It was in the year 1867
, Bishop Hillarian Sillani OSB, Vicariate of Colombo, SRI LANKA , received a letter from our Saintly Mother Mary of St. Euphrasia Pelletier promising to send Good Shepherd Sisters to Sri Lanka as Missionaries, as a reply to the request he had made. But, Mother Mary of St. Euphrasia Pelletier passed away before the Sisters were sent to Sri Lanka. Mother Mary of St. Peter de Coudenhove, the then Superior General in Angers- in 1869
, arranged for the Sisters to go to Sri Lanka
. The historic band of four pioneers:
- - Sister Marie of St. Euphrasia Gough
- - Sister Mary Annunciata Morandi
- - Sister Mary Divine Heart Masi
- - Sister Mary Suzanne Cardiff
arrived on 15th April 1869
to a house prepared for them at Kotahena, Colombo city. They have travelled directly from the Mother House in Angers, France. The Superior - Mother Mary of the Seven Dolours Joly, who had been Assistant at Aden, Egypt, arrived a few months later.
Kotahena was then a slum area in the City, and was very unhealthy. Soon the Sisters began to fall ill. Within a few years, two Sisters have died, and Sr. Seven Dolours and Sr. Annunciation returned to Angers. Then arrived a group of Irish Sisters, and six years after the opening of the House, all the Sisters seemed to be Irish, with just a few exceptions. They kept well and the house flourished.
A school for English speaking girls was the first requirement. A school was opened without delay, and soon after, a day school for the vernacular- Sinhalese poor girls was opened. Within a few months, an Orphanage was established for the care and protection of destitute girls. The Parish Priest presented some young ladies to them who would help with teaching in the Sinhalese School.
Up to 1924, our work was confined to Schools and Orphanages. Then, a Home of Refuge for girls in moral danger was a necessity. In November 1924
, His Grace Archbishop Antonius Coudert, OMI chose the property for the opening of a Refuge Home at Nayakakanda, as his Silver Jubilee Memorial. In January 1926
, the building was opened. St. John Eudes' section for unwed mothers was erected in 1938. Later still, a Creche for the babies and a Montessori School for toddlers were added. Here is the real "raison d'etre" of the Good Shepherd Congregation. Provincial House- Nayakakanda
A very important event in the history of the Province was the changing of the Provincialate to Nayakakanda in 1955
, when Sister M. Good Counsel Mills (Irish) became the Provincial Superior. From then on, the centre of all the development of the Province was here, and also the Novitiate. Under Sister Good Counsel's guidance, Good Shepherd Province of Sri Lanka grew and prospered and became internationally known. She was a Nun with a vision who loved Sri Lanka and was the Provincial Superior for 18 long years. The Amalgamation:"That they may be one"
This is also another historic event in the province of Sri Lanka. Let us return to the early history for a moment, that we may better follow the Divine leading of our Province. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier had established themselves in Negombo and Kalamulla. It was then that Mgr. Brault, OMI went in person to the Mother House in Angers, to beg a Sister who would direct these Sisters as their Superior. Sister Mary Solange Duchesne, a small-made, humble Sister from Belgium, was sent to Sri Lanka by Mother Mary Peter de Coudenhove, then Superior General. That was in 1909
The Francis Xavier Sisters in the Colombo Diocese grew in apostolic zeal and were in charge of 40 Parish Schools, Orphanages, and a Home for Elders and Boarding Schools. The Novitiate was in Bolawalana, Negombo. A branch in the Kandy Diocese had 7 houses accomplishing the same apostolate, and their Novitiate was at Matale.
From 1957, the political situation in the Independent Sri Lanka no longer allowed for the entry of foreign Missionaries. What then? Would there be enough Sri Lankan Sisters to staff and maintain the works established? Even though, the Good Shepherd Novitiate for Sri Lankan Sisters was established in 1950, there were only 3 professed Sinhala Sisters
. Therefore, the then Superior General of the Good Shepherd Sisters, Mary Ursula Jung, her Council, Mgr. Thomas Cooray - the Archbishop of Colombo and the Bishop of Kandy applied to Rome to have the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier amalgamated with the Good Shepherds. The answer came from Rome, giving the approval of the Holy See.
The memorable day was 13th March 1957. Altogether 445 professed Sisters, 41 Novices and 18 postulants in the Francis Xavier Congregation joined the 120 Good Shepherd Sisters in Sri Lanka, by renewing their vows with the formula of the Good Shepherd and the added fourth Vow of "Labouring for the Salvation of Souls".
Here we cannot speak of the Province of Sri Lanka /Pakistan without reference to Sister Mary Gonzaga Fernando, who was the first Sri Lankan to be elected as Provincial Superior of Sri Lanka /Pakistan in the year 1978
. She accomplished the task as General Councillor in Rome for 13 long years from May 1984 to September 1997.
Pastures beyond horizon: PAKISTAN
In 1974, Bishop Bertrand Boland of the Diocese of Multan – Pakistan, visited our Sisters at Nayakakanda, Sri Lanka and requested Sr. Mary Joseph Deegan, the Provincial Superior, to send a group of Sisters for the pastoral care of the women in the parishes of his diocese. A few days later, Bishop Armando Trinidad, Bishop of Lahore also visited Nayakakanda. He was urgent in his request for Good Shepherd Sisters for his diocese. The Superior General, Sister Marie Bernadette Fox and her Council granted the necessary permission to establish houses in the Diocese.
First, Sister Mary Joseph Deegan -the Provincial Superior of Sri Lanka visited Multan and Lahore diocese with Sr. Mary Bernard Wanigasekera and spent a couple of days in a village called Fatimapur, situated 170 miles away from Multan City. Returning to Sri Lanka with great enthusiasm, Sister Joseph Deegan invited volunteers for a Good Shepherd mission in Pakistan. Entrusting everything to Divine Providence, Sister Joseph Deegan named four Sisters. 17th September 1975
was a great day for the Sisters of the Province. On that day the pioneers:
- - Sister Dominic Savio Silva
- - Sister Paulinus Jeyachandra
- - Sister Kalyani Appuhami
- - Sister Yolande Fernando
boarded the National Flight for Karachi, and from there to Multan. On their arrival, the Sisters were given a grand welcome at the Airport. Arrangement had been made that the sisters stay at St. Mary's Convent in Multan for three months under the guidance of Sister Benedicta O.P
The documents of the Province in Sri Lanka records "On the 10th of January 1976
, the first Convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Pakistan was officially opened at Fatimapur- a poor village in the diocese of Multan. In 1982 Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro (Archdiocese of Karachi) made a request to Sr. Gonzaga the Provincial and the Council to open a house for unwed mothers and young girls. By that time our Sisters had made a lot of progress in Fatimapur and felt that they could move to another place. Therefore a new foundation was established in Karachi and the Sisters moved out of the village. It turned out to be providential since two priests took up residence in the village. In Lahore - a big city, a community of three Sisters began their missionary work in October 1977. Among them were Sr. Nirmala Abeyasinghe and Sr. Lucy Murugesu, who left for Pakistan on 10th October 1976. In 1989, the Good Shepherd Sisters established a house in Multan. In 1988, a House of Formation was opened in Karachi. The Novitiate was opened on 7th December 1989. A New Step
The Provincial Chapter of 1995 brought Pakistan Mission a special blessing. The need of the mission was for a sector Co-ordinator (Provincial Councillor) residing in Pakistan to deal with their own affairs regarding Mission and Formation. Having studied this request, a proposal was presented at the Provincial Chapter of 1995. The Superior General (Sr. Liliane Tauvette) and the Council after listening to the request and considering the realities of the Province (distance, difficulties of obtaining visa, etc.) the General Council granted the permission. Subsequent to the consultation with the Sisters in Pakistan by Sr. Mary Winifreda Perera (Provincial Superior) and the Council, Sr. Mary Geethani Mallawaratchie was elected Sector Co-ordinator of Pakistan at the Provincial Chapter.