Parish of St. Anthony’s Shrine, Wahacotte
The Parish of Wahacotte which is a Sylvestro Benedictine Mission for very many years has a long standing history pregnant with a lot of historically significant events. Since the time of Portuguese, there have been Catholics in Wahacotte. The history reports that Kandyan Kings settled Portuguese in Wahacotte and thus through them the Catholicism spread there. In 1696, Blessed Joseph Vaz’s arrival at Wahacotte enhances the historical importance of this Parish in relation to Catholic Faith. Blessed Joseph Vaz Himself gave an organized structure to this Community in Mission by appointing Lay Leaders. Amidst many more told and untold tribulations, the Catholic faith of the people remained solid and intact until the British established the religious freedom in the Island. Since 1821, Catholic Priests visited Wahacotte regularly. In 1886 Rev. Fr. Benedict Perera OSB became the first resident Priest at Wahacotte. The Mission of Wahacotte was given to the Sylvestro Benedictine Order in exchange of the present Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Kandy, which was then the Abbey of the Sylvestro Benedictine Order in Sri Lanka. When Kandy separated from Colombo as an autonomous Diocese, Kandy did not have a Cathedral Church. By then the Sylvestro Benedictine Monks had their Abbey well established and furnished. The Abbey became the automatic choice of the then Bishop of Kandy who was also a Benedictine Monk, and named the Abbey as the Cathedral. Thus Wahacotte Mission which was found wanting in every aspect was given to the Sylvestro Benedictine Order in exchange of the Abbey. In 1888 Wahacotte became a Parish and Rev. Fr. Lanfranc Assauw OSB became the first Parish Priest.
The present Church is the third Church of Wahacotte and it was built by Rev. Fr. Jablien OSB in 1938. Wahacotte Shrine is the oldest and the largest National Shrine in Sri Lanka dedicated to St. Anthony and it is rich in scenic, rustic, natural and beauty. In 1970, through a gazette notification, St. Anthony’s Shrine of Wahacotte was proclaimed to be a gazette National Pilgrim Centre which enjoys State Patronage. This is a place where people of many Faiths particularly Catholics gather to seek God’s favours through the mediation of St. Anthony of Padua.
Further the Miraculous Statue of St. Anthony of Padua enshrined here for veneration adds more significance to the simple faith of the commoners. The legacy of Blessed Joseph Vaz the Apostle of Sri Lanka is linked with the destiny and the spiritual legacy of Wahacotte that Sylvestro Benedictine Monks have formed under Divine Inspiration with their tireless labours.
There are eight sub Churches under the main Church. The Community of the Priests at Wahacotte caters to all the Pastoral needs of the Faithful in this Shrine Parish. Thus St. Anthony’s Shrine at Wahacotte may enable many more hearts to encounter the serenity and the grace of God.