New Anglican Church priest welcomed

WELCOMED: Father Neil Prasanna Fernando was officially welcomed to the Mount Gambier Anglican Church as the new priest over the weekend.
WELCOMED: Father Neil Prasanna Fernando was officially welcomed to the Mount Gambier Anglican Church as the new priest over the weekend.

FROM the tropics of Sri Lanka to the Blue Lake city, Father Neil Fernando was officially welcomed to Mount Gambier over the weekend as the new priest of the Anglican Church.

Bringing years of knowledge and experience, he has spent the last 25 years guiding young and old through times of weakness and strength as a priest, chaplain, teacher and counsellor.

Ready to take on his new position in Australia, Father Neil said he is looking forward to connecting with the people of Mount Gambier.

“I always wanted to be sent and God has sent me here to shepherd his flock and bring them closer to God,” he said.

“As Jesus as our model I will be a companion and journey with them, taking them to Jesus and helping them to discover Jesus in their life.”

Entering the minor seminary in 1993, Father Neil has taken a long journey to help those in need.

Through work as a youth chaplain in the province of Uva at the diocesan level to a director of the New Life Centre for Integral Formation in Ambalangoda, it seems there is nothing Father Neil cannot do.

“The New Life Centre helps youth suffering with mental illness through yoga, psychotherapy, counselling programs and a number of other activities,” he said.

“We also help those in need with stationary and books for school and clothes.”

More recently Father Neil held a position as diocesan director for the Institute of Integral Education, Bible Apostolate and Catechetics.

Here he covered all three areas, training 300 teachers and 2500 children.

He was almost killed for trying to rescue people from the war that was raging for 30 years in northern Sri Lanka.

However, after visiting Australia in 2008 with 20 youths for World Youth Day, Father Neil said he knew it was the place he was meant to be.

“I always felt that God had a plan for me, then I met my wife and came out to Australia and it became my dream country,” he said.

Reaching out to bishops across the country Father Neil was thankful when Father Thomas from Mount Barker responded to his request and introduced him to Bishop of the Murray John Ford.

“He invited me to come and serve in the diocese and I was installed and licensed as the priest in charge of the Mount Gambier Parish,” he said.

“I feel this is a very good parish and it was an exciting day when Father Thomas, ministers from other churches and members of the community came and prayed for me in my new position.”

Looking forward Father Neil said he will stay in Mount Gambier for as long as he is needed.

“Mount Gambier is a beautiful place and the community has been very welcoming,” he said.

“I hope to connect more with other residents and have already joined the Yahl Cricket Club and badminton and table tennis clubs.”