The Stewardship of the Jesuit Intellectual Apostolate in Sri Lanka
The TULANA LIBRARYof the Jesuit Fathers
The intellectual apostolate of the Society of Jesus has a rich and vibrant tradition in the Sri Lanka Province. Today, it continues to be active, influential and liberational both within the country and internationally. This apostolate and its unique tradition has been under the continuous stewardship of the Tulana Research Centre and its Founder/Director, Fr. Aloysius Pieris, s.j. ever since he inherited, more than forty years ago, the intellectual legacy (with its valuable library, documents and ancient coin collection etc.) of Fr. S. G. Perera, s.j.
Fr. S. G. Perera, S.J. Fr. Simon Gregory Perera was born in Kalutara on 5th June 1882 and died in Galle in 1951. He became the first Sinhalese Jesuit on 7th September 1905. He was an eminent scholar and the leading historian of his day, specializing in the Portugese, Christian / Catholic and Jesuit history of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He studied for the priesthood in India and while still a scholastic, started studying and writing on history. While lecturing in Rome he obtained copies of letters sent by Jesuits who worked in Ceylon during the Portuguese colonization. He translated them and published them in learned journals. He also obtained copies of the documents of the Oratorian order who had saved the faith in Ceylon during the Dutch domination. From this work he was able to write various articles, give lectures and three of his most well known publications are; The Jesuits in Ceylon, Life of Fr. J. Goncalves and The Life of Venerable Father Joseph Vaz. At the request of the Ceylon Government, he translated into English the huge Portuguese work of Fr. Queyros – Conquista temporal espiritual de Ceilao (The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon). Fr. S. G. Perera’s The History of Ceylon for Schools from 1500 onwards has remained the most comprehensive and accurate text book to date.
The Fr. S. G. Perera Memorial Library and The Tulana Library of the Jesuit Fathers of Sri Lanka
Fr. Perera was for many years a teacher at St. Aloysius College, Galle. After his death, his personal collection of valuable ancient documents, manuscripts and books was turned into a mini-library by Fr. Chiriatti SJ and this became the nucleus around which the Fr. S. G. Perera Memorial Library was created by Fr. Perniola SJ and Fr. Chiriatti at the suggestion of the Past Pupils of St. Aloysius College. In 1976, this library came under the care of Fr. Aloysius Pieris SJ at the Tulana Research Centre for Encounter and Dialogue. Today the Tulana Library of the Jesuit Fathers of Sri Lanka in Gonawala, Kelaniya, of which the Fr. S. G. Perera Memorial Oriental Library is an integral part, has quadrupled in size and is internationally renowned as a resource centre for research in Indology, Buddhism, Christian Theology and Philosophy, Western Culture, and Sri Lankan and South Asian History and Culture. Fr. S. G. Perera’s library and intellectual property became the essential hub around which Aloysius Pieris pursued his Theological, Orientalist, Buddhist and Pali studies, and developed a unique thesis and practice of an Asian Theology of Liberation in collaboration with the mainly non-Christian peripheral peoples of Sri Lanka and Asia. He has made a name for himself in the halls of academia worldwide with doctorates, lectureships and professorial chairs, and to date, by publishing more than 19 books and about 270 articles. More importantly however, is that this intellectual work has borne fruits not merely in the form of books and papers which sit on library shelves, but in the continuously evolving PRACTICES of liturgical renewal, basic human communities, inter-religious dialogue, trans-ecclesial ecumenism, inter-ethnic reconciliation and the restoration of justice and peace, mainly in this fractured island of ours. In short, Tulana’s intellectual apostolate has ALWAYS BEEN and WILL BE about PRACTICES of encounter, dialogue and securing God’s Reign of Righteousness.. The Tulana Research Centre today is a centre of learning and spiritual, cultural and social renewal for many groups of people who pass in and out continuously - from all walks of life, and from all religious, ethnic and class backgrounds – academics, religious, peoples groups, student and youth groups, the marginalized and the oppressed. At the heart of all this is the Tulana Library with its variety of intellectual resources, which continue to provide research material, challenges and inspiration for all. The library is presently scattered into seven, difficult to manage, small halls and rooms (see graphic). The contents of these spaces need to be located in one purpose-built adequately staffed and resourced single LIBRARY. The site for this at Tulana has already been mapped out and Project Planning to raise funds has already begun.
The Tulana Library Today (January 2015) (see Tulana ground plan map below]
3. Library of Theological Studies (Fr. Nihal Abeysinghe’s collection) – about 874 books
4. Book Deposit and Archive room
6. Media Unit Library – about 225 books
7. Fr. Aloysius Pieris’ Study – about 475 books
8. JOURNALS Deposit – various Journals (about 155 titles)