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The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus & Mary, Galle

Founder Canon Peter Joseph Triest
Motto Cor unum Anima una 
Foundress Mother Placide Van Der Gauwen 
Founder Canon Peter Joseph Triest
Motto  Cor unum Anima una                      
Foundress Mother Placide Van Der Gauwen                                    


The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus & Mary is a religious institute of Pontifical right.
First House in LovendegemIt was founded on the 4th of November 1803 in Lovenderghem, in the Diocese of Ghent, Belgium, by the Parish Priest Peter Joseph Triest.

It was approved, with its ‘Rules and Statutes’, by His Holiness Pope Pius VII, on 9th September 1816.






Peter Joseph Triest, the ninth child of John Triest and Cecilia Mello, was born at Brussels, capital of the Austrian Netherlands, on August 31st 1760.  He was baptized on the following day in the church of St.Nicholas.

His parents considered a good education the best inheritance they could give their children.  He began his studies with the Jesuit Fathers at St. Michael’s College, but when the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773, the school was closed. Then he attended the famous Latin school at Gheel where his other brothers had studied before him. In 1780, the young Triest went to the University of Louvein for a two year course in Philosophy. When he was twenty two years old, had already made up his mind to qualify for priesthood at the seminary of Malines. (It was there he became familiar with devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, devotion still in its early stages).  Father J.F. Huleu, President of the seminary was insistent upon a thorough training all priestly virtues, for he fully realized that the uncertain future would demand priests of heroic calibre.  Ordination to the priesthood by Cardinal Van Frankenberg on the 16th June 1786, crowned his long years of earnest preparation. Shortly after this event, the diocesan seminaries were replaced by the notorious imperial seminaries at Louvein. The emperor, Joseph II, suppressed the contemplative orders on 27th March 1783. Father Triest had but one desire: to enter upon his priestly Ministry.

He was appointed as assistant priest for three years near Brussels. Zealously he prepared children for their First Holy Communion.  He took keen interest in education in general & watched sympathetically the struggles of the young workers. He was specially remembered for his heroic courage in the Military Hospital during an epidemic. For years afterward the story was told how, after several deaths had occurred, doctors and nurses deserted their posts, leaving to the young curate not only the spiritual, but also the bodily care of the patients. He himself became a victim of heroism and it was almost a miracle that he regains his health.  During his 6 years priestly duties at Malines, he witnessed the entry of French revolutionary troops in November 1792 and their withdrawal in March of the following year, their return in July 1794 and the misery which followed. Regulations followed upon regulations and at length on 22nd May 1797, Malines clergy was called upon to take the revolutionary oath against the monarchy. Together with the majority of his brother priests Father Triest refused; his name was added to the list of “refraction priests” and these were considered and treated as enemies of the revolution. In spite of the looming danger, the young curate took part in a customary promotion examination in August 1797. In October he was appointed to the church of St.Peter at Renaix.

Under ground parish priest….
From the very outset the new Parish priest, being “refractory” had to go underground.  When his church was secularized, he was powerless to resist. He was prudent but unafraid; after his two curates had been taken into custody, he still carried on his pastoral duties in secret. It is related that he made his way into the barracks to anoint the dying wife of the captain of the revolutionary soldiers, when that officer suddenly came upon the scene.  He was so moved that he made no attempt to interfere with the priest’s sacred duties, and afterward became Triest’s protector.


Anticlerical burgomaster, jealous of Triest’s growing popularity, made every effort to get him removed; and chance eventually came his way. The new law required that the civil ceremony should precede marriage in church.  It happened however that on two occasions the zealous pastor probably in case of emergency officiated at the church ceremony first. Hence Fr.Triest was summoned before the Bishop of Ghent and the prefect of the Department Scheldt. The honesty and good faith of the priest were obvious, but for the sake of peace, the Bishop transferred him to a small parish, Ghent, Lovendegem.

Though he felt the change very much, Fr.Triest took up his new appointment with his usual zest and zeal. He found plenty of work to do there. After the first contact with his new parish he noted: “The three vices of my parish…. Intemperance, blasphemy and lust will decrease in the same measure as devotion to Mary increases.” He remained two years in Lovendegem and was then called to Ghent by his Bishop.  Priest and parishioners felt the pangs of separation, but each week Fr.Triest had to return to hear confessions. He was greatly in demand as spiritual guide in the confessional and as preacher on special occasions. His favourite subjects were: love of God, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, devotion to the Sacred Heart, rather surprising topics in a period still under the influence of Jansenism.

No matter how multitudinous his duties were in later life, his heart always remained with his parish of Lovendegem.  He returned to this village in his old age and there found his last resting place.  The convent of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus & Mary, founded by him remains a lasting tribute to his memory.


Fr.Triest had reached his 43rd year and to all human calculations the middle of his life: yet purified by the trials of his transfer from Renaix, he had come to realize that God wanted him to be more than just a kindly parish priest: he had to walk the hard road of the founder of a religious institute.

At the time Fr.Triest took possession at his parish in Lovendegem, most of the flourishing religious institutes of the 18th century had ceased to exist. The Society of Jesus and contemplative orders had been suppressed. In the sphere of education, parents kept their children at home, rather than sending them to the godless school sponsored by the revolution. Catholic population longed for the return of the religious orders. It was at this time that Fr. Triest contemplated founding a religious order. First and foremost he was a priest of deep interior life. He desired to mould the hands and hearts of his spiritual daughters to every work of mercy, to teach them self abnegation in the service of charity.  With contrast with other founders of charitable societies, Fr.Triest made every effort to lay the firm foundations of a deep religious life.

By the authority of Mgr.Fallot, Bishop of Ghent, at the request of Fr.P.J.Triest, ‘The Congregation of Sisters of Charity of Jesus & Mary’ was canonically instituted on the 4th November 1803 at the Convent of Our Lady of Angels: the small modest dwelling, set in a pleasant garden and flanked by the orchard, occupied by his first four postulants that very morning. For a time, his friend Fr.Declerge, kindly lent his Sr.Carolina Janssens from the community he had founded, to teach the aspirants, the fundamentals of religious life. Shortly afterwards an ex-Bernadine Novice applied for admission: Marie Therese Van Der Gauwen, of Etikove, she was the candidate for whom Fr.Triest had been waiting to entrust with the formation of the first Sisters of Charity. Imbued with the Cistercian spirit and endowed with sound and clear notions of religious life, this gifted lady was destined to leave her mark on the new Congregation. On the 2nd July 1804, Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady, Fr.Triest delegated by his Bishop admitted the first six sisters of Charity to the religious profession after a noviciate of nine months. The same day, Mother Placide Van Der Gauwen was elected superior by the sisters. The specific aim of the new institute would be twofold: education and nursing. On the 11th March 1805 they were allowed to take the habit of citeaux: white habit and black scapular. The life of the sisters was to be a combination of the contemplative life with the active life of charity. Though apparently founded for works of mercy, the new congregation was to draw its life’s sap from the old monastic stem on which it was grafted. By a design of providence this development would be favoured by the transfer of the Mother House to Terhaegen Abbey, one of the five former Cistercian nunneries. 

The French Revolution had left its mark here as in so many places. The children were uncared for, the sick dying in the streets, the morals of the people low. Fr. Triest was moved to compassion by the moral and social misery of his flock, found a little school where the village children could be taught their catechism and in some way prepared for the future. The work grew rapidly, and in a short time many orphans were entrusted to their care: a little five –roomed cottage was next taken, as a school to begin with. When the Bishop of Ghent visited the Sisters at Lovendergem, and was impressed by their devotedness, invited them to care for the sick in his city, and offered them the ancient Abbey of Terhaegen, “Our Lady of Joy”, which soon became, and has remained, the Mother House of the Congregation. Once again Our Lady’s Joy pervaded Terhaegen, and was to become a distinctive mark of the new Congregation. Mother HouseThe following years witnessed a rapid expansion. In 1806 Canon Triest obtained Napoleons authorisation for his institute and was appointed its first Superior General. He zealously directed the Sister’s activities to those works where the need was greatest.

In 1808 he turned his attention to the problem of the mental asylum in Ghent. In those days the unfortunate women patients lived indescribable squalor and it was only when the sisters took them into their care that they began to be treated with sympathy and understanding. In 1816, he opened the first school in Belgium for the deaf & dumb and in 1832 the first institute for the blind. Because of his unbounded love for the sick and unfortunate, Cannon Triest was known as the St.Vincent de Paul of Belgium. When he died in 1836 the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary had 13 houses there and today the Congregation continues to expand; the seeds sowed at Lovendegem have blossomed into a mighty tree with branched spreading over 14 countries in 4 continents, houses over 200. Canon Triest has been true to his dying words: “In heaven, I shall watch over you, far better than I have done on earth.”  


The work of education, which began with the orphans in Lovendegem, remains one of the great works of the Congregation. Today schools of every kind, ranging from classes one to university entrance and training colleges both in Europe and the missions, the sisters have over hundred & fifty thousand children in their care, a formidable responsibility, but also a source of rich promise for the future.

In joyful response to the command; “Go ye and teach all nations” they welcomed children of all nationalities and creeds regardless of their social backgrounds. Apart from their normal schools the sisters run special schools for the deaf and dumb, the blind, slow learners and also for the physically & mentally handicapped, … spastics & epileptics.


Side by side with education is the no less exacting apostolate of nursing, also springing from earliest days of the Congregation. The sisters were given the abbey of Terhaegen for the sick, this work continues; at the Mother House today, apart from homes hospices for the aged especially those who are incurably sick, there is a large modern clinic a Maternity unit and a Training school for nurses. In Europe and the missions, there are at the moment, some twelve thousand patients in our hospitals and Sanatoria- not counting the throngs who daily come for treatment to the mission centres. 

“The poor shall have the Gospel preached to them” Canon Triest’s ideal of serving the poor and suffering is no where better realized than in our mission houses. Each sister of charity set out for missions bearing with them the treasure of the faith for those who are desperately poor, both spiritually and materially. There is no limit to the works which these missionary sisters undertake; education comprises everything from Catechism lessons in the bush to teacher’s training colleges.

Faithful to the spirit of their founder, the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary devote themselves to all kinds of charitable works. Last words of Venerable Father P.J.Triest  “Give and it will be given unto you.”

Commemorative medals of Canon Triest were struck by his administers, embossed with the striking text of the Gospel: “He passed by doing good.”  Finally in December 1836, a motion was passed by the Belgian parliament to erect a monument, at the expense of the state, to commemorate the eminent services rendered to suffering humanity to PETER JOSEPH TRIEST, the VINCENT DE PAUL of BELGIUM.


In 1895, the catholic mission was entrusted to the Belgium Jesuits. Msgr.Van Reeth, former Rector of the Jesuit noviciate at Tronchiennes and Consecrated Bishop in 1895, arrived with his heroic pioneers to take charge of the diocese of Galle.

Msgr. Van Reeth felt the great need for centres of faith and piety which would radiate the light of the Gospel in the neighbourhoods. He was concerned about the education of the youth. He multiplied schools in villages and plantations where the vernacular language was used; in more important centres he opened schools where English was spoken. In order to ensure the formation of the ruling class he founded a boy’s school at Galle, later named, St. Aloysius College. His earnest wish was that girls should enjoy the same advantages. Accordingly, he went to Mother House of the Sisters of Charity in Ghent and appealed for Sisters for his large diocese. The promise of a foundation was granted and the departure for Ceylon of the first Sisters was fixed for autumn 1896.

Early in May, Mother Amelie Jansens, was chosen as Superior of the new foundation. She left immediately for Hollymout (England) in view of improving and perfecting her English. On the 4th November 1896, five Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary left for Ceylon. They were…. Sr. Amelie, Sr. Alberta, Sr. Mary William, Sr. Alexandra, and Sr. Mercia. As they set out for Ceylon the Bishop of Ghent presented each one with a cross, saying: “By this sign will conquer.” 
The Sisters made a voyage in a fortnight & disembarked in Ceylon on 23rd November 1896 towards 3.00 am. At 8.30 am. Fr. Cooreman SJ., the parish priest of Galle, and an Oblate Father came to the boat. The sea had been very rough second week & the Sisters were very tired, & were very happy to be on the firm ground again.

Sister writes: “We were first taken to the Oblate Fathers at Kotahena where we received a charming welcome. Within a stone’s throw from there, the Good Shepherd nuns of Angers, offered hospitality for the night. That same day visited the hospice run by the Sisters of the Poor, where elderly men and women are housed. Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who are in charge of the large hospital in Colombo, too welcomed them and were glad to meet seven French Sisters & delighted to meet acquaintances among  them.

The following day, at 11.30am we were sent by train to Galle. During the journey we admired the luxuriant natural beauty of the country. Finally we arrived in Galle, and Msgr. was waiting at the station and we asked for his blessing.”

Mother Amelie‘s first letter dated 26.11.1896 from Galle to the Superior General provides a detailed, colorful, & enthusiastic account of the event that marked their arrival.

“What an impression took hold of us as we entered the sanctuary where we would often come to seek strength to fulfill our mission… Mgr. Van Reeth in toned the Te Deum; we gave thanks to God who had sent us here & who would remain with us day after day. There followed many callers… All these good people were so happy to express their joy at seeing the Sisters. Instead of starting work in January as planned, our three teaching Sisters began school with 36 day-girls on the feast of St. Andrew, the following day.”

  A chapel.. Majestically adorned with Stained Glass …Number of the day-school children increased gradually, including boys. The home became too small and in 1901, the Sisters took possession of the present convent of the Sacred Heart. In this vast building they welcomed their pupils: Sinhalese, Burghers, Tamils, Eurasians and Europeans. Their first house, near the cathedral was handed to the parish priest of Galle. The Sisters ran a Sunday-school for day- girls, helped the illiterate & prepared young couples for marriage. Two noviciates for Native Sisters were established in the House. The first postulant entered in 1903

and a nucleus of a community developed slowly but surely under the guidance of the Superior, Mother Tiburce de Mol. The Sisters of Holy Angels helped the Sisters of Charity in their work of education. In 1919 they set up an autonomous religious community in a small house near the Sacred Heart Convent. At the beginning of 1923 they left for Ganegama where they taught the children of the village. From that moment Sisters of Holy Angels became a diocesan Congregation. Later on, with the support and encouragement of Mgr. Anthony de Seram, Bishop of Galle, Sisters were established as a pontifical congregation.

The second noviciate, The Oblates of Charity, was founded in Galle in 1912. In August         1958 the Oblates Sisters of Charity became SCJM and were integrated into the great Cor Unum Anima Una. The noviciate remained at Galle.

Very Quickly the Sisters of Charity were called to other parts of the Island. In 1908 they moved to Matara and undertook the same works as at Galle. On 18th December 1909 the Mission at Kegalle was founded.  Catholic community of Ratnapura welcomed the Sisters on 10th 1924. Ever since the works and foundations inspired by the spirit of Fr. Triest and the Church, have multiplied. Today there are twenty eight Houses in Sri Lanka and a mission station in Philippines.

Motto of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary:    GOD IS LOVE
Vision – Mission
Sri Lanka Province 2005

In our identification with Jesus – the Mystery of God within us
We are in contemplation: tranquil abiding in God’s presence.
In this “Abba experience” we discover the same
Mystery in the “other” and in the whole of creation.

Constitution of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary

Chapter One
Deus Caritas est. God is Love. In his love for us the Father calls us together as Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. He unites us in the Heart of his Son Jesus, whom he sent in the world to reveal his love.

With Mary, we recognize that the source of our being and of all that we do is the mystery of the love of God that “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (Rom. 5:5)

Christ is always inviting us to enter into his experience of the Father’s love and to know his mercy. He is inviting us to follow him generously in the total gift of ourselves to those to whom we are sent.

When we respond to him freely, seeking no reward, and are ready to live the powerlessness of love, then we enter also into his joy. Caritas Christi urget nos.  

Our Founder, Peter Joseph Triest, saw this love as a legacy from Christ himself. The first generations of sisters have handed the same conviction down to us. What we inherit from Christ is love: love for God, his Father, love for each other and love for all people, especially the poor who are abandoned by the world.

We live this vocation according to the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul and that of St. Bernard, as transmitted to us by our Founder and Mother Placide. We draw life and inspiration from the spiritual riches we inherit from the sisters who have preceded us. Their history is our own. Their faith and absolute trust in Providence – Deus providebit –lives on in us and animates us still.

We too share in the same grace of origin by our communion in the Congregation, in which we are brought together by one and the same profession of evangelical counsels.

The Church recognizes our Congregation, with its distinctive vocation, as a grace entrusted to her to further her own consecration and mission. We are true to our identity in the measure that our response to the appeals made to us today is in accordance with this particular way of belonging to the Body of Christ.

Our charism, like that of every apostolic Congregation, lies in the particular way in which, according to the demands of our vocation, we unify the three dimensions of union with God, service of our neighbour and life in community. This unification is woven into life itself. 

From the beginning until today, the life lf every Sister of Charity has been, and remains, a reality of grace which finds expression in:       

An apostolic service which stems from our union with God and itself nourishes this same union, Prayer, which is a waiting on the Lord, who himself opens us to his presence  nd enables us to collaborate in his work, Community life, which intensifies our apostolic dynamism and is effective sign of our communion with Him.  Cor unum anima una.

Fr Triest directed us specially to the care of the poor, sick and afflicted and to the education of children and young people. Pauperes evengelizantur. In order to restore man to his human dignity and to help young and old in their manifold needs, we commit ourselves, today as yesterday, to undertake all kinds of works of charity according to the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul. This mission, accomplished with discerning charity, knows no geographical or cultural boundaries.  Beati mesericordes.

Such, in the Church, is our vocation as Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. Wherever we are we bear witness before the world to the primacy of love. As our whole life becomes a response to the gift that is offered us, we become what we are called to be: contemplative in action.

This is the invitation address to each one of: to live the life of Jesus, in the Father, under the radiance of the Spirit of love, so to be apostles according to the Heart of Jesus.

Bio Data of the Present Community at Sacred Heart Convent

Sr.Francis of Assisi Cooray

Name:                                Sr.Francis of Assisi Cooray
Date of Birth:                    04.06.1937
ID card No.                       376861597 v
Former Appointments       Pastoral work & Youth  Kotugoda, Nuwaraeliya, Kegalle
Present Appointment        Retired

Sr. Alexander Molligoda

Name:                                Sr. Alexander Molligoda.
Date of  Birth:                   29.02.1940
ID card No.                       405600510v
Qualifications:                   S.S.C.
Nursing Trained, U.K.
Former appointments:       Pakistan, Superior, Novice Mistress
Present appointment:        Social work

Sr. Callixta Mallikarachchi

Name:                                Sr. Callixta Mallikarachchi.
Date of Birth:                    22.03.1941
ID card No.                       415830909v
Qualifications:                    S.S.C.
Diploma AMI
Theology : Mater Dei Institute, India.
FormerAppointments:        Montessori , Kegalle, Matara.
Catechetical Centre, Galle,
Superior:   Kegalle, Matara, Philippines.
Present appointment:        Superior, Convent, Galle.

Sr. Marcilla Vaz

Name:                                Sr. Marcilla Vaz
Date of Birth:                    06.08.1944
ID card No:                       447192110v
Qualifications:                   G.C.E. O/L
Western music
Biblical and Counselling Courses in India.
Former Appointments:      Hostel & Western Music Section
Pastoral Work (Estate work) Kegalle, Ratnapura
Present  appointment:       In charge of Music Section, SHConvent, Galle.

Sr.Felicitas Fernando

Name:                                 Sr.Felicitas Fernando.
Date of Birth:                    23.08.1944
ID card No.                       447361035v
Qualifications:                   Nursing Training, Bangalore, India.
Former Appointments:      Elders Home, Kegalle,
Superior, Galle.
As a Missionary in Israel.
Present appointment:        Home for Elders,Galle.

Sr. Elizabeth Paul

Name:                                Sr. Elizabeth Paul.
Date of Birth:                   22.03.1950
ID card No.                       505821840v
Qualifications:                   G.C.E. O/L
Western Music,
Catechetics, India.
Former Appointments:      Galle, Ratnapura, Catechetical Centre, Kandy
Superior, Kegalle.
Present Appointment        Caritas SED Galle.

 Sr. Disna SiyagunaName:                                 Sr. Disna Siyaguna
Date of Birth:                    12.11.1967
ID card No.                       678172618v
Qualifications:                   Trained Teacher (English)
B.A. (English), University of Jayawardenapura
P.G.Diploma in Education, University of Colombo
Studying  for Dip. in Psychology, U.K. Modern Management, U.K.
Former Appointments:      Teaching  - Supem Uyana, Hiniduma Mallika M.V.
Sacred Heart Convent B.M.V.
Present Appointment        Principal,  Sacred Heart Convent B.M.V. Galle.

Sr. Sulochana Krishnan

Name:                                 Sr. Sulochana Krishnan
Date of Birth:                     27.04.1967
ID card No.                        676181784
Qualifications:                    Montessori Training               
Spiritual Leadership Course, India.
Former Appointments       Montessori,  Hiniduma, Matara, Thalahena
Present Appointment        As above, Galle.

Sr. Sandya Rani Fernando

Name:                                Sr. Sandya Rani Fernando.
Date of Birth:                    29.01.1973
ID card No.                       735290118v
Qualifications:                   Daham Guru 1,2
Montessori Trained
Teacher Training, Bigiriya
Studying for Diploma in Psychology & Counselling, Aquinas.
Former Appointments:      Teaching: Hiniduma, Mallika M.V.
Present Appointment        Teaching: SHC, Galle.

Sr. Niluka Udeni Fernando

Name:                                 Sr. Niluka Udeni Fernando
Date of Birth:                     04.10. 1980
ID card No.                        807781294V
Qualification:                     B.A.
Former Appointments:      Teaching, Convent, Matara.
Present Apponitments:      Teaching, SHC, Galle.
Principal of Daham Pasal, Galle.

Sr. Thilanka Fernando

Name:                                Sr. Thilanka Fernando
Date of Birth:                    22.05.1980
ID card No.                       806433535v
Qualifications:                   G.C.E.  A/L
St. John’s First Aid National
First Appointment:            Home for Elders, Galle                   

Postal address:                                    Sacred Heart Convent, Galle.

Contact No:                                             091 2234208

Present Superior of the Convent     Sr. Callixta Mallikarachchi

Present Provincial Superior              Sr. Anastasia Perera
                                                                  No.15, Don Carolis Road
                                                                  Colombo 5.
                                                                  Tel. 0112 584967

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