The Western Province of Sri Lanka is now the most densely populated province of Sri Lanka. It is home to the legislative capital Sri Jayawardenapura as well to Colombo, the nation’s administrative and business centre. The Western Province of Sri Lanka in 1861 had the area of 3,820 square miles and its inhabitants were 595,000. The mission of Pamunugama was in the Western Province, one of the six administrative provinces in then Ceylon. The Apostolic Vicariate of the South or of Colombo comprised the Southern, Western, and Central Provinces in 1861.

The mission of Pamunugama began three miles away from Colombo towards North, beyond the Kelany River. The mission area extended for 20 miles up to the banks of the Negombo lagoon. This mission consisted only of a few miles of territory between the sea on the west and a canal on the east. This canal was known as Dutch canal, went as far as the lake and a good deal of commerce was going on by means of small boats between Colombo and Negombo. This area was planted with coconut trees. The people were all Sinhalese.

According to the report of Bishop Giuseppe Maria Bravi, O.S.B., on 06 September 1858 on his Pastoral Visitation in the mission the parish communities were seven; each one of them had its own church. The church of Pamunugama was in good conditions, spacious, better kept and beautiful. The whole population was about 5000.

Mgr. Eugene de Mazenod at the request of Propaganda Fide sent four Oblates to the Apostolic Vicariate of the South in 1851. It was the first group of Oblates to be sent to the Southern (Colombo) Vicariate. They were placed under the jurisdiction of Bishop Bravi, Apostolic Vicar of Colombo, whereas the Oblates who were already working since 1847 in the North were under the jurisdiction of Bishop Orazio Bettachini, an Oratorian, the Apostolic Vicar Apostolic of Jaffna. But both groups had Fr. Étienne Semeria, o.m.i., as their Religious Superior.

It was Fr. Adrien Duffo, o.m.i., who was the first Oblate to go to this mission. In a letter to his superior Fr. Semeria on 10 April 1858, Fr. Duffo spoke of good about the mission. He remarked about it as very tranquil mission. As regards to his mission he said, ‘‘As regards my ministry, I have heard about 4000 confessions, distributed at least 2316 communions, administered 131 infant baptisms, 20 adult baptisms to converts from Protestantism and II from Buddhism, solemnized 41 marriages and assisted 52 dying persons’’. Fr. Duffo had been in the mission in 1857 and 1858.

At the beginning of 1866, the General Administration of the Oblates decided to pull out the Oblates serving in the Vicariate of Colombo and sent them to join the Oblates in the Vicariate of Jaffna. Thus, all the three Oblates left the vicariate. Again it was in 1883 when Propaganda Fide entrusted the vicariate of Colombo to Oblates and transferred Bishop Ernest Christophe Bonjean, o.m.i., from Jaffna to the vicariate, Oblates came again and extended their services in most parts of the vicariate.

Jerome Velichor, o.m.i.