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Feast of Blessed Joseph Vaz

Galgamuwa Catholic community will celebrate the feast of Blessed Joseph Vaz on January 15 this year one day before the date officially accepted as date of the feast.

The Shrine dedicated to the Apostle of Sri Lanka is found as a part of the Maha Galgamuwa mission dedicated to St.Benedict.

Blessed Joseph Vaz is the Apostle of Sri Lanka. Pope John Paul II declared him “Blessed” at the Holy Mass officiated by Him along with the Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka on January 21,1995, at the Galle Face Green,in the presence of a multitude of devotees attending the services in the salubrious climes blended with the breeze rolling from the seas.

Sri Lanka Catholic Church will enter a prayerful three year period beginning from this year to mark the third centenary of the passing away of the Blessed Joseph Vaz on January 16, 1711 in Kandy.

Galgamuwa which has been sanctified by the presence of the Blessed, was one of the places He frequented during His missions. The huge tree which could be seen even today sheltered Him and cooled His body fatigued by walking all the way in spreading the Word of God, encouraging and providing strength to the `little flock’ to stand firm in their faith.

Today the Catholic community living within the premises of the

Galgamuwa Blessed Joseph Vaz Church claimed to be the members of the Catholic families settled in the area during His time.

Fr.Vaz came to then Ceylon having learnt about the plight of the Catholics in Ceylon under the Dutch, on Easter Sunday in 1687 reached the Tuticorin Port disguised as an itinerant worker landed in Jaffna.

The centuries old tree

The church

In disguise He travelled barefoot in secret as an Indian `sanyasi’ far and near in search of the members of the newly found Church.

In 1689 He resided in Sillalai helping the Catholics to revive their faith. In 1690 He moved to Puttalam, and there He worked for one whole year. During that period he passed through the areas coming within Galgamuwa.

In 1710, Fr.Vaz despite His ill health, took another apostolic trip and on His return, He fell ill. Though weak during the following year while following the nine days of spiritual exercise prescribed by the Rule, died on the seventh day,on January 16, 1711 while in Kandy due to ill health, old age, work, and disease.

Mgr. Zaleski, Delegate Apostolic of the East Indies, wrote of him in 1894, that He has “unfortunately been almost entirely forgotten.

In Europe and even in India, there are still some who remember His name, and in Ceylon, the theatre of His apostolic labours, His name is still mentioned by the older generation; but the rising generation hardly know what they owe to Him. And yet, His is a name that ought to endure for ever”.


The Parish of St. Lawrence’s Church, Wellawatte celebrates 70th anniversary

History records that the Portuguese Expedition vessel landed in Ceylon in November 1505 and with them, they brought in Christianity into the Island.

The Commander Lorenzo de Almeida on arrival at the Colombo Harbour built the first chapel at the breakwaters of the Harbour in honour of his patron’s name Saint Lawrence and propagated his faith in the city.

The first Saint introduced to the Island by the Portuguese was St Lawrence and his popularity spread fast and St. Lawrence was honoured as the Patron saint of the city of Colombo.

After establishing Parish of Wellawatte, St. Lawrence became the Patron Saint of the City of Colombo and Parish of Wellawatte. The Universal church celebrates the feast of St. Lawrence Deacon and Martyr on August 10. St Lawrence is popularly known as the Patron of fire and burns.

St. Lawrence was born in Huskia, Spain. He was the first of the seven deacons who served the Roman Church. In the year 257 A.D. Pope Sixtus II, ordained him a Deacon and he served him with much obedience. Emperor Valerian ordered his spiritual leader Pope Sixtus II to death, and wanted St. Lawrence to surrender the treasures of the church.

He defiled his orders and distributed the wealth of the church to the poor and the needy widows and sick as instructed by his Pope. The Governor of the City asked him to produce the treasures of the church.

St. Lawrence gathered all the poor and the sick and told him, “These are the real treasures of the Church” The Governor felt insulted and ordered Lawrence to be roasted on a gridiron over a slow fire.

While being roasted Lawrence said “You may turn me over, it is roasted enough on this side”. He was roasted to death in the year 258 A.D. His death resulted in the spiritual transformation of Rome-he is known as the Jewel of Rome.

On the feast of Epiphany, January 6 1938 the Most Rev. Dr. J. M. Masson OMI Archbishop of Colombo inaugurated the new parish of Wellawatte under the name and title of the parish of St. Lawrence.

After the formation of Wellawatte Parish a small church of St. Lawrence was built at Villa Pleasant Avenue (later renamed St. Lawrence Road). A youthful priest, Rev. Fr. Robert Fernando O.M.I. was sent as the first Parish Priest.

Within three months Fr. Robert found that the accommodation in the church was not sufficient for the growing congregations and he determined to build a bigger church to cater for the faithful.

With the help of the generous parishioners the spacious land at No. 375, Galle Road Wellawatte, was purchased and the corner stone for the new Church was laid on January 17 1954 by His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Cooray OMI Archbishop of Colombo later our illustrious Eminence Cardinal. Rev. Fr. Robert Fernando laboured for thirty long years (1938 - 1968) to build the present magnificent church which can easily be called the most beautiful church in Sri Lanka.

The unique hexagon shaped Church painted in red, with amazing work of art the seven feet Crucifix made of cement behind the Tabernacle, the beautifully painted eye which is right above the main altar reminds us of the “Eye of God”, the red light that burns under the main altar is significant of the gridiron - the furnace on which St. Lawrence was roasted to death, the angel’s face on all the entrance door frames, the design of wheat and grapevine on the inner walls of the Sanctuary and on the communion rails add more beauty.

All these were the brainchild of Rev. Fr. Robert Fernando. This Church was ceremonially consecrated on 6th March 1968 by His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Cooray O.M.I. the humble and diminutive Father Robert who has been referred to as a human dynamo is no more with us but his name is synonymous with the parish of St Lawrence. Rev. Fr. Robert Fernando went to his Eternal Rest on October 1, 1977.

Our second Parish priest the late Msgr. Manik Muttukumaru served our Parish from 1968 - 1985. During his Pastorate St. Lawrence grew and flourished both in spiritual and in material aspects.

He built a Community Centre to accommodate the Free Medical Clinic, and also to cook and serve food for the poor and organised the Serving Hands Projects, Sama Sevana, and the Home for destitute boys of the Parish.

Msgr. Manik was a Marian Priest, he had a deep love for both Mother Mary and his own mother in whose memory he built a beautiful Grotto to our Lady of Lourdes. Msgr. Manik originated the idea of forming a sub parish at Mayura Place, Wellawatte, to cater to the Parishioners who were living far away from the main Church. Msgr. Manik Muttukumaru entered Eternal Rest on September 24 2002.

Rev. Fr. Hugo Jesudasa Fernando served the Parish for a short spell from January 1986 to October 1986.

Late Rev. Fr. Cyril Perera O.M.I. was our forth Parish Priest another Marian served our Parish from 1986 - 1992. During his Pastorate our Church celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1988.

He was a devoted God fearing, humble priest who was fully equipped with the knowledge of Youth and Vocational Education. He introduced the Infarct Jesus Novena which attracted a church full of devotees every Thursday evening.

He built the Belfry and erected a life size statue of St Lawrence in the church premises facing Galle Road. Late Rev. Fr. Cyril O.M.I with intense negotiation with the Government obtained a place and established St. Antony’s Church at Mayura Place, Wellawatte and formed a sub-Parish.

Rev. Fr. Cyril S. Perera, who succeeded, served our Parish from 1992 till 1997. He was a hardworking, dedicated and loving Pastor. He encouraged the youth to involve in all our Parish activities and brought them closer to God.

He built the pond for Adult Baptism, behind the sacristy. He is a lover of pets and variety of love birds and gold fish adorned the Mission House. He planted beautiful flower plants along the pathway and around the church and made the entire church yard blossom with beautiful flowers.

Rev. Fr. Joseph Benedict Fernando a Scholar in the field of Education who succeeded, Fr. Cyril came to our Parish in 1997 to gain more knowledge of Parish work. The Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the Parish were celebrated during his tenure in the year 1998.

He was extremely simple, humble Priest of God. He was very loving and caring and always had a smile for his parishioners. During his time an extension to the existing Community Centre was built to accommodate 400 Daham Pasal children every Sunday.

In February 2006 we bade farewell to our dear Fr. Joe Ben as he was affectionately called. We welcomed Rev. Fr. Bob Rodrigo O.M.I. as our new Parish Priest yet another Marian priest.

He has plenty of Parish experience behind him and has the knack of attracting the youth and is very successful in making them active participants in the Parish activities and have changed into a Parish, full of youth everywhere.

They were very successful in conducting two Christmas Fairs and entertainments for the Parishioners on two consecutive years. A new identity given to Alter Servers in their dress and serving.

He improved the sound system and lighting in the church and maintains cleanliness inside the church and outside. Organized to pave tiles to the Grotto renovated the Fatima Shrine having brought down a Blessed statue from Fatima Shrine Portugal.

Introduced long waited service of second Holy Mass daily at 12.15 p.m. which caters for the office staff and the elders who find it difficult to attend 6.00 a.m. morning mass and also the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for adoration. He delivers inspiring and most touching sermons to help the poor and needy.

Opened up Charity shop and has introduced lots of charity works and many parishioners are involved and are active in collecting and distributing dry ration parcels for the poor.

He got beautiful flower plants being planted and the church yard is full of bloomed flowers with carpeted grass all over the area which beautifies the entire churchyard.

Rev. Fr. Leon Gerard Babapulle O.M.I another Marian priest has been appointed as Assistant Parish Priest who is ably assisting our Pastor and is very popular among the parishioners and most loved by young and old.

He is the Administrator of the Daham Parsal where over 300 students both boys and girls in three language streams study on every Sunday. Often could see him cycling to the nook corners of the streets and visit the sick and distribute Holy Communion and also Blessing of new Houses.


New Archdeacon for Colombo diocese



Rev. Devapriya de Silva

Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo will install, Rev. Devapriya de Silva, today as the new Archdeacon of Colombo diocese at 4.00 pm at a ceremony at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour, Bauddhaloka Mawatha Colombo 7.

He was baptised by Rev. Cyril Abeynaike the incumbent of the Matthias’ Church, Laxapathiya. Speaking about his early childhood he said that his parents Kanadin de Silva and Irene Agnes Peiris had dedicated him to the service of the Lord when they were distraught over the near fatal illness that he had on his first birthday.

While he received his primary education at the Church of Ceylon Day School, Laxapathiya, he received his secondary education at Prince of Wales’ College, Moratuwa. His spiritual education was received mainly at the Holy Emmanuel Church Sunday School, Moratuwa.

From his young days he was involved in the School’s Christian Movement displaying leadership qualities and also served as a server of the Holy Emmanuel Church. He was also a member of the Youth Fellowship, the Secretary of the Sunday School.

Subsequently he entered the Theological College of Lanka with a view to becoming a priest of the Church of Ceylon. He obtained his BTh and passed out and in 1975 was appointed a Deacon by the then Bishop of Colombo the Rt. Rev. Cyril L. Abeynaike, who had baptised him at the St. Matthias’ Church, Laxapathiya.

Thereafter he served as an Assistant Priest in the Churches of Dandugama, Milagiriya and Moratuwa and subsequently as the incumbent priest of Baddegama, Negombo, Marawila, Kurana and Moratuwa.

While in Great Britain in 1995 on his sabbatical leave with his wife Sharmani, daughter Devashrie and son Devaka he enhanced his theological knowledge, studying at the Cornhill College, London. He followed a post graduate courses at the Rippon-York University, Yorkshire and the Westminster Pastoral Foundation in London.

Even though his friends appealed that he remain in England and continue his service there his reply was “We have come here to widen our knowledge, experience and attitudes in the work of God. Our dedication, our service has to be to my native land.

Unless we are with our own people during this time even though bombs are falling and even though it is very dangerous at this time, unless we are with our people to build up our nation we will have no future. We have to give an account to God. We must serve our nation”.

These words made it clear to me that Rev. Devapriya de Silva was one who fully adhered to God’s word when he chose to work for peace and to soothe the pain of our own citizens rather than live as a permanent resident in England.

Returning to Sri Lanka in 1997 he served in the churches of Koral of Koralawella, Dehiwela, Galle Face and Nugegoda. He has been involved in various services during his period of service and held many posts in the church. From these we could understand his great dedication to serve.

Besides these he is skilled in cultural singing and creative songs. I believe it is these talents that have endeared him to the hearts of the people. Some of them are itemised below.

He has participated in many training courses beside his service as priest. Through these special courses, not only did he widen his theological knowledge he also received a high quality training in dealing with men and matters that is essential to his service.

These training courses are as follows. In 1970 he was at the South Indian Bible Institute, Bangarapet. In 1975 he was at the Institute of Christian Arts, Madras. In 1981 he visited the Institute of Communication Foundation in Manila, Phillipines, in 1982 he visited the Church Development Institution in Korea.

In 1990 he attended the Institute of Advanced Leadership in Singapore. In 2000 he attended the Billy Graham Training Institute, Amsterdam, Holland. He also visited the Camp Fathest Out Institute in Kenya, South Africa he received an invaluable training in these programmes.

He is also pursuing on his Master’s Degree in Linguistics at the Kelaniya University. Presently he is functioning as the Link Officer of the link between Dioceses of Kurunegala, Colombo and Rippon and Leeds.

When I asked him whether he has got any personalities who influenced him to come so far in this journey of the Lord’s Service, he promptly said that they were his own Father and Mother, Bishop Cyril Abeynaike, Rev. Canon Douglas Amaratunge, the Rev. Arnold Mendis and his beloved wife Sharmanie.

Ranee Senaratne Rajapakse, Nugegoda


Exemplary X-mas Bhakthi Gee Charika

An exemplary “Christmas Bhakthi Gee Charika” Programme showing the Catholic-Buddhist unity was held at Balagala, Hendala recently.

The charika organised by the Deepaloka Welfare Association, Balagala for the second successive year, started from the Ashokarama Temple, Balagala and ended at the Church dedicated to Perpetual succour, Balagala.

The Chief incumbent of the Ashokaramaya Ven.Batagalle Panyakiththi Thero and the Assistant Parish Priest of the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Purification Rev.Fr.Dewshan were among the participants comprised of both Catholics and Buddhists.

A colourful Christmas carol programme was held at the church premises Balagala under the patronage of Parish Priest R.C. Church Nayakakanda Rev.Fr. Gregory Jayantha Fernando, soon after the charika.

The chief Incumbent of Balagala Temple appreciated the efforts made by the Deepaloka Welfare Association, Balagala to show the Catholics- Buddhists unity in the area.

“This unity should spread from the village level to national level. Then only we can create a peaceful country. Catholic-Buddhist unity is an essential thing for a country such as Sri Lanka,” Ven. Panyakiththi Thero said.

Rev.Fr. Gregory Jayantha, Parish Priest of the Nayakakanda Church said that real meaning of the Christmas should be peace. The Catholic-Buddhist unity could establish the peace in the village level. Our main aim should be to end the war and create an honourable peace throughout the country. As Catholics we should pray to God to achieve that goal very soon.” He said.

Fr. Jayantha also paid a special tribute to Deepaloka Welfare Association, Balagala for organizing such a valuable and meaningful Bhakthi Gee Charika programme to establish Catholic-Buddhist unity in the area.


Clarification from Dr. T. R. Chinniah

The article, St. Patrick’s College 158 this year, published on January 4, 2008 was not sent by me for publication.

The original article titled St. Patrick’s College, the Regal Ruly, written by me was published in the Daily News on July 22, 2000. Note: As the author has disclaimed sending the article, we advise our readers to follow the norms when articles written by others are sent for publication by mentioning the source.

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