Frangipani is generally referred to as a name of a tree with an abundance of white, pink or yellow fragrant flowers which is commonly known as The Temple Flowers. For those who lived in Ampitiya some decades back, this name was very familiar, but not for a common meaning. Rather, Frangipani was known as a famous hotel or a tourist inn has been home to a community of religious men called the Redemptorists for nearly thirty years.
Earlier, brothers in formation were sent to India for their novitiate, philosophical and theological studies in preparation for the priesthood, but unfortunately at some stage in history, this discontinued. Because of the assassination of the former Indian Prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE, the Government of India decided to restrict visas issued to Sri Lankans for a period of only six months. This decision was a major drawback for the Region to face in its formation programme. The decision taken by the Indian Government brought the process of sending students to India for studies to a permanent halt. It was then, that the Region arrived at a decision to undertake formation in Sri Lanka itself. Before sending brothers to the National seminary for studies, a proper student house has to be found in which they could stay. Some obvious questions occurred. Where will this student house be located? Who will be the formator of the students? Will it be easy to find a place?
By 1989 the Redemptorist Fathers were looking at all possibilities to purchase a property at Ampitiya as the Region had decided to start a major seminary in Sri Lanka. The Regional Superior at that time, Fr. Glen Fernando C.Ss.R entrusted the herculean task of finding a place to rev. Bro. Patrick Perera C.Ss.R who was at Sancta Maria, Kandy. Finding a good property at a reasonable price was very difficult. However, they managed to find a small house with minimum facilities near the entrance to Monte Fano (The Sylvestro-Benedictine monastery in Kandy). The chronicles of the Studentate dated 27th of August 1990 say, “Yet the house was not in a suitable condition to buy. No water. No electricity. No rooms. Somehow, we came to the house with a truckload of house requisites to occupy it and to renovate it. The first few days were spent hunting for water. We began the renovation work. There were only two rooms in the house. Soon, we built partitions and made four more rooms. We got a cook. We are now slowly settling down. The question is what is ahead of us?”
Thus, the redemptorist Studentate was started and was addressed as “Ligiuori Nivahana”, S.S.R Seminary, V.C. 297 Ampitiya, Kandy. The first prefect of students was Rev. Fr. Maxi Fernando. The first three students were Tudor, Chaminda and Pradeep. It did not take long for the to realize the need for another house elsewhere with better conditions.
Bro. Patrick never gave up his efforts of finding a good residence. He with the kind helps of Mr Peiris, a resident of Ampitiya kept on looking for a house. Their worthy endeavour was blessed by God to be never a waste. It came up as a huge consolation when they came in contact with an abandoned house in Ampitiya itself. This edifice which had once served as a hotel belonged to a lady known as Mrs Hulangamuwa, the daughter of Mr Nissanka Wijethunga, the former Diyawadana Niame of the Dalada Maligawa. On being informed about this Fr. Glen, the then Regional Superior sent Bro. Alphonsus to Kandy to have a look at the aforementioned property. Everyone seemed in favour of it. After a number of discussions with owners, they negotiated to do the business for twenty-seven hundred thousand rupees. Hence, on the 20th of August 1990, on the day of both Bro Alphonsus’ and Mrs Hulangamuwa’s birthdays, the transaction was successfully completed. Here, it should be mentioned on a special note that a donation given to the region by a family known as ‘The Crabs family’ had been of tremendous help in purchasing this property. This was how the long-awaited dream of the Redemptorist fathers in Sri Lanka of buying a house and starting a studentate of their own became a reality. Since then, up to this year, 2014 in which they proudly celebrate 75 years of their presence in Sri Lanka, this hallowed place has been serving as a powerhouse to the region in forming, shaping and moulding young men who wish to give their lives in faithful service to Christ.
Although the owners were changed the name of the house was never changed. It remains the same as ‘Frangipani’ even today. The guiding principle of the Frangipani Community is based upon Luke 2:52, “We are a community of growth, wisdom, knowledge and faith experiences, entrusted with the formation of the students to become Redemptorist missionaries who will preach the Good News ever anew.”
A few years ago, the Region decided to send students to the Philippines for their Novitiate and Theological studies. Therefore, the present period of formation of the students in this house of formation is only two years. The students, during these two years of philosophy, will be oriented in the academic aspect but also in spiritual and apostolic aspects as well in their period of preparation for the Holy Priesthood
The present community consists of ten members, under the leadership of Fr. Kelum C.Ss.R, the superior and Fr. Shanti Abeysinghe C.Ss.R, the Prefect of students. There is only one student at present doing his philosophical studies at the National Seminary.