Father Eugene L. Watrin, S.J. (1920-2004)
A life dedicated to the service to the fellow man: that would best portray the life of Fr. Eugene Watrin who was a counselor, guide, teacher, social worker and in the words of one of his students, a motivation and inspiration to others. After spending a major part of his life in service of Nepalese people in Nepal, he took his heavenly abode on February 29, 2004 leaving behind magnificent memories and a tradition of developing leaders who lived for God and served their fellow man. He was the one who constantly challenged his disciples to abide by St. Xavier’s motto to “Live for God and Lead for Nepal”.
The Dayton native had spent nearly 50 years in the country as a Jesuit missionary, helping to found schools and numerous humanitarian programs. He had been a teacher, a mentor, a friend to generation of Nepalese science the end of colonial rule. In the country that is mostly Hindu the catholic priest has been more concerned with good works than professions of a particular faith.
Eugene L. Watrin was born in July 28th 1920 in Dayton Ohio, USA in a moderate family. His father worked for General motors and his mother was a housewife. At a young age of 19 he chose to become a priest. By 1946 he was on a ship sailing to India where he landed in January 1946. Almost for eight and half years (from 1947-1955) he offered his service in India in various missionary schools. He came to Kathmandu on May 15th 1955 at the age of 26 years. He started with St. Xavier’s Godavari School as Hostel Prefect and vice principal.
He became principal of St. Xavier’s Godavari School in 1962. In 1969 he became the director of Godavari Alumni Association. It was his immense efforts that a new building took it shape for GAA. Then in 1988 he became the chairman of the board and a founding member of St. Xavier’s Campus, Maitighar. In 1993 he founded the social action volunteers (SAV).
Father Watrin was truly a multidimensional personality who touched the lives of many in several ways. He will always be remembered for his immense contribution to the development of Nepal. At the core, father Watrin was a visionary educationist who during his stay in Nepal taught several hundred Nepalese. Today, many of them occupy decision making positions in various walks of life. Under his leadership and defined vision, Fr. Watrin not only established educational institutions but also introduced the bachelor’s curriculum in social work in Nepal.
According to his disciples at school, Fr. Watrin’s English classes enriched the lives of many a students. Apart from academic curriculum he was the driving force behind extra curricular activities at both school and GAA where he encouraged scouting, playing basketball, hockey, football and athletics which helped to shape the personality of students. It was the outcome of his contribution in the field of games and athletes he in 2003 received the Nepal Veteran Athletes Association Award for his contribution to games and sports during his service in Nepal.
His commitment to spreading and promoting education was evident in his willingness to assist any education that sought his inputs. Fr. Watrin is also well known for his devout social work. He was affiliated and associated with many non governmental organizations involved in creating leadership in the society, providing service to the poor and the under privileged and availing numerous educational opportunities through scholarships to the children who could not afford school education. He was constantly dedicated to the creating skill development programs and micro credit schemes with a great desire to empower women in villages and rural areas. Under his patronage, recently established Fr. Watrin Scholarship Endowment fund was created and the interest from the fund has to be spent on providing academic and need based scholarships to children throughout the country.
Above and beyond the Godavari Alumni Association, he was actively involved in several social organizations including Tulsi Mehar Mahaguthi, Ryder Chesire Foundation, and Habitat for humanity and Ashoka foundation. He was awarded the national social service award in 2001 by the then prime minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba. Fr. Watrin received the Third Prabal Gorkha Dakshin Bahu from King Gyanendra for his long service to Nepal. He was the first Missionary in Nepal who got Third Prabal Gorkha Dakshin Bahu and third to get Gorkha Dakshin Bahu for his contribution in social development in Nepal.
A highly affective fund mobilizer who was able to raise sustainable funds from outside the country, his contributions in generating funds for educational and social work projects in Nepal are immense.
For last twenty years, Fr. Watrin worked tirelessly as a community worker taking his mobile clinics to thousands of villages in the outskirts of Kathmandu valley and Nuwakot who does not have easy access to health facilities. He was also instrumental in establishing volunteer to support hospital care in Kanti Indra Rajya Laxmi Maternity Hospital for people who could not afford.
Most importantly he was a guide counsellor, who through his untiring efforts, provided impetus to the spiritual, physical and intellectual development of the members of the Godavari Alumni Association. He inspired others to develop a sense of volunteerism in service to the people with constant devotion, honesty and integrity. He was a leader who galvanized people around him to become example in the society.
But as one of his students recognizes “Fr. Watrin does not seek applause, in a place where so much is done for effect, during his last days he said his work has not ended, he still had two or three projects to start. Father Watrin said God’s will is my will, its kind of my karma to accept what god has put before me”.
Watrin exemplified in his life the virtues he preached in his liturgy: kindness, patience, compassion and service for others.
-Fr. P. T. Augustine