Dr. Mendis and daughter Samantha after having breakfast with Bishop Andradi at his residence in Anuradhapura.
Colombo, Sri Lanka — The Vatican’s newly appointed Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith in Sri Lanka received St. Peter Claver Church parishioner Dr. Patrick Mendis and his daughter Samantha at his residence in Colombo. During their visit the cardinal discussed the scholarships established by Mendis and spoke about his late grandparents who built the Holy Rosary church in Polonnaruwa — the birthplace of this longtime resident of St. Paul.
Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist country. Only less than eight percent of the population of 20 million is Roman Catholic. In 1505, the Portuguese introduced Roman Catholicism to the island. The sparsely populated Mendis’ birthplace — the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa — is known among Christians around the world as a place of the celebrated Buddhist statues that Rev. Thomas Merton of Kentucky wrote about enlightenment in his famous Asian Journal.
At the Holy Rosary Church, Mendis and his daughter met with the school children, the scholarship recipients, and the Buddhist neighbors. The majority of church’s school children are from Buddhist families.
“As a Catholic and altar boy, I grew up with Buddhists and Muslims,” Mendis said.
The oldest son of Buddhist parents, Mendis was adopted by his paternal grandparents who were Christians. The St. Paul resident later participated in a series of discussions on Buddhist-Catholic relations at the Pontifical Council on Inter-religious Dialogue at Vatican.
During their visit to Sri Lanka, the Mendis family was hosted by Bishop Norbert Andradi and they attended a mass at the bishop’s residence in Anuradhapura — another historic Buddhist city. Over the years, Mendis has been assisting the Catholic and Buddhist communities.
“These scholarships represent a good legacy of Dr. Patrick Mendis and his continued appreciation of his late grandparents — the pioneers of the church and the preservers of the Catholic faith,” said Bishop Andradi of the Anuradhapura-Polonnaruwa archdiocese.
Dr. Mendis came to Minnesota as an AFS exchange student in 1978. While attending the University of Minnesota, he met Rev. Kevin McDonough of the St. Peter Claver church. His daughter and son Gamini is now attending the University of Virginia and Purdue University. The two were baptized by Rev. McDonough who became a friend and a mentor to Mendis and his family.