THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: Cutting the First Sod
In February 1956 the Diocesan Council received thrilling news. A plot of nearly thirty acres had been discovered at Goregaon. The site was suitably situated and reasonably priced. H.E. Valerian Cardinal Gracias described these marvelous moments in the following words:
‘Through no merits of my own, it was left to me to undertake this project and to fulfill the dream of my predecessors. We owe it to the Broker, Mr Patrick Coelho…to have discovered this ideal site, and to Mr Agaskar, the Vendor, who was happy that his property would be used for a sacred purpose. Actually, I was in Burma at that time. On arrival at the airport, I was whisked off to inspect the site. My reaction was that of love at first sight, which though in most cases is blind, in this is not.’
Let’s now consider the site in question. In the mid-twentieth century, Goregaon was still a village but also a railway station. The property lay half-a-mile from the station and measured around 30 acres and 18 gunthas. It was not symmetrical though roughly rectangular. To its southern boundary was the straight public road, the Aarey Road which derived its name from the sprawling acreage of the neighboring Aarey Milk Colony.
In the 1950s the land was occupied by a single-storeyed country-house surrounded by the natural world. As recorded – ‘The property consist of rather neglected orchard land, planted with low and gnarled mango trees with tall, straight palmyras. The open spaces between the trees are bare in the dry season, except for the Kala Kuda shrub. When the rains set in, dormant nature awakes, and changes the barrenness into a paradise of flowers: balsams and forget-me-nots, glory lilies of India and spiderworts, and everywhere grasses, outstanding among them Job’s tears…’
No sooner the site was approved and purchased, an architect was engaged to design the building. On August 22, 1957, the Cardinal being away, Auxiliary Bishop Longinus Pereira cut the first sod in a simple yet significant ceremony. A fortnight later the digging of the foundation began in earnest.
Fr. Sylvester Pereira was put in charge of the building project. He was assisted by two Franciscan brothers namely Br Florian and Br Zachary who supervised the construction work. They lived on-site in the comfortable country house until it was demolished to make way for the new structure. The then Rector, Fr Ferrando left no stone unturned to travel from Parel to Bandra to dream of this providential plan and plan this providential dream The Cardinal visited the site frequently. On one such visit – on January 12, 1958, he took along his friend and benefactor, the American Cardinal Spellman of New York.
Amidst all the hustle, the building grew – storey upon majestic storey until the City on the Hill was finally established. Stay tuned as we explore 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.
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