“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison and to announce the YEAR of the Lord’s favour.

In fact Jubilee has its origin in the Bible. In ancient times people worked hard for forty nine years, and then the King declared the fiftieth year as the Jubilee Year. During this year all people enjoyed countless blessings. They gave back land that belonged to the King, in which they had worked all these years and went back to their own country. They brought good news to one another, comforted those that suffered, allowed the captives to go to their homeland and they freed all those in prison. While they went back to their beginnings, they enjoyed the blessings of the Jubilee year.

We who live today are given this rare opportunity to recall our beginnings and count the blessings as we celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of our Alma Mater. It was in the year 1935, the great personality and scientist, very Rev. Fr. Maurice J. Legoc founded St. Paul’s Girls’ English School for the catholic girls in Waragoda, where St. Joseph’s farm was situated. St. Paul’s Girls’ English School as it was then known, had few classrooms, an office room, hall and a chapel built in the shape of an E with an idea of extending upward. Its first Principal was Mrs. Pearl Gunawardena, and the staff was Mrs. Edna Gunasekera, Mrs. Perera, Miss Veera Cramer and Miss Freeda Zilva. With Mrs. Pearl Gunawardena as the head of the school, St. Paul’s school progressed very fast. As the years went by the staff had more teachers. Mrs. Rosairo. Mrs. Andrew Silva, Miss Eileen Orr, Iris, Doris and Eroma were added to the number. Father D. J.Anthony and Father Joseph Cabral helped Fr. Legoc to improve the school. Also Father Julius Pinto resided in the house that was in the farm.

Father Legoc who knew the value of teachers, built houses close to the school, so that he would get the best of their time and energy to enrich the students. The teachers in turn were so very glad and gave their best for the children. So in 1943 the school presented the first batch of students for the Senior Domestic Science Examination. It was then a fee levying school and Father Legoc paid the teachers substantially.

Father Legoc was a frequent visitor to our school. I have seen him, that gracious person, no sooner would he get down from his car, the students would run to him, pick up his hat, his walking stick and his microscope.  He would then take them round the farm and the field.

It was in 1945,we heard the shocking news of the fatal accident that Father Legod had met with. It was a very sad and a tragic end of a Precious Father and a guide, The whole school moaned at the loss of our dear Founder. Then it was that Rev. Father Peter Pillai who took over the reigns. Since it was too much for him, being the Rector of St. Joseph’s College, they decided to hand over the school to the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel.

This spelt a New Era for the school. Guided by the sisters of the Apostolic Carmel, the school saw many a change from the year 1946 onwards. In 1945 Mrs. Pearl Gunawardena who was our Principal resigned from her devoted service to give way to sister Mary Joseph. While we thank for the selfless service of Mrs. Pearl Gunawardena to St. Paul’s we ask the Lord to grant her the Beatific Vision. Sister Mary Joseph though quite young, with the guidance and collaboration of Mother Leocrice and the community of sisters with the assistance of teachers and parents worked smoothly through the years.

Even before the sisters came to school, I would tell you how the love of Christ that Fr. Legoc kindled in the hearts of young students shone like stars through the years. It was the inspiration of Jesus that Bernadette Perera dedicated herself as a Franciscan Missionary of Mary. In another year or two Christobel Perera followed the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. With the coming of  the A.C. Sisters, the spiritual life of the students were re-vitalised. I remember with what enthusiasm and devotion the sodality was begun and what I admired was the sodalists praying the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, after school every Friday before they had their meeting. Being a congregation dedicated to our Blessed mother, we had the Novena during the month of May and the closing devotions with procession while the students themselves represented our Blessed Mother in various apparitions.

The garden of Carmel was watered in many ways. Sisters took tums to be with the students during their lunch interval, thereby creating an atmosphere of love and interest for the sisters and their way of life. Monthly recollections and half day adoration helped students to be more attuned to a deeper call. As a result of this effort, Melinda Gunasekera entered the cloistered Carmel at Mattakkuliya. As years went by, the Sisters had the reward of nurturing more flower in the garden of Carmel. Sister Brice, Sr. Françoise, Sr. Menna Sister Stella Maria, Pierre Sister Kathleen and Sister Felicie Melawa, Besides there were others who decided to follow Jesus in various congregations. Sister Immaculate, Sister Techla and Sister Maureen joined the Good Shepherds while Sister Gertrude Galhena and Sister Emmanuel joined the Cloistered Carmelites. Sr. Shirani, Sr. Ushani, Sr. Sylvia Mathew and Christella Alwis joined the Sisters of the Cross.

There are many other stars that shine in different spheres. Some of these are good lawyers, successful businessmen, some shine in the area of education as University Lectures while others are Doctors and Social Workers.  Also some as Directors of Companies.

To crown all these, we have also Rt. Rev. Bishop Oswald Gomis who had been through the portals of St. Paul’s when the school had boys up to Grade 5.

The school was registered in 1946. More buildings were put up. The number of classrooms increased and so did the number of students. More qualified teachers joined the staff. Each of the Sister Principals did her very best in contributing to the progress of the school. While  Sister Mary Joseph was an able young disciplinarian, Sister Syncletica would go about always with a smile. It was during her time that Girl Guiding was introduced to the school. Also the Past Pupils’ Association was formed. Sisters Beatrice and Julian served as Principal of the school for a very short time. Next was Sister Marie who won the cooperation and good will of the students and teachers and was able to bring the school to a better standard. It was during this time the Advanced Level classes were started and the Western Band was begun. When Sister Annette was the Principal, the school celebrated its Silver Jubilee and this was the year that the school was vested as a government school. Sister Mary Joseph came in once again as Principal. She introduced Science, Commerce, French and Dancing, also oriental music. Sister Marie Antonita was the Principal from 1978 – 1983. She with her loving and devoted service was able to acquire the play ground for the school. Sister Brenda in her great enthusiasm built a new laboratory in 1985. Her efforts brought in very good results to the school. It was during her time the school celebrated its Golden Jubilee. There were many other sisters and teachers who served at St. Paul’s with great love and devotion. For example Sister Teresita who taught in the Kindergarten classes. Little ones were very happy to be with her and reach out to her as sister was of their stature. I can never forget Sister Celeste who taught us in the senior class. We  never had to revise her subjects as sister was thorough in her teaching. All of us secured either distinction or credit passes in her subjects. Besides, her talent in training Shakespear’s dramas was excellent. I still have to meet a person of that caliber. There were Sister Therese and Sister Gwendoline who brought up our choir to a very high standard. Many other sisters who in their hidden ways contributed to the growth of St. Paul’s Balika Maha Vidyalaya. A special word of thanks to our dear Mrs. Seneviratne who worked harmoniously together wit the teachers and the children giving all her cooperation to all the Principals for the well being of this Institution.  A special word should be mentioned about Sister Nirmalee who served as Principal for Ninteen long year. Sister with her winning smile won the hearts of teachers and students. In return she received the full support of the parents to carry out the mission successfully. The dream of  Fr.  Legoc   Sister , was able to realize partly by building the E upstairs to the main building. During her term of office the strength of the school was greatly increased.  Also the staff too increased. The Government Authorities, the clergy well –wishes and the past pupils rallied round her to make St. Paul’s a leading school.

While I say a big “Thank You” to all the past Principals, I ask the Lord to bless you in all your endeavours,  And to those who have toiled and gone to the Lord, I ask Him to be their Reward.

Our present Principal Sister Mary Siyeni, young and vibrant is at the helm with courage and determination to march forward together with the help of the teachers, students, community of sisters, parents and pastors to that goal which the school will be no second to any other in the area.

Recently too we had a bunch of flowers from the garden of Carmel to spread the Good News around the wider community. They are Sister Denesha, Sister Dayalini, Sister Nethmi, Sister Piyuma, Sister Lakmali, Sister Priyani Sister Dilka, Sister Chrishmila and Sister Subasini.

While we sing the Praises of the Lord for His wonderful gifts, we also pray that Jesus may continue to sow the seed of vocation to Religious life in many young hearts and that they may have the courage and determination to follow the star when they perceive.

Dear teachers and students may this Jubilee year give you the impetus to forge ahead into a bright future. May each of you be the leaven of the society today. While congratulating you on this day of your Platinum Jubilee, I ask the Lord to bless you abundantly. May you be the light, radiating and dispelling the darkness of our Motherland. And in faithfulness to its motto “Facintes  Veritatem in Caritate – working in truth and in love”, let us pray that the light that shone through the past seventy five years, may shine brighter through the years to come.

Sister Felicia Mellawa AC