he passed away and went to receive from his Maker an imperishable crown.
This pious priest was ordained a priest on 22nd May 1875 and appointed to work in the Oblate Mission in Ceylon. Assigned to Jaffna, he worked with great enthusiasm for 17 long years. A man of deep meditative and reflective prayer he excelled as a great educationist with the contributions he made to St. Patrick's College as its 2nd Rector. Transferred to Colombo in January 1882, he served as Vice Rector to Fr. Collin from 1896 to 1910. During his Rectorship, he served and guided the College for 2 years. Due to failing health he retired and took up residence in College in November 1912. He passed away on 3rd December 1912. The last rites were performed in the College and he laid to rest at the general cemetery.
Rev. Fr. Charles Lytton OMI
Second Rector (1910–1912)
Rev. Fr. Emil Nicholas
Third Rector (1912-1919)
Born in Saxon - Sion, close to the birthplace of St. Joan of Arc, he had his early education at the Oblate Juniorate of Notre Dame. He was sent for higher studies to the Gregorian University where he shone as a scholar and obtained a Ph. D. He was ordained a priest of God on 1st November 1891 and his first appointment was to the Oblate Mission of Ceylon. He arrived in Ceylon on 7th September 1892 and was a Professor at St. Bernard's Seminary, Borella. On 1st January 1896 Fr. Emil Nicholas was appointed a professor of St. Joseph's College. This versatile educationist and linguist who spoke fluent French, Latin Greek, Italian, German, English and Hebrew was appointed the 3rd Rector of St. Joseph's College, Colombo. He held that position from 1912 to 1919 till the age of 46.
The 4th Rector of St. Joseph's College left his stamp on the college in more ways that one. If his academic achievements and many other accomplishments are to be forgotten the majestic Chapel, set in the middle of the College is the very heart of St Joseph's College from a which many a transforming grace has been received. Having achieved academic excellence, Fr. Le Goc received his Ph.D. from the Georgian University where he did his philosophical and theological studies. He proceeded to the United Kingdom and obtained his bachelors degree with 1st class honours at Cambridge winning the Coveted Frank Smart Prize for Botany. Whilst there he was elected as a member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society and thereafter entered the University of London where he obtained his B.Sc( Honours degree) and M.A degrees. He was also a lecturer at the Sri Lanka medical college in Botany. He did much for sports and other activities at College and built many classrooms. His Rectorship was from 14th August 1919, a position he held for 21 long years till he, retired. In 1948 death snatched him away in a motor accident. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, is an exact replica of the original and together with the Chapel could be considered tombs in memory of the great Rector.
It is interesting to note that the Chapel has a length of 140 ft. and a breadth of 130 ft. and a height of 90 ft. with a seating capacity of 1402 students/people.
Rev. Fr. Maurice James Le Goc
Fourth Rector (1919-1940)
Rev. Fr. Peter A. Pillai OMI
Fifth Rector (1940-1961)
The story of Fr. Peter A. Pillai following Fr. Le Goc as Rector of the College, his array of educational qualifications remain unchallenged to this very day. He was a product of St. Benedict's College, Kotahena. At the age of 14 he passed the Junior Cambridge with distinctions in 8 out of the 9 subjects. At 16 years he was successful in the Cambridge Senior with honours and distinctions in all the subjects. This was considered a record for all countries in the world in which the examination was held. He was born in Ulhitiyawa in Wennappuwa in the Diocese of Chilaw on 10th October 1904. In the year 1922 he passed the London Intermediate in Science and in the following year - 1923 - he was successful in the B.Sc. London with a double first in Mathematics at the University of Ceylon. He was awarded the Government Mathematics Scholarship to study at Cambridge. While being there he passed his B.A. in Natural Science. A short while later he obtained his M. A. in Kings College Cambridge and his M.Sc. in Mathematics with distinctions.. While at Cambridge he attended the Catholic University Pax Romana and was a prominent debater at Fisher House Conferences. Joining the Oblates in 1928 he pursued his intellectual studies at the Roman International Scholasticate and having enrolled in the Dominican University Angelicum obtained his Ph.D. and D. D. He was ordained a priest on 7th July
1934. His involvement in the Social Justice Movement created awareness within the Government of its obligations to the working class which saw many radical changes in the terms of employment of the masses. His broad vision on problems related to education helped him to change the educational landscape in the country. He was an educationist par excellence. He voiced his opposition loud and clear regarding the unreasonable rapid change in introducing the mother tongue (Sinhala-Tamil) into the educational system.
He was widely sought by the Government to serve on Commissions such as the Tobacco and Alcohol Commission, Marriage & Divorce Commission etc. etc. He bequeathed to St. Joseph's the Swimming Pool which was declared open on 30 July 1952 and generations of Josephians have done his memory proud by winning on a number of occasions the title of National Schools Champions. He retired from the Rectorship of St. Joseph's College in 1961 only to become the founder Rector of another great educational institution which he made famous and has left its imprint on education, the Aquinas University College. His Prize Day Reports during the years 1947 to 1959 were erudite where he turned the spotlight on the Government of the day and brought it under critical review.
He was appointed Rector of St. Joseph's College on the 8th of December 1940. He guided the destinies of the College during the World War II by setting up branches of the College at Borella, Homagama, Kelaniya and Gampaha so that the students education would not be interrupted.
On 27th September 1964 he passed away at Aquinas and went into the arms of His Lord and Master to receive his eternal reward.
He had his early education at Maris Stella College, Negombo. In 1934 he passed the Cambridge Senior examination with such good results that he obtained an exemption from the London Matriculation and joined St. Aloysius Seminary in 1935 and was ordained a priest in 1941 on the 25 of March. After a few years of parish work, he was appointed to the staff of St. Joseph's College in 1946. Here he was exposed to the various administrative functions as well as academic aspects of life at College. He continued his studies and was successful at the intermediate examination in Arts in 1948. He got through pali as a subsidiary subject for the B A. honours in Sinhala. Recognising his success, his superiors sent him to Europe to pursue higher studies. In Rome he took up a course in Missiology at Propaganda Fide University. He thereafter joined that Faculty of Oriental and African studies of the University of London and completed his B. A. Honours Degree. Subsequently he joined the Institute of Education of the same University and obtained an Academic Diploma in Education. After two years of intense research he successfully completed his M. A. in education in 1955. He crowned his efforts by gaining a Ph.D. in education in 1955.
In Spite of his other duties he contributed frequently as a versatile writer in both English and Sinhala ta various magazines of repute which won him a fellowship of the Royal Historical Society of Great Britain. It was in 1961 that he took over the reigns of St. Joseph's College. It was a turbulent time in the educational history of the country due to the takeover of private schools by the Government. With unflinching faith in the denominational school system he guided St. Joseph's College over troubled wat successfully.
He breathed his last on the 24th April, 2008. His mortal remains lay in state in the College Chapel. At the Mass, the homilist, Rev. Fr. Stanley Abeysekera, an emeritus Rector explained at length the contribution Rev. Fr. Don Peter made to St. Joseph's College.
Rev. Fr. W. L. A. Don Peter
Sixth Rector (1961-1971)
Rev. Fr. Mervyn Weerakkody
Seventh Rector (1971–1974)
He had his primary education at St. Benedict's College, Kotahena and his secondary education at St. Joseph's College. After successfully completing his Matriculation Examination, he entered St. Bernard's Seminary. He was ordained in Rome in 1943, and, whilst there he obtained his Baccalaureate in Philosophy and his Doctorate in Theology. Back in Sri Lanka he served as an Assistant Pastor and Chief Pastor in many parishes. He also spent time at Holy Cross College, Kalutara and at St. Peter's College, Bambalapitiya. In 1963 he was appointed as Rector of St. Peter's College, Bambalapitiya. He continued to update himself on education obtaining a Diploma from the University of London. In 1971 he was appointed as Rector of St. Joseph's College. He was a disciplinarian who mixed sternness with a smile and could empathize with both the staff and students. He improved the standard of choral music at College. Due to ill health his period at the helm was relatively short and he retired in 1974. He passed away on 31st March 1975.
He succeeded Fr. Mervyn and was appointed the 8th Rector of the College on 1st May 1974. He had his primary education at Maris Stella College, Negombo and his secondary education at St. Joseph's College. Ordained a priest of God in September 1960, he was for a short while a lecturer on the staff of St. Aloysius' Seminary and after that served as the Assistant Parish Priest at Kotahena and Parish Priest at Pitipana. As an external student of the University of London he obtained his B.A. (Arts) degree and later at the same University he obtained an M. A. and Doctorate in Philosophy (Ph. D.). He served St. Peter's College as Bursar and Vice Rector of the College. He assisted the teachers, clerical and minor employees by setting up a fund for monetary assistance. A prominent addition to the College was the open air stage behind the Chapel which faced the quadrangle where assemblies and other functions could be held. He had a great interest in sports and cricket was at the top of the list. It was during his period as Rector that the 'turf wicket' became a reality.
He invited Hon. Ranasinghe Premadasa, the first Old Boy who held the elevated position of President of Sri Lanka firstly to felicitate him and on another occasion to be the Chief Guest at the Annual Prize day. He left for America giving up the Rectorship in 1978.
Rev. Fr. Quintus Fernando
Eighth Rector (1974–1979)
Rev. Fr. Neville Emmanuel
Nineth Rector (1979–1983)
He was admitted to the kindergarten class of e the pre-school of the College in January 1935. Fr. Neville entered the University of Ceylon and obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics in 1951. His first teaching appointment was at Maris Stella College, Negombo and thereafter at St. Marys, Embilipitiya. In 1952 he entered St. Bernard's Seminary and completed a course in Philosophy and was sent to Rome for his Theological studies. He returned in 1958 and joined the staff of the College. He was appointed as Principal of the Upper and Middle schools under the Rectorship of Ft. Peter A. Pillai. It was in the year 1979 that Fr. Neville was appointed the 9th Rector of the College.
The religious atmosphere of the College was rekindled during his Rectorship. The Feast of Corpus Christi and the activities of the Guild of the Immaculate Heart were re-activated. He also infused new life into curricular and extracurricular activities such as the Interact Club, Drama Society, the Sinhala, Tamil and English Literary Unions. Sports also received emphasis. It was he who initiated the formation of the Cricket Advisory Council. He emphasized at the staff meetings that a teacher should be a role model to be emulated and drove home its importance by stating that
"ST. Joseph's cannot be taken for granted". "First comply and then complain" and "Work with responsibility."
He achieved the unique distinction of being the first and only Josephian (so far to complete his education from the Kindergarten to the University Entrance at St. Joseph's and also become the Rector of his alma mater. Later, he was at Aquinas University College. He retired in 1983 and proceeded to America. He subsequently worked in Twain for a short while. He then returned to Sri Lanka in 2000 he fell ill and death took him away from our midst. His mortal remains were brought to the Chapel, thereafter to the Sacred Heart Chapel where the final obsequies were conducted and he was laid to rest at Borella Cemetery.
In the year 1983, in the month of May - Rev. Fr. B. Stanley Abeysekara was appointed as the 10th Rector of St.Joseph's College.To provide an opportunity for deserving under-privileged students to study at St.Joseph's, a grade 5 scholarship examination was inaugurated in the College. On the results of this examination these students were give an opportunity to study at St. Joseph's College. During the college prize giving of 1986, Hon.Ranasinghe Premadas was felicitated with a special award "Jana Pujitha Keethsinghe Vidyala Puthra". In the following year (1987) His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Cooray, a past student of the College was conferred a very special honour - 'Deva Dharma Keethisiri Uttunga Vidyala Puthra'. During the era of Fr. Stanley Abeysekara, the following additions and renovations to the college buildings were completed.
A two storied building was completed. The top-story for the class rooms, and the ground floor for the sick room, boarders' refectory and modern kitchen.
A well equipped auditorium was built where the Chemistry labs were housed.
In 1991, a three storied building was constructed for Class-rooms and laboratories for the advanced level students.
The Enderamulla branch school was inaugurated.
A sports complex cum auditorium was declared open by His Grace Nicholas Marcus Fernando on 19th March 1996.
The College centenary year was solemnly inaugurated.
Rev. Fr. Stanley Abeysekara
Tenth Rector (1983–1996)
Rev. Fr. Victor Silva
Eleventh Rector (1996–2005)
Rev. Fr. Victor Silva was appointed the 11th Rector of the College on 31th March 1996. Born in Diyalagoda, he entered St. Aloysius' Seminary, Borella for his priestly studies and undertook the latter part of his secondary education at St. Peter's College Colombo. He joined the National Seminary in 1969 and after seven years of study obtained the Baccalaureate Degree in Theology. He obtained his Arts Degree (B.A.) from the University of Peradeniya. In 1984 he was appointed the Principal of the primary school of St. Peter's College, Colombo whilst also teaching life education and religious knowledge.
He then enrolled at the University of London and successfully completed the Diploma in Education and the Masters Degree in Educational Psychology. On his return, he was appointed Rector of St. Joseph's College, Colombo and upon taking up that role, his first act was to decentralize the educational administration giving greater responsibility to the Principals and Deputy Principals. He also allocated to the Sectional Heads and teachers the responsibility of managing affairs under their purview.
Rev. Fr. Victor ensured that there was greater consultation on all matters between the academic, administrative and other staff and parents on all matters. He took great pains to improve the results achieved at all public examinations also paying attention to Computer Studies and ICT. The Millennium Centre was his brain child. He paid special attention to the development of computer studies and the improvement of English at St. Joseph's.
The Enderamulla Branch School was formally declared open on 10 January 1996. It grew rapidly under his guidance. The new computer laboratory donated by the Ja Ela/Wattala Branch of the Old Boys and the unveiling of the plaque in memory of Mr. Wilfred Seneviratne took place during his term.
Also during his tenure, among the many new buildings and projects he promoted, was the major refurbishment of the Bonjean Hall which gave it a completely new look. The renovation, modernization and re-tiling of the Swimming Pool, beautifying the campus with floral plants, the special attention he paid to the College Choir which reached new heights and the Annual Christmas Carol Service were some of his contributions to St Joseph's College and something the students, Old Boys, parents and well wishers appreciated and enjoyed.
Rev. Fr. Victor was an amiable priest who knew the pulse of both students and teachers. Anyone who sought his assistance or a favour always returned feeling fulfilled. He had a big heart, he reached out to everyone in the friendliest way and perhaps his strongest and most endearing quality was that he took a genuine interest in each and every person he came in contact with and considered them as his own sheep. We, as the Josephian Community are indebted to Rev. Fr. Victor Silva for the immensity of services that he has rendered to this College to make it what it actually is today. May he be blessed by God abundantly to further the Kingdom of God amongst the people entrusted to his care!
His tenure ended in 2005 and he was succeeded by Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe.
On 3rd October 2005, Rev.Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe was appointed as 12th Rector of St. Joseph's College. A systematic staff development programme was introduced at St. Joseph's by the Rector. During Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe's era, different age groups of past students started undertaking different projects for the welfare of the College - innovations and refurbishment of the different buildings were undertaken by the old boys under the direction of the Rector. A three story building is nearing completion to house the class-rooms of the middle school. An extension of the Advanced Level building has been undertaken to rebuild the English Medium and Tamil Medium classes of the Advanced Level. The refurbishment of all the computer laboratories have been inaugurated. The work of computerizing different aspects of school administration and curriculum have also been completed. On the 31ST July 2009, marked the launch of the "Ten Year Vision Plan" of the College.
The vision plan is to achieve excellence in education and produce the model Josehian in terms appropriate to his age and level of maturity" The plan is to produce students with an integral education, who will be men of faith, and witness to love, truth and justice.Courses in career guidance and vocational education have been commenced in the present era. Efforts are made to educate the students on the History of the College.
Rev. Fr. Sylvester Ranasinghe
Twelfth Rector (2005-2014)
Rev. Fr. Travis Gabriel
Thirteenth Rector (2014–2019)
Rev. Fr. Travis Gabriel served as the 13th rector of our hallowed institution; taking over from Rev. Fr. Sylvester on the 13th of February, 2014. Under his guidance, sports in St. Joseph’s flourished, with a rising number of sports’ teams scoring victories in tournaments and championships: namely the Josephian Swimmer’s 15-year win streak in the All-Island Championships; and the Cricketers and Rugby players emerging champions in their respective tournaments after decade-long lapses. The 120th anniversary for the establishment of St. Joseph’s College was celebrated in 2016 under Fr. Gabriel’s aegis. Like many of our immediate past rectors, Fr. Travis Gabriel continued the development of IT education within the College premises —having all computer labs refurbished, and the latest computers installed. It was during his era, that the ‘Rev. Fr. Victor Silva – Skyrim Arena’ was declared open. After having served for 34 long years in the field of education, and 5 years in St. Joseph’s College, Fr. Travis Gabriel retired from this great apostolate on the 15th of April 2019.