Birth: 19.09.1939 at Puloly, Point Pedro
First Vows: 15.08.1959 at Mont Eden, Kalutara
Final Vows: 15.08.1962 at Oblate Scholasticate, Ampitya
Ordination: 21.12.1965 at st. Lusia’s Cathedral, Kotekena
Death: 13.08.2009 at the Home for the Elders, Darly Road, Maradana
Reverended Father Philipiah Jesunesan was born on 19 september 1939 at Puloly, Point Pedro in the Diocese of Jaffna. His parents were Caitampillai Philippiah and Gnanammah Annammah. He was was the last child of the nine children., six boys and three girls. He had his early education at the R.C.Shool, PUloly and then joined st. Patricks’s College,Jaffna in 1949 for his secondary education. At St. Patrick’s college, he was in the football Team (second Eleven), playing at the Right Extrme position. He successfully completed the General School Certificate Examination in December 1959.
Then decided to be an Oblate Priest, he joined the Oblate Juniorate at Kohuwala, Nugegoda in January 1957. After studying Latin for six months at Juniorate, he entered the Oblate Novitiate at Mont Eden, Kalutara on 14 August 1958. Having Completed his year of probation, he made his first profession of Vows as an Oblate Scholastic at Ampitiya, from where he pursued his philosophical and theological studies at National Seminary. During his scholasticate, he maintained a good relationship with his peers. He was very popular among them and he entertained them with his jokes and pranks.
He was also a good orator, singer and dramatist. He made his final profession of vows on 15th August, 1962. Then he continued his Theological studies and was ordained a priest of God Msgr. Frank Marcus Fernando, the Auxilliary Bishop of Colombo, on 21 December 1965 at st. Lucia’s Catherdral, Kotahena. He contuniued his first formation at the Scholasticate till April 1966, and then stepped into the Mission field.
Fr. Jesunesan’s First assignment as a new young Oblate Priest, full of apostolic zeal and enthusiasm, was to the Oblate Preaching Band at Amala Utpavam, Colombuthurai, Jaffna in May 1966. On October 1966, he went for his pastoral course he went for his pastoral course to the Oblate Pastoral Institute at Our Lady of Fatima’s Church, Maradana and returned to Amala Utpavam in May 1967. His stay at Amala Utpavam was short, for his help was needed somewhere else. He joined the formation team at the scholaticate, Ampitiya in June 1969, from where he taught History of Philosophy at theNational Seminary.
Then he was sent as acting parish priest at the church of Our Lady of Fatima, Maradana for a few months, from May to November 1970. In November 1970, he came back to the preaching Band at Amala Utpavam, Colombuthurai. Durign his stay at Amala Utpavam, he had the occasion to join a group of senior Oblate preachers to conduct a Grand Mission in India in January 1971. Young Father Jesunesanwas not second to none in this ministry. He was not at all a building preacher, but already a preacher Par excellence, admired by one and all. He could keep his hearers, young and old, spell bound bu his humorous and witty expressions, yet, opening their hearts to truth.
Father Jesunesan was a man who loved novelty. He was satisfied with the normal missionary apostolate of the priests, wand wanted to plunge himself into a new field of apostolate. He joined two more oblates of the same mind and ventured out to be worker priests among the estate laborers in Hill country in May 1971. After an year of experimentation, he returned to the normal ministry, and was sent as a missionary to the Oblate Mission in India July 1973. In India he served at an orphanage in Kottar for two years.
In July 1975, Fr. Jesunesan obtained a year of leave from the congregation and went to Canada where he enrolled himself at the University of St. Paul to follow a degree course in Sociology. He also worked in a Parish in New Jersy, U.S.A. for about a year, 1977-1978He retuned to Sri Lanka in September 1978, and in the mission of Nilaveli, in thediocese of trincomalee- Batticaloa for a few months. He retuned to the Preaching Band at Amala Utpavam colombuthurai in Apiril 1979, and was assigned to thestaff of St. Patrick’s Colloge, Jaffna in January 1980.
Father Jesenesan served St. Patrick’s College for 12 years as the Vice Rector of the College. Durign this period, he exhibited his talents in the field of education. His teaching wasalwyas lively and enlivening, and broth light into other’s lives. He disciplined thestudents with love, corrected wisely and understood each of the students in his uniqueness. He knew how to prod the hesitant, curb the rash ones, and never quench their love for life. He also knew how much to demand and what to over look. He affirmed their worth, their life’s beauty and their gifts. He handled them understandingly and not feel put out when a youth acted out. Fr. Jero Selvanayagam, the Rector of St. Patrick’s college, speaking about Fr. Jesunesan’s contribution to st. Patrick’s said “He was a fine living example of true Patrician. Thoroughness beign the moving power of his activity, Fr. Jesunesan gave the prime time to his priesthood to st. Patricks’s College.
He lived the essence of Priesthood as both priest and victim, and immolated himself on thealtar of St. Patrick’s, guided by the ideals of a true Patrician, faithful to its motto: Fide et Labore….. He used his style of eloquence to elucidate the best and to advise, rectify and guide the students at the college…the eagerness with which he looked after their moral and religious training; his empathy with them and his competence in developing their domant potentials are the qualities that adorned the personality of Father Jesunesan…he was a rock of refuge to the teachers, sharing their burdens and sorrows, participating in their joys and anxieties. He used his talents and genius to promote their welfare. His wise guidance, ready sympathy, enlightened outlook and magnetic personality enabled the teachers to maintain an atmosphere of cordiality among them. He identified himself with the Alma Mater and labored strenuously in her interests with that energetic enthusiasm so characteristic of him.”
When Jesunesan finished his term at St. Patrick’s college in 1992, he helped the parish of Passara, in the diocese of Badulla, and in the parish of Dehiwala in the Archdiocese of Colombo for a short time, till he was appointed Superior of the Preaching band at Colombuthurai in 1995. It was the time, during which the whole of Jaffna was displaced to the Vanni when the government Security forces started their fight against tamil militant to take control of Jaffna Peninsula. On 15th May 1997, Fr. Jesunesan was appointed the Provincial Superior of the Oblate Province of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He held this office only for one and a half years, as he was elected Ge neral Councilor for Asia-Oceania Region at the General Chpater of 1988.
He served in that post for full six years, and during this period his commendable contribution to the General Administration towards the welfare of thecongregation was very significant and magnanimous. Father General Very Rev. Fr. Wilhem Steckling wrote about his services in the General administration “It was a privilege to work with him during his six years of service on the General Council. He was appreciated not only for his selfless hard work, being always on the road at the service of the Oblate Mission especially in Asia and Oceania, but we were also very happy to have around in our community where he brought about harmony and joy and inspired us by his deep faith. All those who knew him in the General house community speak fondly of him and remember his ready with openness to new ideas”.
When the six year term on the General Council was over, Fr. Jesunesan volunteered to be a member of a team of Oblates who ventured out into a new field of Apostolate – Mission to thesecularized world. He worked for a year in the Oblate Province of St. Alberta, before returning to his home province in 2006. He was appointed Superior of Father Matthew’s Home, a home for the retired Oblate Priests, at Columbuthurai in Jaffna. After a year, he accepted the responsibility entrusted to him as the Superior of the Oblate Schlasticate at Colombuthurai, Jaffna, without any hesitation in October 2008. As a formator, Fr. Jesunesan was a person who expressed his willingness to have a dialogue with everyone. His concerns for others for others went beyond the parameters of the institution, so to say, always directed to the welfare of the formandi. Every moment was precious to him in the proper education and sern discipline. Above all, he had to set an exemplary example and great sense of dedication in the dedication in the discharge of his duties.
Fr. Jesunesan’s stay at the Scholasticate was very short. He was falling ill quite often and was brought to Colombo for a diagnosis and treatment in February 2009. Doctors found that he had a malignant tumor in the brain and operated on him twice to remove cancerous growth. Fr. Jesunesan crippled with dreaded illness, never over taken by despair or disillusion. On the contrary he remained close to his Master, experiencing Him as his lifelong companion. After a brief illness born patiently in peace with the crucified Saviour, he passed away to his eternal reward at 10.30 p.m on 13th August 2009, at the Home for Elders, Darly Road Maradana. At the time of his death he was one of the Provincial Council, the superior of the De Mazenod Scholasticate, the chairman of the formation committee, and the Supervisor of the centre for peace and reconciliation.
The was a requiem mass at the chapel of the Home for the elders on 14th August 2009 at 4.00 p.m.presided over by Leopold Ratnasekara OMI, amidst a large gathering of priests, Religious and laity of Colombo, very Rev. Fr. Clement Waidyasekara, the Oblate Provincial of Colombo, performed the Oblate funeral rituals, and Fr. Alex Costa OMI recited the final prayer. The mortal remains were flown to Jaffna on the following morning where they were laid in state at St. Joseph’s chapel Columbuthurai for the convenient of the people to pay their last respected. The funeral and the burial took place on 17th August 2009 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Jaffna. There was a Requiem High Mass presided over by Very Rev. Fr. Paul Nadchethiram OMI, the Oblate Provincial of Jaffna in the presence of great number of priests, religious men and women and laity. The panegyric was delivered by Fr. S.M Selvaratnam OMI. After the Final Obsequies, the mortal remains were taken in procession to St. Mary’s Burial Ground where they were laid to rest. May he rest in Peace.