September 5, 1949
It was past 11 am. Having dodged a couple of tongas and the Indo-Italian kaali-peelis our bus speeds through one of the longest roads of old Bombay. The Parel Road connects Kalbadevi to Kalachowki. This is a forever-crowded zone in the ever-growing city. The landscape is dominated by the soaring chimneys of textile mills and the long chawl-verandahs of its migrant workers. This is the ‘Manchester of the East’!
The rickety bus finally lurches to a screeching halt. Gesturing towards us, the conductor announces aloud – ‘Chuna Depot’. We hurry across the aisle as the conductor reaches for the bell. Having thanked the bus-personnel we now alight onto the rugged footpath. A dainty kirana with wooden pillars and metal roofing greets our sight.
Amidst the clutter of pipes, paints, and limestone jars is seated an old khaki-clad man. He peers curiously at us – attempting to read our expressions. Then with a subtle smile and a heavy Indian accent he questions – ‘Seminary?’ Responding to our vigorous nods, the man indicates to the entrance next-door. Graciously lifting his hand, he then resigns back to his daily chore.
The entrance to the Parel Seminary is decorated with a free-style metal arch. The pillar to our right that supports the arch also holds a small plaque that reads – DIOCESAN SEMINARY. As we venture inwards, before us stands an old white cross bearing the painted image of the Crucified Christ. Heeding to our footsteps, Fr Rector swiftly arrives to welcome and usher us into the vast premises. It is 12:30 pm.
We try to keep pace with the white-cassocked, agile Fr Rector. The sweltering summer heat hardly affects his quick strides. As we walk across the large Parel grounds, Fr Rector candidly chats about the place, its history, its relevance, occasionally pointing out to the important ‘landmarks’ along the way.
‘The Diocesan Seminary was inaugurated on June 13, 1936, by Archbishop Lima with four seminarians’, he began. ‘In June 1939, there were 26 seminarians. As Parel is in the city and the heart of the mill area, it was felt desirable to acquire a new site in the suburbs. A search was being made and plans were being drawn for a large building. But due to the war, prices began to shoot up.’
Then pointing to the row of houses before us he added ‘In 1940, this new wing was added to the building at Parel. The Seminarians increased to 34 and by 1946, the number had gone up to 79, almost double the previous figure. In 1949, I, Fr. Coyne, was appointed Rector.’
Having walked a distance from the entrance we now stop to catch our breath and admire the statue of St Anthony surrounded by indomitable greens. The striking rays of the scorching sun seemed to sneak through the shamianas of nature. The air felt cooler and calmer. The path to the main building was chartered by green pastures fringed by gulmohar, mango, banana, chikoo, and neem trees along with a variety of palms and ferns. However, the fresh air was also engulfed by the unavoidable aroma of food. ‘Lunch is ready. Thank you for joining us today.’ smiled Fr Coyne.
Stay tuned as we lunch with the Parel Seminarians!
Please feel free to share this story with others and your story of the Seminary with us! You will get regular updates at this blog site on this exhibition.
Please note: The above article includes a lot of facts and a little fiction.
© – Archdiocesan Heritage Museum
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