Life of a shepherd in retrospect
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Devsritha Valence Mendis, the Bishop of the Diocese
of Chilaw and the youngest amongst all the Catholic Bishops in Sri Lanka
turned 50 on 21st May. We convey our prayerful greetings to His Lordship
on this joyous occasion and wish him the blessings of the Eternal Father
for continued service to Him and His people.
The world and our Church become so rich and beautiful because of the
variety of persons God has given to lead us. God places different
persons in our pathways to lead us to Him.
From time to time, God sends Shepherds according to His plan to
tender His flock. Truly, His Lordship Valence Mendis has been prepared
by God in a wonderful way to take up the undaunted task of leading His
Rt. Rev. Dr. Devsritha Valence Mendis
The task of a Bishop is designated by the Holy Spirit to take the
place of the Apostles as a Pastor of souls and subject to the authority
of the Holy Father. He is commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ,
the Eternal Pastor. The admirers of Bishop Valence say that they found
him one of the simplest church leaders and his bright face is always lit
up with a gentle smile.
Christ commanded the Apostles and their successors and gave them the
power to teach and sanctify the people of God in truth and to give them
By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who has been given to them,
a Bishop has been constituted true and authentic teacher of the faith.
Bishop Valence has always reminded his priests the importance of
evangelization and has given great impetus to the religious community.
The priestly life of Bishop Valence has certainly been touched and
nourished by two colossus of the Church. Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus
Fernando, the Bishop Emeritus of Chilaw nurtured and inspired him whilst
Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, the Bishop of Kandy and current President
of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka (CBCSL) moulded and
His Holiness John Paul II of revered memory appointed His Lordship
Valence Mendis as the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Chilaw on 17th
January 2005. He was consecrated a bishop by Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus
Fernando amidst the presence of all the bishops of Sri Lanka at a
befitting ceremony held at Our Lady of Carmel Cathedral in Chilaw on 2nd
Bishop Valence had the blessing of serving under the watchful eyes of
Rev. Dr. Frank Marcus Fernando for 18 months before succeeding him
upon his retirement. Bishop Valence was enthroned as the third Bishop of
Chilaw at Our Lady of Carmel Cathedral in Chilaw on 26th October 2006.
The Church in Sri Lanka has entrusted to Bishop Valence several major
responsibilities. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Catholic National
Commission for Education, Catechetic and Bible Apostolate as well as the
Catholic National Commission for Migrants, Health, Tourism and Prisons
of the CBCSL. He has identified education as the flagship that could
nurture and guide the destinies of the future generations.
A Higher Education Institute has been a long felt need for the youth
of the Chilaw Diocese and Bishop Valence hastily raised the funds,
constructed and commissioned a stream for the thirst of intelligence in
the form of St. Anthony’s Institute of Higher Studies on 12th January
It is the fervent hope of Bishop Valence that his creation will not
only qualify students in different professional spheres but also will
mould them to be compassionate in heart, educated in mind, rooted in
faith and responsive to social needs of an ever changing world.
Bishop Valence also has made vast strides towards the development of
the hallowed St. Anne’s National Shrine at Talavila. The world renowned
17th century edifice located in the diocese will soon possess a Blessed
Sacrament Chapel for the benefit of the pilgrims that throng to the
sanctuary throughout the year.
Besides, steps are underway to improve the facilities and to give a
facelift to the edifice where the most venerated image of St. Anne is
He has always taken a keen interest to promote inter-religious
harmony and has rendered yeoman services to the Catholic National
Commission for Religious Dialogue and Ecumenism for over two decades. He
was instrumental in forming Diocese Commissions to promote the
apostolate of dialogue and has represented the church on many National
and International Seminars and Conferences.
Bishop Valence was born on 21st May 1958 in Moratuwa. He is the
eldest son of late Mr. Bertram Mendis and of Mrs. Iranganie Mendis of
the Parish of Koralawella. His parents were very humble and valued the
proper upbringing and the endowment of spiritual values to their six
children - Devsritha Valence, Desiree Perpetua, Florentious Jayalath,
Cheryl Goretti, Iranga Mayala and late Crescentia. His mother has played
a pivotal role in the priestly journey of the bishop and continues to
After a brilliant school career at St. Sebastian’s and Prince of
Wales Colleges in Moratuwa, he was beckoned by God to His vineyard to
enable him to fulfill his allotted vocation. The effusive showering of
talents made him more and more conscious of his obligations before God.
These ideas and ideals which matured in him from childhood made him what
he is today.
Due to the sincerity and persistence of their son and the great love
that the parents had for the priesthood, the young aspirant was sent to
Paul’s Minor Seminary, Marawila in 1975. A year later, he joined St.
Julian Eymard Intermediate Seminary in Haputale for his Propaedeutic
studies and entered National Seminary in Ampitiya in 1976.
In the seminary, he set his goals straight and chartered the correct
course. His perfection was to seek God’s will and fulfill it and as a
result glory and honour followed him - as the day follows the night.
As a gifted musician and a keen sportsman and also as the Dean of
Students at National Seminary he won the admiration of his superiors as
well as colleagues.
The day dawned for him to approach alter and was ordained a priest at
Joseph’s Church, Wennappuwa on 20th July 1985. The Holy Scripture
confirms that Abraham was asked to go to an unknown land and he
responded positively and similarly Jesus summoned his disciples and
asked them to go out on mission to preach the good news.
In a similar manner, just after his ordination he responded to the
call of the Lord to serve as a ‘Fidei Donum’ Priest in the Diocese of
Kandy. He first served as Assistant Parish Priest of St. Anthony’s
Cathedral, Kandy from 1985 to 1987 and later traversed new paths to
uplift the living conditions of his parishioners as the Parish Priest of
Padiwatta from 1987 to 1989.
Priestly formation is one of the most important ministries in the
Church. At the request of the CBCSL, he joined the permanent staff of
the National Seminary in October 1989. After three years of teaching
experience, Bishop Valence was sent to Rome to pursue his Doctoral
studies and within two years, he obtained his Ph. D from the Urban
University in Rome in 1994.
On his return, he served as the Dean of Philosophy at the National
Seminary. He is a valued teacher of philosophy and theology but ‘Natural
Theology’ and the ‘Theology of Religions’ is his forte. His fluency in
Sinhala, English, Tamil, Italian, German and Latin added finesse to his
A paradigm shift in ‘Priestly Formation’ took place with the
separation of the Philosophate and Theologate in the National Seminary.
In 2000, he had the honour of being the first Director of the National
Seminary’s new Philosophate.
A year later in 2001, the CBCSL placed their trust and confidence on
him by installing him as the youngest Rector of the National Seminary at
The stature and the capabilities of Bishop Valence were really seen
in his work as the Rector of the National Seminary, where he worked
tirelessly to raise the overall quality of ‘Priestly Formation’ by
introducing vital structural changes. He very often stressed the
importance of Spiritual formation and discipline, as the launching pad
for all other aspects.
In keeping with his motto, “To unite all in Charity”, His Lordship
Devsritha Valence Mendis will strive to bind all in the bonds of charity
to open the doors of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the World, the joy of
every human heart, and the fulfillment of all our hopes.
Happy Birthday! Ad Multos Annos!