THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: First Facts
In 1770, Bishop Dominic of St. Clare opened the ‘Seminary’ for the first time at the Bishop’s Residence attached to the Fort Chapel in Medows Street. From then on the Bombay Seminary has measured a myriad of ‘firsts’ memories. As we draw towards the end of the #StoreysOfStories, here are some of the significant ‘First Facts’ of the Bombay Seminary –
The Ordination book of the Bombay Vicariate dates its first ordinations in 1775 when Bishop Charles of St. Conrad raised four students to the clerical state.
Arguably, the first student from Bombay sent to Rome for further studies was Fr. Antonio Pinto da Gloria.
In 1789, the reversion of Bombay to the jurisdiction of Goa and the expulsion of the Carmelites from Bombay by the British, put an end to the first experiment of an independent Seminary.
The first Rector of the Parel Seminary was Fr. Joseph Valls (1936 – 1942). The first Rector of the Goregaon Seminary was Fr. D. Fernando S. J. (1956 – 1966). Msgr. Simon Pimenta (later Cardinal) was the first Diocesan Rector of the Bombay Seminary (1971 – 1973).
In June 1938 courses in Philosophy were first introduced in the Bombay Seminary while in June 1943 courses in Theology were first introduced at the Bombay Seminary
The earliest record of a secular priest teaching in a visiting capacity is that of Msgr Vivian Dyer who conducted a course in Pedagogy from 1941 to 1947 at the Parel Seminary. The first resident diocesan priest was Fr. Jean Mercier who came to the Seminary from Belgium in 1960 and taught Philosophy at the Bombay Seminary.
On December 21, 1946, at the Church of St. Peter’s Bandra, Valerian Gracias, the then newly consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay conferred the Sacred Priesthood on Fathers Andrew Dias, Jonathan Dias, Rudolph D’Souza, and Blaise Nazareth. Factually this was the first batch of seminarians to complete all their ecclesiastical studies in the Diocesan Seminary of Bombay.
On August 22, 1957, the Cardinal being away, Auxiliary Bishop Longinus Pereira cut the first sod at Goregaon site in a simple yet significant ceremony
The first Mass at the Goregaon Seminary was celebrated on April 14, 1959 by Valerian Cardinal Gracias. He chose to celebrate Mass on his feast day in one of the future classrooms of the under-construction Seminary building. A large number of faithful including priests, seminarians, school children, nuns, laypeople joined in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
The Rector celebrated Mass facing the congregation for the first time in the Seminary Chapel on September 29, 1964. Also in 1964 concelebrated Mass was held for the first time in the Seminary during the International Theology Seminar on ‘Christian Revelation and non-Christian Religions’ (November 25 – 27).
It is important to note the names of the first group of seminarians ordained in the Community Chapel at Goregoan, The Ordination Ceremony was held on December 12, 1960. Valerian Cardinal Gracias conferred the Sacred Priesthood on Fathers Percival J. Fernandez (now Bishop Emeritus), Noel C. Britto, Bento Cardozo, Casimiro D’Mello, Anthony V. Dsouza, Brian E. Fernandes, Sydney C. Fernandes, German Lemos, Dominic F. Pereira, and Anthony Vaz.
The first evening Ordination service was held in 1964 during the 38th International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay
Marathi has been taught at the Seminary since 1942. The first Marathi Annual play was produced by the seminarians in November 1966. The celebration of Mass in Marathi for the whole student community became a regular feature in the Seminary since 1967.
The Moderator Group System was formally set up for the first time in the academic year 1970 – 1971. From June 1970 a Regency Year was officially introduced into the seminary programme. Since 1968, the Bombay Seminary has thrown open its doors to non-Mumbai students.
On November 26, 1960 the first group of nuns under Sr. Beatrice Chaves moved from Orlem, Malad to the Seminary and for the first months took up residence in the green room at the back of the seminary auditorium. On March 7, 1961 they formally moved into their new house, St. Pius X Convent, the day it was blessed and inaugurated.
The first Pope to visit the Bombay Seminary was Pope Paul VI (now saint) on December 5, 1964 on the occasion of his visit to Bombay during the celebration of the 38th International Eucharistic Congress.
The first Pope to reside at the Bombay Seminary was Pope John Paul II (now saint) on February 9 – 10, 1986.
Did You Know?
During his stay in the Seminary Pope John Paul II planted a sapling on the lawn in front of the building. We have taken his gesture to symbolize the Church’s hope in the future of this institution. As the sapling grows before everyone’s eyes it reminds the Seminary that it still has many miles to go, many promises to keep. As one of its well-wishers put it: Parel was the beginning; Goregaon was the end of the beginning; the best is yet to come! (Ratus, 1986)
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