The first Missionary sisters from Courtrai, Belgium, came to Sri Lanka in 1929 at the request of the then Archbishop Mgr. Coudert, to attend on the Tuberculosis patients in Ragama hospital. T.B. was considered a dreaded, highly infectious disease with no hope of a cure and patients became outcasts of society. The Belgian sisters who took on this challenge were selfless and totally dedicated, so much so that the “Ceylon Independent” paper wrote:
“ The arrival of the religious sisters promises to be a success and the patients themselves appear to be in the best of spirits. The sisters deserve credit for the present state of this hospital in comparison to that existing previously.” After 33 years of dedicated service in the cause of the sick, because of a change in the policy of the health Department, the services of all Religious sisters in all hospitals in Sri Lanka were terminated. Their parting words to the people they served so selflessly and so well, were in keeping with their generous lives:
“We are leaving only because we have to go. Every one was good to us in Ceylon and we are really sorry to leave. We are thankful for all that Ceylon has done and been to us. We will continue to pray for you all.”
The Belgian sisters also began a Catholic school for the deaf and blind in Ragama on a land bought for them by Archbishop Marque OMI. The Sisters of Perpetual Help entered the dark and silent world of the hearing and visually impaired on the 8th of March 1935, and began St. Joseph’s school for the deaf and blind.. The children grew in numbers in this atmosphere of love, cheerfulness, encouraging smiles, patience and motherly care. A distinctive feature was the experience of Divine Providence. Later, in 1965, when the Missionary sisters had to leave on account of Government policy, Sri Lankan sisters were ready to take over the school.
This was also because the Belgian sisters, with their hard-earned Government salaries in the TB Hospital bought a land to begin a Novitiate in Periyamulla, Negombo. The building was blessed on 25.05.1954 by Archbishop Thomas Cooray and the first Sri Lankan girls entered on 17th October 1954. The numbers of Sri Lankan girls continued to increase and were formed in their own cultural background instead of in Belgium. Outstanding Belgian sisters continued to lead and form the indigenous sisters.
A small dispensary was begun in Periyamulla premises by the Belgian sisters to do wound dressing and help in small diseases which became very popular in the village. It is an unforgettable memory to the villages.
However, on account of Government policy the “foreign sisters” had to leave the country and the last two Belgian sisters left in 1971.
By then Sri Lankan sisters were able to take over the leadership and carry on in the footsteps of their predecessors. Sisters took over as Provincials, under the Superior General in Belgium, as Superiors of local communities and Formators
In 1982 we became a local diocesan Congregation with a Superior General and Council of sisters. Our
Sisters work today among the people of a multi-cultural (Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher) and multi-
religious (Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Christian) society.
We have also two communities in Cyprus and Israel where we work among the Sri Lankan migrants.
There is always so much more to do that we pray to
the Lord of the harvest for more work
The missionary sisters were forced to leave the country to their home land Belgiam due to the political situation of the country after rendering yeoman services for 33 years. It was a challenge for the local sisters.
The first General Chapter was held in 1982 at Periyamulla officiated by Rt. Rev. Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando Archbishop of Colombo.
Sr. Cynthia Mendis was elected the Ist Superior General.
On 6th of June 1982 we became a local Congregation under the jurisdiction of His Grace the Archbishop of Colombo.
A new and difficult step began… A new constitution was drawn up by 1983 with the help of experts and the consultation with the sisters.
Religious life needs to offer new wine in new skins, in accordance with the signs of the times, especially in our land.
Sr. Rose Fernando was elected Superior General.
Giving importance to the Chapter proposals on ministry, our service was expanded to a farming village of Nikawehera in the Kandy diocese
Sr. Ethel Alwis was elected, Superior General.
Taking into consideration a chapter proposal to be with the rural poor, less permanent houses were opened in Hambantota and Mahiyangana
Sr. Shirani Perera was elected, the Superior General
At this chapter the vision and mission statements were formulated. With this a new orientation was given to the Congregation.
Vision: Journeying together towards the fullness of a new creation nourished by a spiritual force.
Mission: Rooted in Christ , we commit ourselves to be constantly challenged by the poor and needy especially women and girls and to be fellow strugglers with them to a liberated life.
Mission Priorities were out lined as follows:
I.Teaching the hearing impaired II. Women and girls III Pastoral work IV Non-formal education.
Responding to a Chapter proposal – “A mission abroad”- A community was established in Cyprus in 2003 to work among the Sri Lankan migrant workers.
6th General Chapter: 2007 – 2013 Theme: In-depth spirituality
Chapter theme: Mysticism and Prophetism
2013 A new mission for migrant workers in Israel was undertaken.
A house to be open in Waga ” a new missionary area “, as an extension to Nawala community.
We are Launching in to the deep. We are shaping the future… preparing a new generation…