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With the freedom to move, once that Fr. Joseph Carvalho was stationed in Kandy, Bl. Joseph Vaz undertook a long missionary journey through a great portion of the west  of the island. He courageously went to the Dutch territories in spite of knowing that there was danger to his life. he entered the city of Colombo, seat of the Dutch Government of Sri Lanka, in the guise of a beggar. The first place where he might have met the Catholics was near a well that had been the venue of the Church of Our Lady of Livramento in Portuguese period. It was a locality situated a little outside the city, which the people, including even the Singhalese non-Christians, used to frequent with great devotion. The infirm used to take the water of the well. Although the Dutch had destroyed the Church and had tried to suppress this devotion, they had not succeeded in eradicating it. Today this place has a big cemetery and the local tradition says that Bl. Joseph Vaz used to disguise himself here in the form of a washer-woman, washing clothes on the edge of the well, during the day to avoid attention, and ministering to the people in the night. Sometimes he pretended to be a bangle-seller, a messenger, etc...

In later years, when the priests entered in Colombo in disguise, they dressed themselves as coolies or servants of a notable Catholic for example, the headman of the village or of the "aracces" i.e. the head of a small band of soldiers. There was one such "aracce" in the service of the Dutch who had gained experience and ability in conducting the priests in and out of the city. The head of the Catholics in Colombo was one Simao Collaco, a famous doctor by profession who had the fortune of being a friend of the Dutch and member of their political council. In deference he was not questioned about the missionaries when they entered the city in his company. Among the Burghers, descendents of mixed marriages between Europeans (including Dutch) and locals, Benjamin Pegolette was a pillar of the Catholic Church in Colombo. There were also other influential Catholics.

Due to those influential men, Bl. Joseph Vaz could remain in Colombo without being suspected by the Dutch at least for some time. He used to stay in the house of one or other of those influential Catholics in different parts of the city and its suburbs. He carried on his apostolate not only among the Catholics, indigenous and Europeans, but even with the help of these, he converted some Dutchmen to the faith; he composed many discords, he baptized the children of Catholic parents; he regularized marriages; he consoled the faithful with the Sacraments of reconciliation of Eucharist. Everything was done under cover of darkness at night, while he would hide during the day. As many as could gather without attracting attention, would assemble by evening in a previously determined house, others were called in secret, and everyone would retire to their own homes before dawn.

With his farsightedness, Bl. Joseph Vaz also organized the pastoral work in Dutch occupied territories by entrusting it to lay leaders called "Moppus" and the catechists called "Annavis", who became the strongest support of the Church during the persecution even after his death.

It is not known how long Bl. Joseph Vaz stayed in Colombo during his first missionary journey. However in spite of all these precautions taken, the Dutch Governor got some confused inkling of his presence and recommended a Dutch police officer with the title of "Dissava" (to search teh mission and imprison the missionary), had acted a few days earlier, he would have caught Bl. Joseph Vaz. However when the search came, Bl. Joseph Vaz had already left for Negombo.

In Negombo, the head of the Catholics was the chief civil officer of the District in the service of the Dutch. He was Don Afonso Perera, the Mudaliyar mentioned in contemporary Dutch documents e.g. in an order from the Council of Batavia (Holland) to the Dutch Governor of Sri Lanka dated 5-9-1708 found in the Sri Lankan Government Archives; the Governor is warned "to keep his eyes wide open on the activities of the Mudaliyar of Negombo, Afonso Perera". Bl. Joseph Vaz did much the same apostolate as in Colombo with the help of this official. He zealously worked for the reform of the customs of the Catholics. Bl. Joseph Vaz continued this journey and his missionary apostolate in Gurubavilla, Malvana and Sitawaka and attended to all these places and others quite in haste.

Gurubavilla was 18 miles distant from Colombo. It had been a strong center of Catholicism in the Portuguese period but Bl. Vaz could not do much besides administering the sacraments, this time. Malwana was 12 miles from Colombo situated in Sayana Korale on the right bank of the river Kelani Ganga which flows into the sea at Colombo. It had been the residence of the Portuguese Captain General of Sri Lanka. In Sitawaka Bl. Vaz besides attending to the spiritual needs of the Catholics also made them edify four chapels. This is why he could say in his letter dated 28-5-1699 that his apostolate there was very fruitful. From Sitawaka he went to Soffragan. He had to interrupt this journey and return to Kandy in haste so as to be able to meet the religious heads of the Buddhist monasticism known as "Jeronanses" who had come from Arakkan in Burma, to ordain new Buddhist priests for Sri Lanka. The Catholics with Bl. Joseph Vaz were afraid that they might poison the mind of the king against them, that is why Bl. Vaz wanted to be in Kandy in haste. But he found that he was too far away and might die if he made a greater effort to reach there before they departed, after a stay of two months. On their part these had spoken favorably about Christianity to the king and even enquired about the Church and its priest, according to the letter written by Bl. Joseph Vaz himself dated 10-9-1697.



Having missed the "Jeronanses", Bl. Joseph Vaz immediately left Kandy a second time, to undertake a journey to Jaffna in the North of the island. He entered Jaffna laboring day and night to administer the Sacraments for the first time after the persecution of Van Rheede and his own ordeals. He could not however escape the persecution again, because a Christian slave girl denounced him to the Dutch captain of Jaffna, in order to vindicate herself of a grave punishment that had been inflicted on her by the mistress in whose house the priest was about to celebrate the Mass and administer the Sacraments that night.

The vigilant Catholics; however, seeing the soldiers approaching, hid Bl. Vaz in a hut and had time to dismantle the altar and hide the images. But the soldiers searched not only that house but also all the houses on the way, but it did not occur to them to search the hut and so Bl. Vaz escaped, narrowly. Since he had been for some days in Jaffna, he immediately passed to Vanny to meet (Fr, Pedro Ferrao who was much afflicted because of him). Fr. Ferrao received with great joy Bl. Vaz who consoled him with his advices. He also instructed, Fr. Ferrao on the ways to deal with the faithful and the non-Christians and assigned to him as his mission the territory of Jaffna, Mannar, Mantota and Vanny. Having provided for the administration of the sacraments, he returned to Kandy where God had reserved for him greater trials.

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Sanctuary of Blessed Joseph Vaz, 413 Blessed Joseph Vaz Road, P. O. Cortalim, SANCOALE - Goa - 403710-INDIA

Contact Office Tel: 00 91 832 2550263 / 2550517 e-mail: sanjovaz@blessedjosephvaz.org [www.blessedjosephvaz.org]