The arrival Jesuit Fathers in Sri Lanka too place in 1602, during the time of Portuguese. It was the intention of the Portuguese people to evangelize the people of this country. In order to do that, they made use of the instrumentality of Catholic education in the country. They basically served within the limits of the Kotte Kingdom.
They started a school in the city of Colombo in 1604. This has grown to be a big school because of the many admissions. Reading, writing and singing were main subjects. Primary and secondary schools were there in this school. Latinwas taught in addition to Sinhala and tamil. Stste support and parents support were received for the upkeep of the school. Students had visited the patients in the national hospital.
They started another school in Jaffna in 1622 which also flourishe rapidly.
The services given by the Jesuit fathers
- Rev. Fr. Henry who served in Mannar wrote a Tamil rrammer book as he was fluent in Tamil
- He also wrote a book named Gnana Pallu with the help of other Jesits
- Jesiuts wrote Sinhala prose books
- Sinhala grammar books by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Costa who wrote the Sinhala grammar book in English
- Rev. Fr. Pierre Beguin wrote a book nemed use of grammer in Sinhala language
- Rev. Fr. Peter Francisco wrote boos on question answer books for teaching prpurpose and books on libves of saints
- They also taught dram and held drama competitions in 1604.
- Drawing was taugh and Rev. Bro. Bartholamew Fontebona initiated it
- Rev. Fr. Diogo Nukes who was the lecturer on Portuguese grammer also contributed al lot
- Rev. Fr. Jerome Gomez who was the head of school in Colombo didi a great service. He was very clever in learning the languages.
They had to quit the apostolate of education as the Dutch came and invaded the country due to the difficulties they had to face.
They come once again to the country during the British period in 1892 and begin their apostolate in education. The major tasks that were entrusted to them were to look after the Papal Seminary, Ampitiya and to give leadership to the dioceses of Galle and Trincomalee. During this time, they came from Belgium and India.
They started many renowned schools in the country particularly in Galle and Trincomalee dioceses where they served.
St. Aloysius College, Galle
This school was ateted in 1895. They had difficulties at the initial atages including financialRev. Fr. Joseph Janzans, Superior General in Beligum helped to develop the school. Became private and was given back
St. Michael’s College, Batticaloa
This school which was started in 1873 came under the administration of Jesuits. Became private and was given back in 1970.
St. Aloysius College, Ratnapura
This was started in 1898. This original name of the school was Sts. Peter and Paul college which was changed in 1900 and registered as St. Aloysius English School. This is a mixed school
St. Gabriels Coolge, Yatiyantota
This was grade 3 school which served the people of this area.
St. Mary’s College, Kegalle
This school was established in 1867 as the fifth catholic school in the country by the Benedictine Monks. Jesuits took over the school in 1893. Jesuits administered until it was taken over by the government in 1960
St. Joseph’s College, Trincomalee
This school was established in 1867 by Rev. Fr. Louis Mary Keating. Jesuits took over the school in 1931. At the takeover of the schools, this school remained a non-fee levying private school, but it was handed over to the government in 1970
St. Servatius’ College, Matara
This school was established in 1897 by the Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Van Reeth SJ, the Bishop of Galle and handed over to the Jesuit Fathers the administration of the school. the school was taken over by the government in 1960.
As all the schools that were administered by the Jesuits have been taken over by the government, the Jesuits had virtually left the general education of the country. It is unfortunate that this country and the Catholic Church have lost their services in the schools run by the Jesuit Fathers.
A school owned by the Benedictines in Galle, of which the name is Mount Calvary is now run by the Jesuits with its new name St. Aloysius’ College. This school is not a government approved school. Today, Jesuits are very much into higher education and non-formal education, especially for the children in tea estates. Their services will never be forgotten by the church in Sri Lanka for the wonderful services they have rendered to this country.