THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: Andheri In – Andheri Out

In 1940, hardly four years after the inauguration of the Parel Seminary, a new vision for a grand seminary building set-up was proposed on paper. A site hunt was undertaken and the one at Kol Dongri, Andheri was approved. However, not a sod of earth was turned in on the new-land. Was it unpromising? Read on to discover the fateful events of the 1940s.

1940 – 41 – The Andheri plot in question was close to the Railway Station to the east and belonged to the Mangalorean Garden Homes Society.

July 1943 – The Diocesan Council announced that an agreement had been signed to buy the plot at Andheri where the whole Seminary could be comfortably located.

August 1945 – Archbishop Roberts, before his departure to Europe, appointed a Seminary Building Committee. The Committee comprised of both Diocesan and Seminary representatives. Their primary task was to study the architectural plans submitted for approval.

August 1946 – The Committee’s discussions prolonged and their opinions differed not only in terms of layout but more importantly in the vision of the future seminary. There was a tussle between the ‘Block System’ (University City) and the ‘House or Home System’.

February 1947 – With some modifications the ‘Block System’ prevailed and Auxiliary Bishop Gracias sanctioned the building plans. Further Bishop Gracias wrote in his first Lenten Pastoral letter dated February 14, 1947: ‘A visit to the Institution (the Seminary)… would reveal the trying conditions faced by the Staff and students…Plans to transfer the Seminary to the new site at Andheri are well underway…The path may be rugged, the journey calling for much patience…’ (The Examiner 1947)

March 1948 – All permissions needed for construction were taken. Andheri seemed to be the Promised Land for the Bombay Seminary.

Mid 1948 – All of a sudden the Andheri Seminary plan was discarded! Why? One may ask. What had transpired between promise and fulfillment? The following factors are worth taking into consideration:

The Problem of Money – While the Archdiocese had invested its savings to purchase the Andheri property, it was dependent on voluntary contributions to bear the financial brunt of the construction. Bishop Gracias hoped for ‘some miraculous windfall’ of funds. We must remember that these were the lean, post-war years and the contributions, both at home and abroad, were not as expected.

The Change in mindset – At a meeting of the Diocesan Council on April 12, 1949, it was announced that the Seminary Staff was inclined to remain at Parel. Taken by surprise, the construction plan was temporarily postponed until the Staff’s position could be better understood.

Andheri, no longer Andheri – The sudden change in opinion was based on the fact that Andheri in 1948 was no longer the quiet site of 1941. The area around the station was congested. Thus the Staff preferred the problem of Parel than that of the populous suburb. Besides, strict building laws were enforced due to the neighboring aerodrome.

November 30, 1948 – Decision was taken to sell the plot at Andheri and to enhance the Seminary at Parel.

By July 1949 plans were keenly studied for rebuilding the Parel Seminary but no scheme was adopted. At this stage, in October 1950, the services of the Italian architect Brother Giani of the Congregation of the Foreign Missions of Milan were also engaged but to no avail. Finally, in his address to the seminarians, Bishop Valerian Gracias mentioned the ‘Mountains of difficulties’ which only fervent prayers with earnest and lively hope, would help to remove.

How did Faith move these Mountains? Stay tuned to know more.

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.

© – Archdiocesan Heritage Museum

Please note: The exact source of Picture 1 could not be found. It was taken from Pinterest and maybe subject to copyright. 


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