Bishop Jerome M. Fernandez, the first native prelate of the Diocese of Quilon, was a great visionary who established Fatima College for the enlightenment and social uplift of the backward classes, including Roman Catholics of the Latin Rite. His Lordship believed in education as a means to empowerment, progress and social change.
Bishop Jerome was born on September 8, 1901 at Koivila, Kollam. In 1915, he joined St Raphael’s Minor Seminary, completed his high school at St Aloysius Boys' School, and was enrolled in St Teresa’s Major Seminary. (The Seminary building - the western wing of what is now Fatima College - was constructed by His Lordship, Archbishop Aloysius Maria Benziger, OCD, Bishop of Quilon, 1905-1931.) On completing his ecclesiastical studies, he was ordained priest on March 24, 1928 and was immediately appointed Professor of Latin and Theology in his Alma Mater. It was a well-deserved position in recognition of his intelligence, dedication and hard-work, especially as it was a period when there were very few Indian Professors in the seminaries of India.
A year later when Bishop Derere was transferred to Trivandrum – the newly erected diocese bifurcated from Quilon – Fr. Jerome was consecrated the First Indian Bishop of the oldest Diocese of India. (The Diocese of Quilon was established in 1329 by Pope John XXII.) At 36 years of age, he was the youngest Bishop in the world then.
During his reign of 41 long and fruitful years - from 1937 to 1978 - Bishop Jerome proved himself a man of indomitable courage and tremendous faith in God. The visionary in him built a chain of schools, colleges and other educational institutions. The special interest His Lordship took in the growth and development of Fatima College is worth mentioning. This college is, undoubtedly, the fruit of this dedicated and far–sighted prelate’s selfless labour. Karmela Rani Training College at Kollam, Bharatha Matha I.T.I at Kottiyam and the Jyoti Nikethan Women’s College at Kollam, sister institutions of Fatima, were founded in 1960, 1962 and 1973 respectively. The Bishop Benziger Hospital and the Nursing School are the other outstanding gifts of the Bishop to his flock.
The life and spirit of the Founder of the college will be a source of continuous inspiration for generations of Fatimites as well as the staff privileged to serve in this centre for higher education.