Lady Catherine de Soysa
Catherine de Silva, born on 30 April 1845 at Digorella walawwa was the only child of Jusey and Anna de Silva Deva Aditya. Educated privately at home, married Charles de Soysa in 1863 and had 15 children. Lady Catherine, as she was fondly known had taken special care of her 24 grandchildren who had lost a parent. Lady de Soysa and family built the Princess Louise Hospital, Moratuwa and met half the cost of the Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital, Colombo. She passed away at Ballham, Nuwara Eliya, the holiday home of ELF de Soysa on 19 February 1914. The Ballham property is now part of the Golf course, Nuwara Eliya. She was a person very much admired particularly by women of her era not only because she was the only Sinhalese lady to have received the honour of a widow of a knight and was the daughter of the first Ceylonese to have been knighted by the Pope, but for her exemplary character and thus Sampson Abhayasuriya authored 'The Life of Lady Catherine de Soysa'.
Chevalier Jusey de Silva Deva Aditya
Jusey was born to an ancient Sinhalese family on September 2, 1816. His parents were Lindamulage Peduru de Silva and Manawaduge Lucia Silva. Educated at the Seminary in Colombo, he was fluent in Sinhala, Tamil, Hindi, English, Latin and Portuguese.
A direct lineal descendant of Mahapatabendi Thakura Artha Devaditta Gardiawasam Lindamulage Pedro de Silva Mudaliyar, mentioned by the historian Delonto for gallantry during the 1587 siege of Colombo, was the son of Deva Aditta Bandara, of the Court of King Buwanekabahu VII of Kotte and his wife from Rankothdiwela Walauwa, believed to have descended from the Rajput contingent that restored the deposed dynasty during the 13th century.
The Mudaliyer and his unit captured the Mattakkuliya bridge outside the fort during the famous 16th century Seige of Colombo, which saw a relatively smaller force of the combined Kotte and Portuguese forces holding out a grand campaign by the Sitawaka forces lasting six months. The defense was led by the Portuguese Capatain-major and forces loyal to the King of Kotte including Kone Appu Bandara.
The family converted to Catholicism in an era when many chiefs, ordinary folk and kings of the Kotte kingdom and elsewhere adopted the Catholic faith. A hallmark of the country's religions is that they all have foreign origins, with the exception of some remnants of indigenous thought. The family is associated with the St.Sebastian's Church, Moratuwa for over 400 years. Jusey and Anna are buried in that Church.
As one of the oldest and respected Catholic families in the land, it had initially been difficult for Jusey to agree to his only child marrying an Anglican. However, he respected the wishes of his wife and daughter. Jusey was very much admired by his grandsons and had encouraged their childhood pranks. He built the St Sebantian's Church, Moratuwa, was a prime benefactor of St Lucia's Cathedral, Colombo, a founding patron of St Sebastian's College and the Convent of Our Lady of Victories, Moratuwa and many other Catholic churches and institutions including at Thalawila and Hultsdorf. He provided an annuity to the Church for forty years after his death. His extended family played a similar role as benefactors to numerous Catholic institutions including St Joseph's College and St Bridget's Convent. In 1888, Jusey de Silva became the first Ceylonese to be Knighted by the Pope.
Anna was born in 1825 to a highly respected old Catholic family. Her parents were Weerahennadige Weerabala Jayasuriya Patabendi Bastian Fernando and Modera Patabendi Justina Silva. She married Jusey de Silva in 1841. She had promoted her daughter's education and insisted that Catherine should marry Charles. Her father was an uncle of Francesco Fernando, popularly known as Veera Puran Appu and his cousin Alexander Fernando, who built the Church of St John, Gatambe in 1854. Anna passed away in 1877 and was interned in the Church of St Sebastian, Moratuwa.
St Sebastian's Church, Moratuwa
The fist Church in Moratuwa was constructed under the guidance of Rev. Sebastian Andreas in 1611 AD. This modest structure was expanded and a vicarage was built in 1618, consecrated and dedicated to St Michael.
The custodian/president (Muhuppu) was the Provincial Superior Lindamulage Miguel de Silva, who reported that there were 200 Catholics in Moratuwa. This Church was destroyed in the rebellion of Nikapetiye Bandara and later under the Dutch administration.
In 1736, Hettiyakandage William, Gabriel and Bastian Fernando constructed a Church dedicated to St Sebastian. Between 1810-1813, the families of Lindamulage De Silva (Juan, Stephen, Manuel & Gabriel), Hettiyakandage Fernando (Andris, Stephen & Peter) and Weerahennedige Bastian Fernando (grandfather of Lady Catherine) constructed a new Church. In 1831-7, Andris Fernando was appointed registrar of the Catholic Church of the Western and Central Provinces.
The grand edifice that is the present St Sebastian's Church was consecrated on 19 January 1875, built primarily by Jusey de Silva on land gifted by his father-in-law Bastian Fernando, with other land and financial grants from Thomas, Peduru, Euciniya, Miguel, Bastian & Jacob de Silva and H Augustine, Joseph & Andris Fernando. The fishermen community also contributed.