Holy Family Sisters venture out to Kurunegala
On 29th August 1870, our sisters left for Kurunegala with the firm confidence that God was accompanying them. From Jaffna they went by bullock cart, they were accompanied by Mother Xavier. Though they were aware of the tedious journey they were undertaking by bullock cart, they launched out with resignation and goodwill. They went in five bullock carts, three foreign missionaries and three indigenous Sisters of St. Peter. They entered Kurunegala on 8th September. On his return from the 1st Vatican Council, Bishop Bonjean, saw for himself the privations experienced by the Sisters; In October 1873 the new Convent was blessed by the Bishop. The Sisters were in charge of two Girls School and an orphanage. The sisters opened an orphanage for destitute and orphaned girls whom they educated for life. Those capable went on to higher studies and became teachers in schools. These Sisters visited the sick in Government hospitals and later opted to take care of the sick in the hospital. From Kurunegala the Sisters went on mission to the neighbouring villages like Talampitiya, Weuda, Malapitiya. In January 1885, the Sisters of St. Peter through their Catechetical work brought nearly 100 people, children and adults to the Catholic faith.
The Novitiate for the Sinhalese speaking Sisters of St. Peter’s Congregation
The Novitiate for the Sinhalese speaking Sisters of St. Peter’s Congregation was started in Kurunegala in 1870 and transferred to Wennappuwa in September 1888. Between 1865 and 1874, 14 young girls had entered the Jaffna Novitiate, and 10 the Wennappuwa Novitiate. They were girls who had a good education in English, but who thought that the Sisterhood of St. Peter did not provide them with the opportunities to be serviceable according to their talents. They wished to be religious in the Holy Family Congregation. From 1883, the Holy Family Sisters and the Sisters of St. Peter, who were in the N. W. Province, carried on their apostolate under the jurisdiction of the Colombo ecclesiastical authorities
A New Graft
In 1875, Rev. Fr. Papili O.S.B., founded an institution for female school teachers, recruited from respectable Catholic families of the area. When they expressed a desire to the religious life, he gave them certain rules for their guidance and called them “The Daughters of the Holy Redeemer”. These “Daughters” devoted themselves to teaching in Girls’ Schools of the area and they were enough to form a community of about 23 members, when the question was mooted for their affiliation to the Sisters of St. Peter. These “Daughters” with one accord decided to petition the Archbishop of Colombo, Mgr. Melizan O.M.I. for affiliation with the Sisters of St. Peter. Very Rev. Fr. Cassien Augier O.M.I., recommended the affiliation. In spite of fear and reluctance the Holy Family Sisters accepted this recommendation. After consulting the Superiors of the Holy Family Congregation, Archbishop Melizan issued the decree of affiliation.
Nursing the Sick – In Kurunegala
The frequent visit to the sick and their situation created a longing in them to render their services to these poor suffering people. Bishop Melizan in January 1892 with the approval of the Government started their mission in the Kurunegala Hospital w3ith two Holy Family Sisters. They worked under very unsatisfactory sanitary condition. From 1936 Sisters were serving also in the Nawalapitiya Hospital which came under the direction of the Holy Family Sisters. They were honored for the zealous service rendered to the poor and sick especially to the tea estate workers. The two world wars had their effect on the nursing mission. As there were only 12 Sisters to work in Kurunegala and Nawalpitya Hospitals, they were forced to decide on continuing their service in the smaller hospital in Nawalapitiya. In 1958, the Government stopped the services of all Religious Nursing Sisters in state Hospitals.