St Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade
The famous St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, near the Colombo Port has a very interesting history that only a few people know about. During the Dutch period of Ceylon practising Catholicism was forbidden. A priest from Cochin volunteered to serve in Sri Lanka but he couldn’t act as a priest because of persecution. Therefore, he disguised himself as a vendor and sold fish at a boutique in Maliban Street during the day. At night he identified the Catholics, celebrated Mass and made use of the Blessed Sacrament. The Dutch somehow came to know there is a priest hiding and serving the Catholic community in Colombo and they wanted to arrest him. But he escaped with divine providence and he was passing the area called Muhudubodawatte which consisted of a fishing community that included not only Catholics but also Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus.
Sea erosion was a major issue for fishermen during this time and they could not take their boats out to seas or catch fish. People who were here came to know about the priest who was very holy – his name was Father Antonio.
They approached him and asked him to pray for them and told him their problems. Father Antonio came to this place where the present-day shrine has been built and planted a cross and he prayed with the people. They say that he prayed for three days with fasting and penance, and on the third day miraculously sand mountains came up and the sea went back. The people were very happy that their problem was solved. That was the very first miracle that took place in this holy ground.
The Dutch came after hearing the news, and people thought they were coming to arrest the priest, but they came and said ‘thank you’ to the priest. They said that this was a problem even for them and they would grant whatever the people asked. Father Antonio appealed to please help him stay there. He put up a cadjun hut and during the day he sold goods and in the night he celebrated the Blessed Sacrament and the Mass. That was the starting point.
The museum inside the shrine has the deed which was given by the then Governor to the Church. History records that it came from Kochi in Kerala. The name Kochchikade came from Kociawage Kadey which became Kochchikade.