Fr. Brian Jayawardhana
EDMONTON – Catholic Social Services will honour Oblate Father Brian Jayawardhana with its Msgr. Bill Irwin Award of Excellence at the agency's annual meeting in June.
Jayawardhana, 76, has served with CSS since arriving in Canada from his native Sri Lanka in 1976.
The organization will honour him with its top award because of his academic contributions to the study of people with developmental disabilities and for his exceptional service to CSS and the community as a whole.
Jayawardhana has published his research internationally and has spoken at global conferences in the area of intelligence measurement of developmentally disabled adults.
Currently serving as CSS' chaplain, he has also taken on a wide variety of roles in the agency – psychologist and family therapist, volunteer coordinator, religious education coordinator and coordinator of a residence for intellectually challenged adults.
Jayawardhana has also been an associate pastor at St. Albert Parish for 18 years. He was also pastor of the Edmonton Archdiocese's Native Pastoral Centre for three years. Fluent in seven languages, he has taught at several colleges, seminaries and universities in Canada and Asia.
Ordained in Rome, he will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a priest in December.
The Oblate earned master's degrees in both philosophy and theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, as well as master's in educational psychology from the University of Alberta.
Jayawardhana has also published a volume of poetry, another of short stories and, blessed with an excellent singing voice, has recorded a CD with his niece Liesel.
Father Mike McCaffery, a previous winner of the Msgr. Bill Irwin Award, described Jayawardhana as "a wise and compassionate person who truly embodies humble and selfless service to others.
"He has ministered to countless clients and staff, including their family members, in times of crisis, at their deathbeds and at their marriage celebrations."
McCaffery said Jayawardhana's "serene and loving presence" binds him to those he serves, especially those with developmental disabilities.
The Msgr. Bill Irwin Award is named after the founder of CSS who established CSS in 1961 and built it into Canada's largest multifunction social service agency.
The City of Edmonton named Irwin as one of its 100 leading citizens of the last century, and he was an officer of the Order of Canada. Irwin died in 2004.
The award is granted annually to organizations or individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the well-being of the community or who have demonstrated the highest standard of excellence in a human services field.
Previous winners include Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, the Catholic Women's League, Douglas Roche and social justice advocate Bob McKeon.