St. Mary’s Church, Yatiyantota holds 125th annual feast | Sunday Observer

St. Mary’s Church, Yatiyantota holds 125th annual feast

11 October, 2020

The 125th Annual Feast of the Yatiyantota Parish of the Diocese of Ratnapura, will be held today, presided over by the Archbishop of Colombo Malcom Cardinal Ranjith.

St.Mary’s Church stands on a mount overlooking the Kelani Ganga, about 200 metres from the town, on the Avissawella Hatton road. Yatiyantota has a mixed population comprising Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

St. Mary’s Church was built in 1895. It was the time when the Southern province and the Kegalle district, including Yatiyantota were under the administration of the Colombo Archdiocese. Yatiyantota was overlooked by the Parish Priest of Kegalle, who used to travel to Yatiyantota to say Mass and visit the sub stations. There was no transport facility at that time and the priest travelled in a bullock cart.

In 1892, a temporary church was built at Meegawela on a leased land. In 1893, the Galle Diocese was carved out of the Colombo Diocese and became an independent Diocese. Rev.Fr. Joseph Van Reeth S.J. was appointed as the first Bishop of the new Diocese. Rev.Fr. Theobald Neute S.J. was appointed as the Parish Priest of Kegalle. In 1907, he was transferred to Galle as the Manager of St. Aloysius College. Rev.Fr. Paul Del Beque S.J. was appointed as the Parish Priest of Yatiyantota. Gurugalla, Dehiowita, Deraniyagala, Maliboda, Nooriya, Sapumalkande, Karawanella, Bulathkohupitiya, Ruwanwella, Chesterford and Kithulgala sub-stations are under the Yatiyantota Parish. In 1925, Rev.Fr. Joseph Pirone S.J. was appointed as the Parish Priest of Yaiyantota. The large statue of Our Lady of Holy Rosary and the large Crucifix installed at the Yatiyantota church were brought from Belgium by Fr. Prone. The statue of Our Lord’s Resurrection was brought from India by Gomez.

In 1939, Rev. Fr. Guispe Icono S.J. was appointed as the Parish Priest of Yatiyantota. He was enthusiastic about opening an English school in Yatiyantota. Gabriel Gomez’s wife volunteered to construct the building in memory of her husband. The building was named as St. Gabriel’s College. After his transfer, Rev.Fr. C. Iannacoco S.J. was appointed as the Parish Priest of Yatiyantota. He built the teachers’ quarters on a land donated by the Government. He purchased a bus to transport schoolchildren. He bought a piece of land at Gomaduwa and built the Good Shepherd Convent. The foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister Sir. John Kotalawala.

In 1964, Rev. Fr. Marino S.J. was appointed as the Parish Priest.

In 1968, Rev. Fr. Joseph Silva was appointed and in the same year, Rev. Fr. Dudley Attanayake took charge of the parish. He pioneered racial and religious amity. In 1981, Rev.Fr.Theodore Lambert was appointed Parish Priest. It was he who installed the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in front of the Mission House. During his period, St. Mary’s School taken over by the Government was given back at his numerous requests. He got the church choir to sing Vesak bhakthi gee parading the streets as a sign of religious amity. He divided the parish into five zones.

In 1986, Rev. Fr. Beed Silva was appointed as the Parish Priest. It was during his time that St.Gabriel’s College vested in the Government was re-vested in the church.

In 1990, Rev. Fr. Damian Fernando was appointed Parish Priest. He demolished the old church building and built a spacious new church. He was later appointed as the Procurator General and Vicar General of the Ratnapura Diocese under Bishop Malcom Ranjith. He also functioned as the Director of SEDEC, CARITAS.