Most Rev. Dr. Christopher Bonjean OMI was born on the 23rd September 1823.
On the day that he received his First Holy Communion, he determined to become a priest. Having been ordained, Fr. Bonjean went to India as a member of the Paris Missionary Congregation in 1847. The Oblate Fathers also came to Sri Lanka in the same year. Fr. Bonjean during this time came to know about the Oblate Fathers who had come to Sri Lanka from his own country. He was fascinated by the Oblate Spirituality and concentrated joining this Order after 9 years of service as a priest. He came to Sri Lanka to meet them in 1856. He joined the Oblates in Jaffna and worked with other missionaries.
British government gave religious freedom to the Catholics in 1806. But they also gave special privileges to the Church of England. Catholic and members of the other religions were given only less attention. From the very inception, Fr. Bonjean fought with the British Government. He wrote articles and books against the move of the government. He became the voice of the Catholic Church ever since he came to Sri Lanka.
His work was predominantly in the field of education. After 4 years after he came to Sri Lanka, he published a little booklet in English. This was printed in Madras. In this booklet, he appeals to the people to wake up in order to fight for the right of Catholic education which had been deprived of them by the government.
From 1798 onwards, British government in Sri Lanka handed over the education to the priests of the Church of England. In 1834, the British government appointed a committee consisting of priests and the government officials. This was largely supportive of the Anglicanism and helped conversion to their religion. In 1841, there was an amendment to this commission. The amended commission was named as Central School Commission. There were only 3 priests in the nine-member commission. One out of three was a Catholic priest for the first time in the history. The Buddhists, Hindus and Islamists were still outside the education.
There was much criticism for giving unnecessary attention to the Anglicanism. Among the critics, the one that was most powerful was Fr. Bonjean. Government proposed a common Christian school system. Students of all denominations had to study in one and the same school with a common syllabus for all Christian denominations which system Fr. Bonjean rejected outright.
The government appointed another commission in 1865 to study the matter of education. This committee consulted Fr. Bonjean for his ideas about education. He proposed a system of denominational schools which receive aid from the government.
Accordingly, government initiated a new school system in 1869. This availed a provision for any religion to start schools for the children of that denomination. Schools received government aid if they conducted the schools well.
The commencement of denominational schools in Sri Lanka was a result of the battle of Fr. Bonjean. This is why he is called the Father of Aided Denominational Schools.