Arrival of Benedictine Fathers in Sri Lanka

The first Benedictine Monk to come to Sri Lanka was Rev. Fr. Maria Bravi OSB in 1845. He, together with the other Benedictine monks took charge of the western part of the island and served the people of God with enthusiasm by constructing churches and the schools. Most Rev. Dr. Hilarian Sillanai OSB, who was appointed as the Bishop of Colombo (1863 – 1879) goes into the history for developing education in the Archdiocese of Colombo and in Sri Lanka with utmost commitment.

He was instrumental in getting down De La Salle Brothers and Good Shepherd Sisters to Sri Lanka purely on the purpose of developing English education in this country. Some of the most outstanding schools among these would be St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena which was handed over to the De La Salle Brothers in 1868, Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena which was handed over to the Good Shepherd Sisters in 1869 and St. Mary’s College, Negombo to De La Salle Brothers in 1870. In addition to these schools, there would have been about 31 Sinhala medium schools and 14 Tamil medium schools which have been established by him. Among them are,

St. Joseph’s College, Grandpass,

St. Mary’s College, Pettah,

St. Anne’s College, Kurunegala,

Holy Family Convent, Kurunegala,

St. Joseph’s College, Grandpass,

St. Thomas’ College, Matale

St. Thomas’ Girls’ College, Matale

Most Rev. Dr. Clement Pagngnani OSB, who succeeded him in 1879, was the Bishop of Colombo 4 years until he became the Bishop of Kandy. During this time, St. Lucia’s College, Kotahena and few schools in the Diocese of Kandy. They are,

St. Mary’s College, Ampitiya

St. Scholastica’s Convent, Kandy

St. Joseph’s College, Bandarawela

The bishop who succeeded him was the Most Rev. Dr. Bede Beekmeyer OSB, Bishop of Kandy from 1912 – 1935. He was also interested in education and established a few schools in Kandy Diocese which are now popular schools. He was also instrumental in establishing many schools in different places in the Diocese of Kandy, particularly to serve the needy children in these areas.

Little Flower Convent, Bandarawela

St. Gabriel’s Convent, Hatton

St. John Bosco’s College, Hatton

St. Bede’s College, Badulla

Good Shepherd Convent, Gampola

Most Rev. Dr. Cletus Chandrasiri Perera OSB worked as the General Manager of Catholic Private Schools in the Central Province for a considerable period of time and served the schools and the children committedly. His services will be remembered by the Kandy Diocese in the years to come. Among the schools which were pioneered by the Benedictine Fathers, the following can be named as the most important schools.

St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena

This school was started by the Benedictine missionaries in the year 1865 and it was handed over to the De La Salle Brothers in the year 1868 which they continue to administer till this day.

St. Anthony’s College, kandy

This school was started by Rev. Fr. Felici Soppi, a Franciscan missionary in the year 1854 and was dedicated to St. Anthony, a saint of his own congregation. In the year 1875, the school came into the hands of the Benedictine Fathers when Rev. Fr. Hiladebrand Vandastratan OSB became the principal of the school.

St. Thomas’ College, Matale

This school was started in the year 1873 as a mixed school by Rev. Fr. Givoni OSB. The girls in the school were separated in 1876 and they were sent to a separate school which was named as St. Agnes’ Convent, Matale. Later, it was once again named as St. Thomas’ Girls’ School and handed over to the Good Shepherd Sisters.

St. Anthony’s College, Wahakotte

This school was started in 1888 by Rev. Fr. Lanference Asaw OSB, the Parish Priest of Wahakotte. This school was taken over by the government, but it is managed by the Benedictine Fathers to this day.

St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy

The land that was emptied by shifting St. Anthony’s College remained an empty space for a long time. Most Rev. Dr. Bede Beekmeyer OSB took the initiative to start St. Sylvester’s College in this property. In 1940, Rev. Fr. Robert Perera OSB laboured so hard for the development of this school.   This School was taken over by the government.

St. Benedict’s College, Ampitiya

In 2006, Benedictine Fathers started a private school in Katugastota which was later shifted to Ampitiya in view of providing catholic education to the children who will not get an opportunity in a Catholic school.

Benedictine Fathers can be rightly called as the pioneers of Catholic education in this country. Their commitment and enthusiasm to promote Catholic education in this country will be appreciated by all generations to come.