Every historical movement has its main authors and protagonists. They have existed also in the history of the Claretian movement in Sri Lanka. The idea of having vocations from Sri Lanka originated first in the mind of the veteran German Claretian missionary in India, Rev.Fr. Franz Xaver Dirnberger.
It was the year 1976. The Spirituality Institute â€˜Adhyatma Vidya Peetaâ€™ in the neighbouring house belonging to the Carmelite Fathers (OCD) has just started to function. Among the participants there were two religious sisters from Sri Lanka belonging to the Congregation of the Holy Family of Bordeaux: Sr. Mary Angelina and Sr. Aida. These sisters used to visit Claret Bhavan, Carmelaram where Fr. Dirnberger was superior and novice master. He, in line with the universal outlook of Rev.Fr. Peter Schweiger, Superior General of the Congregation from 1949 to 1967 got the idea of a Claretian branch in Sri Lanka. â€œSisters, why donâ€™t you help us in getting some good vocations to our Congregation from Sri Lanka? We would like to extend our Congregation also to Sri Lanka..â€ Fr. Dirnberger used to tell the sisters and request them for their collaboration in this venture.
When Srs. Angelina and Aida returned to the island after finishing the spirituality course, Fr. Dirnberger was ever anxious to follow up his idea of having Claretian Congregation implanted in Sri Lanka too. He sent Fr. Cyriac Njayarkulam to Jaffna in April 1978 for first contacts with the help of the Holy Family Sisters. Bishop of Jaffna, Rt. Rev.Dr. B. Deogupillai, approved and blessed the plan of recruiting candidates from his diocese to the Claretian Congregation. The Bishop had a good impression about the Claretians, which he got during his Canon Law studies in Rome and this Bishop was instrumental in helping the Claretian Congregation to get rooted in Sri Lanka. Rev. Fr. J.V.P. Selvaraja, parish priest of the Cathedral and Rev. Fr. Kingsley Swampillai, secretary of the Bishop extended warm hospitality and support to Fr. Cyriac on his visit to Jaffna. Fr. Cyriac visited also Colombo, Kandy, Anuradhapura and Mannar during his stay in Sri Lanka.
In July 1979 the first batch consisting of four candidates namely, Alfred Kirubananthan, Nesan Christopher, Jansen and Vilvarajasingham reached Claret Bhavan, Karumathur in Tamil Nadu, India. In the subsequent years Frs. Anselmus, Lucas, Abraham Pothiyittel and Mathew Njayarkulam made visits to Sri Lanka with the purpose of further recruitment of candidates. Due to their efforts and with the collaboration of Rev.Fr. Selvaraja and Sr. Angelina and others, altogether 15 candidates from Sri Lanka joined the Claretians in India until 1985. Then the recruiting came to a stop since the political situation worsened due to civil war between the Government and the LTTE. But the idea of starting a foundation in Sri Lanka prevailed in the mind of the Superiors in the Province of Germany. In 1984 the then Provincial Superior of Germany, Rev.Fr. Alois Hornung CMF made a trip to Jaffna accompanied by the Rosarian Superior General Rev.Fr. Packianathan CR. During that visit a spacious house at Chundikuli in Jaffna was purchased hoping that soon a foundation would follow. The civil war, however, put a stop to any foundation until Jaffna was brought under the control of the Government troops and only in 1998 a Claretian community could start functioning there with Fr. Rex Constantine as Superior.
After minor seminary formation and postulancy the Srilankan students entered the Claret Bhavan novitiate at Carmelaram, Bangalore. They studied philosophy at Arul Anandar College, Karumathur, Madurai Dt. When the first batch started their theology studies at St. Peterâ€™s Pontifical Seminary, Bangalore, situation in Sri Lanka got worse and it became difficult for the students from Jaffna to extend their resident visas in India. According to the request of the Seminary authorities the students from Sri Lanka were taken out of the St. Peterâ€™s Pontifical Seminary and they found welcome and accommodation in the Claretian Province of the Philippines through the then Provincial Rev.Fr. Domingo Moraleda CMF in Quezon City in 1987 and subsequent years.
In 1984 Province of India and Indo-Srilankan Delegation were established. The Indo-Srilankan Delegation comprised of Tamil-speaking Claretians from Tamil Nadu and members from Sri Lanka.