Most Rev Jerome M. Fernandez
Rt. Rev. Dr. Jerome M. Fernandez
Rt. Rev. Dr. Jerome M. Fernandez, the first native Bishop of Quilon, was the great visionary who founded the college for the educational upliftment of the Latin Catholics of the Diocese of Quilon. His Lordship believed that education was a means to enlightenment, social change and material prosperity.
Bishop Jerome was born on September 8, 1901 at Koivila, Kollam. In 1915, he joined St. Raphael's Minor Seminary, completed his high school studies in St. Aloysius School, and was enrolled in St. Teresa's Major Seminary, which was the western wing of what is now Fatima College. (The building was constructed by His Lordship, Archbishop Aloysius Maria Benziger, OCD, Bishop of Quilon, 1905-1931.) On completing his ecclesiastical studies, he was ordained priest on March 24, 1928 and was immediately appointed Professor of Latin and Theology in his Alma Mater; a recognition of his intelligence, dedication and hard-work during a period when there were very few Indian Professors in the seminaries of India.
When in 1936, Fr. Vincent Derere O.C.D., Professor at St. Teresa's Major - Seminary was appointed Bishop of Quilon, he chose Fr. Jerome as his Secretary. A year later when Bishop Derere was transferred to Trivandrum & the newly erected diocese bifurcated from Quilon. Fr. Jerome was consecrated the First Indian Bishop of Quilon, the oldest Diocese of India, established in 1329 by Pope John XXII. Just 36 years old then, he was the youngest Bishop in the world.
During his reign of 41 long and fruitful years - from 1937 to 1978 - Bishop Jerome proved himself a man of indomitable courage and tremendous faith in God. The visionary in him built a chain of schools, colleges and other educational institutions. The special interest the Bishop took in the growth and development of Fatima College is worth mentioning. This college is, undoubtedly, the fruit of this dedicated and far-sighted prelate's selflesslabour. Karmela Rani Training College at Kollam, Bharatha Matha I.T.I atKottiyam and the Jyoti Nikethan Women's College at Kollam, sister institutions of Fatima, were founded in 1960, 1962 and 1973 respectively. TheBenziger Hospital and the Nursing School are the other outstanding gifts of the Bishop to his flock.
Bishop Jerome was a great defender of the rights of minorities, especially in the field of education. When efforts were made to nationalise educational institutions in the late 1940s by the Dewan of Travancore, Sir. C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, and in the late 1950s by the Marxist Government in Kerala, Bishop Jerome was very much in the forefront of the battle against this move. In the socio-economic field, he established the Quilon Social Service Society, which has been quietly helping improve the lives of the people of this area since 1960.
After a long and fruitful period of selfless service, Bishop Jerome handed over the reins of the administration of the diocese to his successor in 1978. Even during his retired life at St. Joseph’s Priests’ Home at Kottiyam, till three years before his death, (on February 26, 1992), he kept himself busy through the Charismatic Movement.