ST. ANNE’S SHRINE, TALAWILA
St. Anne’s Talawila, is one of the most ancient Christian Shrines of Sri Lana. Its origin is convered in the midst of tradition. There are two accounts of it, the most popular of which says that a European trader, traveling in a ship dedicated to St. Anne, was shipwrecked off the coast of Talawila in the early half of the 18th century. As the place where they managed to land was inhospitable, they were looking out for a place of rest. They espied a large banyan tree at a distance. Thither they went together with the statue of St. Anne which they had in their possession. This image, they deposited in the tree. The Master of the ship vowed to return and build a church if his business prospered. The European trader obviously met with success as he desired, and kept his word by building a church at the place where the statue of St. Anne had been deposited.
As the number of pilgrims from all parts of Sri Lanka flocking to the Shrine kept on increasing, the necessity for a larger church was felt. In 1837, the foundation for a new church was laid by Padre Catean but the major part of the work was left for Padre Neronha to complete. Both these Fathers were Goans from the Oratory founded by Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz the Apostle of Sri Lanka. In the year 1848, the Shrine came under the administration of the OMI Fathers. The Shrine owes much of its spiritual and temporal progress to two great Oblates: Fr. Theophilus Andrew Melizan (Later Bishop) and Mgr. Christopher Bonjean (Later Archbishop of Colombo). Since 1939, the Shrine has been administered by the Diocesan Clergy of the Chilaw Diocese. Its first Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Edmund Peiris, spared no pains to make the Shrine a radiating Centre of Catholic spirituality not forgetful of material improvements to it. The present Bishop of Chilaw, Rt. Rev. Dr. F. Marcus Fernando, opened a convent of Rosarian Nuns at the Shrine.