Our History

Our History
Building lives and improving standards since 1968

The mandate to set up a Social and Economic Centre which would free the marginalized and enable them to obtain their inherent rights was the brainchild of the late His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Cooray, who gave the task to Fr. Joe Fernando in 1956. The choice of Fr. Joe to set up into operation the mandate of the Bishops was in no small measure due to the experience and dynamism shown by Fr. Joe as early as the late 1940’s when he ventured out as a young parish priest to influence the fishermen to seek integral development. In a very simple manner Fr. Joe started a Co-operative Fishermen’s Association at Sea Street.

Having taken the privilege offered to him by the late His Eminence to attend the University of St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in Canada and armed with a degree in Social Development Fr. Joe was convinced that a genuine people oriented and people sustained movement was the most effective method whereby people could be animated to work out their own development. Later in 1956, the suggestion made by Fr. James Morris of Catholic Relief Services to establish a relief service in Sri Lanka to provide and facilitate development together with the suggestion by Fr. Lucian Schmidt, then Vicar General of Colombo to expand the Sea Street experience to the whole island provided the impetus for His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Cooray, who was in Rome, to decide on setting up an Institute for Social Development in Sri Lanka which would work not only at diocesan level but become national and reach out to all sectors of the community. The outcome of this discussion by the late His Eminence, Fr. Schmidt and Fr. Joe was what eventually led to the SEDEC being established. In 1968, SEDEC was born with Fr. Joe’s main concept on the working of the organization based on ‘Populorum Progressio’.

During almost 50 years of yeoman service to the nation, Caritas Sri Lanka – SEDEC has grown to become one of the largest and most respected humanitarian organizations in Sri Lanka. Its work centred around Integral Human Development has spread to thirteen (13) Caritas Diocesan who implement many projects in the twelve (12) Catholic Dioceses. Caritas Sri Lanka – SEDEC has been in the forefront in humanitarian emergency responses during several major disasters in the country including the prolonged period of the internal conflict in the north/east and the December 2004 Tsunami disaster.

Directors / Administrators

  • 1968 - Rev. Rev. Joe Fernando (Founder Director)
  • 1974 - Rev. Fr. Lucian Schmidt
  • 1976 - Mr. Basil Illangakoon
  • 1981 - Rev. Fr. Vianney Fernando
  • 1983 - Rev. Fr. Vincent Dep
  • 1986 - Rev. Fr. Peter Charles
  • 1990 - Rev. Fr. Camillus
  • 1991 - Rev. Fr. Oswald Firth
  • 1995 - Rev. Fr. Joseph Devarajah
  • 2001 - Rev. Fr. Damian Fernando
  • 2009 - Rev. Fr. George Sigamoney
  • 2016 - Rev. Fr. Shanthi Kumar Weliwita
  • 2017 - Rev. Fr. Mahendra Gunetilleke
  • 2022 - Rev.Fr.Luke Nelson Perera (Present National Director)