Father Eugene L Watrin, SJ:: A towering personality

He lived for God and developed leaders for Nepal

Shanker Raj Pandey


Father Eugene L Watrin was born on July 28, 1920 in Dayton, Ohio of the United States of America. After dedicating a major part of his life to serving in Nepal, a country half way across the globe from his own, he left for his heavenly abode on February 29, 2004 leaving behind wonderful memories and a tradition of developing leaders who lived for God and served their fellowmen.

Father Watrin was truly a multi-dimensional personality who touched the lives of many in so many 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 Nepalis.

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 (several schools in the villages in the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley) including St Xavier’s College but also introduced the Bachelor’s curriculum in social work in Nepal. His dedication to spreading and promoting education was ever evident in his willingness to assist any education programme that sought his inputs.

Fr Watrin is also well known for his devout social work. He was affiliated and associated with many non-governmental organisations involved in creating leaders in society, providing service to the poor and the underprivileged and availing numerous educational opportunities through scholarships to children who could not afford school education. He was constantly dedicated to creating skill development programmes and micro-credit schemes with a great desire to empower women in villages and rural areas.

Besides the Godavari Alumni Association, he was actively involved in several social organisations including the Tusli Mehar Mahaguthi, Ryder-Cheshire Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and the Ashoka Foundation. He was awarded the National Social Service Award in 2001 by the then Prime Minister of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Under his patronage, the recently established Fr Watrin Scholarship Endowment Fund was created and interest from the fund is spent on providing academic and need-based scholarships to children throughout the country.

A highly effective fund mobiliser who was able to raise substantial funds from outside the country, his contribution in generating funds for educational and social work projects in Nepal is immense. A modern building for Jalupa School in Baniyatar is also currently under construction at an estimated cost of over Rs 10 million.

For the Last 20 years, Fr Watrin worked tirelessly as a community worker taking his mobile clinics to thousands of villagers in the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley and in Nuwakot who did not have easy access to health facilities. He was also instrumental in establishing volunteer units to support hospital care in Kanti and Indra Rajya Laxmi Maternity Hospitals for people who could not afford.

Most importantly, he was a guide and counsellor, who through his untiring efforts, provided impetus to the spiritual, physical and intellectual development of members of the Godavari Alumni Association.

He constantly challenged us to abide by the St Xavier’s motto to “Live for God and Lead for Nepal”. He inspired others to develop a sense of volunteerism and service to the country with constant devotion, honesty and integrity. He was a leader who galvanised people around him to become examples in society.

But overall he is missed most because he was a great person — a saint, who loved Nepal and Nepali more than anything else. That’s why he contributed 50 years of his life in selfless service to this nation.

Despite his health problems, he insisted on going about his daily routine of service and working for the welfare. The benevolence, determination

and devotion to serve are well spoken by his daily activities when he was visiting youth, children and the poor from rural areas even a week prior to his death.

I was one of the fortunate few to be blessed by being closely associated with his work for the past three decades. I was his student in more ways than one. He ignited in me the joy of serving the poor and the underprivileged in our society. Truly, my mentor, we follow his call and forge ahead with social actions.

The author is the managing director of Nepal CRS