St.Anthony’s College, Kandy, Sri Lanka.
St. Anthony’s College inherits a glorious history over 150 years. Rev. Fr. Felice Zoppi a Fransiscan from the Chinese Missionary was sent to Kandy by Monsignor Joseph Maria Bravi D.d., OSB to look into an issue with regard to a school erected before 1853. Then as a result, Rev. Fr. Zoppi promptly set about his task by opening two schools one for boys and the other for girls in January 1854. Rev. Fr. Zoppi then also appointed Mr. Van Twest as the head teacher of the boys’ school. This was the birth of St. Anthony’s School. Then on 12th of March of the same year, Monsignor Bravi sent a letter to Rev. Fr. Zoppi officially acknowledging the opening of both schools. It is said that Rev. Fr. Zoppi being a Fransiscan, willed to name the school after the illustrious Fransincan Saint, Anthony of Padua. The number of the students on roll at the inception was 62 boys.
Mr. Paul Poorey took over the administration of the Boy’s School from Mr. Van Twest in 1855 contributing immensely to the growth of the school during its formative years. The absence of efficient missionaries to take over the school because it was a Parish school, paved the way for a succession of laymen at the administration of the school until 1870. During this time the school arrived at its greater heights. Also in 1867, St. Anthony’s Boys’ School was identified as the second best school in English among all the schools established by the missionaries. In 1870 the Irish Christian Brothers took over the administration of the school for a short period and in 1871 the administration again fell into the hands of laymen until 1875.
It was in 1875 when Rev. Fr. Dom Hilderbrand Vanderstraaten OSB became the principal; the direct and greatest Sylvestro Benedictine legacy began to grow around the history of St. Anthony’s school. This even marked the entrusting of the administration and management of the school to Sylvestro Benedictine monks. Rev. Fr. Dom Paul Perera OSB succeeded Rev. Fr. Dom Hilderbrand Vanderstraaten OSB in 1876. In accordance with the records it is in this year that boarding life was first introduced. In 1877 the school was handed over to Rev. Fr. D. M. Craner until 1879. From 1880 to 1892 for about twelve years, the school was in the hands of the secular teachers, Mr. R. P. Jansz as the Head Master and they worked in perfect harmony with the Sylvestro Benedictine Fathers. It is noteworthy that during this period the school made a very good progress. The student population by 1887 had grown to 92 and 05 of whom were boarders.
Upon Mr. Jansz’s retirement in 1982, Sylvestro Benedictine Fathers appointed Rev. Fr. Hilarion Laitan OSB as Principal. He continued for a period of six years and Rev. Fr. Leitan was the unbroken line of Sylvestro Benedictine succession of Principals of the College even to date. During the reins of Rev. Fr. Hilarion Laitan OSB many Sylvestro Benedictine Monks involved in the administration of the school. In January 1899, Rev. Fr. Marcus Craner OSB relieved Rev. Fr. Leitan OSB as Principal of St. Anthony’s College. It was in this year all the aspects of higher education were included in the curriculum of the College. It was during this time in 1903 that Rev. Fr. Andrew VanLangenberg OSB introduced Cricket in the College. There was a team known as St. Anthony’s College Cricket Club consisting of staff and school boys under the captaincy of Rev. Fr. Andrew himself.
The next fifty years in the College are known as the years of maturity in the College. In the year 1906, Rev. Fr. Dom Philip Caspersz OSB became the Principal of the College. Rev. Fr. Philip and Rev. Fr. James his brother through their hard work and within a short time changed the status of the School making it a College. It is in his time for the first time on 20th December 1907, the first annual prize giving was held in the College. There were many locally and nationally significant events during this time. The release of the first ever College publication by the name St. Anthony’s Annual was in 1908 is one of those. Due to ill health when Rev. Fr. Caspersz retired, Rev. Fr. Basil Hyde served temporarily as the Principal during 1915. At the close of Rev. Fr. Basil Hyde’s tenure of office, Rev. Fr. James Caspersz OSB, whose association with the College began as Art Master before his ordination in 1906, was appointed Principal. He enlarged in the expansion of the College by meeting the long felt need for better spacious accommodation. In 1917, the Department of Education officially recognized St. Anthony’s College as a fully organized Secondary School. The highlight of his term was the College’s performance in the field of sport. In the meantime he infused in the children of the College the truest type of sporting sporit i.e. win or lose it’s how you play the game that matters. Then Rev. Fr. Dom Lawrence Hyde OSB succeeded Rev. Fr. James Caspersz OSB as Principal of the College. During his record tenure of 23 years (1921 – 1943) as Principal of the College. Rev. Fr. Lawrence Hyde achieved spectacular triumphs in the academic field as well as in sports. On the eve of his career as Principal, World War II brought a dark period by the military occupation of the College. With all these issues, St. Anthony’s College is proud of Rev. Fr. Lawrence Hyde OSB for guiding the College through a time of stress, strain and turmoil for 23 years. In 1944, Rev. Fr. Angelo Rosati became the Principal. Rev. Fr. Rosati immediately reconditioned several military huts into comfortable living quarters for boarders and appointed school matrons to look after them and helped the reduction of illness among the boarders. During this time in 1954, it marks the Centenary year which is also described as the golden Year of the College. The Golden year marked many memorable events and achievements of the College in all aspects of its life.
During the last fifty years of the College, in 1957, Rev. Fr. Hilarion Rudolph OSB came to St. Anthony’s as it’s Principal. He did good work for the College maintaining the high standards it has already reached. In 1959, the Primary School and the Rainbow Co0ttages lost the services of an able leader in Rev. Fr. Leo Nanayakkara OSB who was ordained Bishop of Kandy. In 1961 Rev. Fr. Rudolph OSB handed over the reins College to Rev. D. I. Robinson OSB. It was during this time that the School’s take over was announced. After much heartburn the Government finally permitted the College to continue, but non – fee levying. This was really a period of great hardship and the Benedictine Administration was able somehow to manage the College with the assistance of the OBA. Amidst all these adversities and difficulties, the standards of the College in studies and sports grew steadily. In 1967 an Old Antonian Rev. Fr. Aidan de Silva OSB was appointed as the Principal in succession of Rev. Fr. Robinson OSB. Among the number of projects those were launched in his time, the building up of the swimming pool and the publication of the Antonian Magazine are very significant. In 1977 the unfortunate incident took place i.e. the College was handed over to the Government by the then Bishop of Kandy. Also in 1977 when Rev. Fr. Aidan OSB retired, Rev. Fr. Lanfranc Amarasinghe OSB took over the School as the Principal. He had to struggle hard to keep the College running as a Government School. Then two years after his services to St. Anthony’s College, he handed over the College to Rev. Fr. Stephen Abraham OSB who had to manage the College with little resources. Rev. Fr. Stephen displayed his strength in standing up fearlessly for the principles he believed in. St. Anthony’s College had achieved a great amount of success under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Abraham OSB. Rev. Fr. Abraham strongly believed that genuine character of the students could be developed very much on the playing field more than in the class room. Therefore he dedicated much of his time for the development of sports in the College. So his versatility helped the school to achieve high standards of performance in Sports while upholding the traditional excellence in studies as well. Rev. Fr. Stephen Abraham served the College for sixteen long years and thereafter Rev. Fr. Hilarion Fernando OSB became the Principal in April 1994. He is also the fifteenth member of the Sylvestro Benedictine Order to hold the post in 112 years. He rendered a remarkable service to the wellbeing of St. Anthony’s College.
In 2006 Rev Father Titus Rodrigo OSB, an Old boy of the College, was appointed as the principal of St Anthony’s College. His vision was a Catholic based, nature centered one. The biggest challenge in front of him was the big leap the world was taking in the modern technology. To make our students enjoy the benefits of the latest of the Information Technology he established several multimedia auditoriums in the college. One of such initiatives was to put up a three-story building, in the upper school, with a multimedia auditorium for the grade 6 students who had been, until then, housed in the primary section. This ended a long endured distress of the displaced grade 6 Antonians. He was a visionary and this farsightedness made him initiate a seven-story building with aim of forming Antonians to become, what he always used to call, ‘Universal Citizens’. As a man who loved nature he inspired children to discover, explore and connect with the beauty and wonder of nature. The phrase “love nature and live green’ could be best applied to his life and mission.
In the present times in the life and the administration of St. Anthony’s College, Rev. Fr. Henry Bernard Wijeratne OSB holds the responsibility as the Principal of the College and Rev. Fr. Araliya Jayasundara OSB serves as the Deputy Principal. The destinies of the College and the Sylvestro Benedictine Congregation have been bound together for eternity. Therefore may God’s blessings be upon these two hallowed institutions abundantly.