The Contributions of the Good Shepherd Sisters towards the Development of Catholic Education in Sri Lanka
Upon the request made by the Most Rev. Dr. Hillarian Sillani OSB, the Bishop of Colombo, the Good Shepherd came to Sri Lanka with the intention of developing the Catholic English education in this country. Accordingly, they came to the shores and landed on the 15th April 1869. Having come to Sri Lanka, they fulfilled the objective of their arrival in the country by starting new schools or by taking over the administration of the already existing schools.
Initially, they occupied a house prepared for them in Colombo, within an area called Kotahena. Kotahena was a slum area in the city and the level of hygiene was not on a standard level. Due to this reason, some of the Sisters fell ill, some returned to their motherland and they were later replaced by the Irish nuns. Sooner or later, almost all the sisters in the country came to be Irish nuns, except a few in some exceptional circumstances.
Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena
On the 1st of May 1869, the Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena was started with mere 8 children with Mother Mary of the Seven Dolours Joli as the superior.
Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy
After 20 years after initiating the convent in Kotahena, they moved on to the salubrious hills of the country to impart quality education to the children of Kandy and established the convent in 1889.
St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo
The mission is still unfulfilled. They came down again to Colombo to establish another school for the children of the educated elite of the country and started St. Bridget’s Convent in 1902.
Good Shepherd Convent, Nayakakanda
In the year 1928, they initiate another venture by establishing St. Francis English Primary School. It was once again renamed as Good Shepherd Convent, Nayakakanda in 1930.
Good Shepherd Convent, Panadura
In the year 1953, they started another convent and a school in Panadura in 1953.
Something special about these schools is that the sisters themselves funded the school with the money they received as foreign grants from their religious congregation. They also, later on, collected donations form the parents. A very special event takes place in 1957 when the congregation of the Sisters of Francis Xavier was merged with the Good Shepherd Sisters. All the schools that were run by the Francis Xavier Sisters also came under the administration of the Good Shepherd Sisters. Because of this move, the schools that were run by the Francis Xavier Sisters were strengthened with the resources the Good Shepherd Sisters had. Rev. Sr. Solange, a Sister of the Francis Xavier Congregation, while she was already a member of her original congregation started the following schools and they are managed very well by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
• Ave Maria Convet, Negombo
• St. Joseph’s Girls’ School, Grandpass
• St. Anthony’s Convent, Katugastota
• St. Sebastian’s Girls’ School, Kandana
The schools take over in 1960 came as a nightmare to the Good Shepherd Sisters as well. they tried their level best to retain the schools, because of the rigid decisions of the government they had to hand over some schools while they retained few others as private schools. Accordingly, all in all, 10 schools were handed over to the government and the sisters were able to retain 7 other school throughout the country. The schools that were handed over were as follows,
1. Good Shepherd Convent, Nayakakanda
2. St. Sebastian’s Girls’ School, Kandana
3. St. Anthony’s School, Muthuyal
4. St. Joseph’s Girls’ School, Grandpass
5. St. Anne’s School, Hill Street
6. Good Shepherd Tamil Girls’ School, Kotahena
7. Good Shepherd Primary School, Nayakakanda
8. St. Anne’s Primary School, Wattala
9. St. Sebastian’s Maha Vidyalaya, Sea Street
10. Good Shepherd Convent, Nuwara Eliya
There were 7 schools that remained private. They are,
1. Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena
2. Ave Maria Convent, Negombo
3. St Lawrence’s Convent, Wellawatte
4. Good Shepherd Convent, Panadura
5. Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy
6. Thomas’ Girls’ School, Matale
7. Our Lady’s Convent, Nuwara Eliya
There is another school in addition to these, which is a fee-levying school,
1. St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo 07
They also focus their attention on looking after the orphan children in their homes which is a worthy apostolate. They also concentrate on looking after the children of the prisoners and the children imprisoned for reasons for which they are not culpable.
Good Shepherd Sisters can be named as pioneers in education in this country. Their services are unmatched and the Catholic Church in this country is thankful to them for what they have been to the children of this country.