THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: It’s D-DAY!
October 5, 1960 – The brand new Bombay Seminary at Goregaon was declared open by His Eminence Gregory Peter Cardinal Agagianian. Undoubtedly, the story of this memorable day is deeply etched in the storeys of the Bombay Seminary. Today we invite you to sit back, relax, and time-travel as we relive this unique unforgettable landmark in the history of our Archdiocese through word and imagery.
Although the Seminary started functioning in July 1960, all eyes and hearts looked forward to October 5, the day fixed for the official inauguration. Finally, the D-Day dawned in the full light of publicity mingled with exuberant excitement. Even the Times of India published a special supplement in honor of the New Seminary. All roads seemed to lead to Goregaon!
‘Road-side trees carried directions to lead the visitors to the Seminary. Groups from distant districts took a day off to camp on the grounds and were ready to take their appointed places for the function much ahead of the schedule. Special parking facilities were arranged for the cars that came rolling in from all over Bombay and its suburbs. Seldom was a gathering of the Catholics of the Archdiocese seen as the one on that memorable day.’ (Msgr Bento De Souza)
On the morning of October 5, a gathering of three Cardinals, around fifteen Archbishops, and thirty Bishops assembled in the Aula Magna of the Seminary. Here the Cardinal Prefect delivered an exhortation encouraging the clergy to be true to the ideals of the priestly holiness which the patron of the Seminary, St. Pius X, outlined in his encyclical ‘Haerent Animo’. After that, a grand luncheon was held in the new Seminary Hall dedicated to St. Pope John XXIII. In the evening, a little before the main event, the Seminary building was blessed by Cardinal Santos of Manila.
The setting could not have been lovelier. It merits imagination to be grasped. Upon the main gateway of the Seminary-compound was poised a huge golden colored crown. The broad avenue, fringed with fluttering flags, led the visitor to the highest level of the knoll upon which gracefully rested the impressive building. The Souvenir of the event bears witness with these words:
‘The vast lawns crowded with hundreds of thousands of people, some of them seated on the ten thousand chairs provided for them, others occupying the stands erected at the northern end, still others milling around the entire length and breadth of the 6000 square yards of the Seminary property seeking a place from which they could view the proceedings, the ring of trees around the lawns, filled in their recesses of greenery with bulbs of the most variegated hues, lending an air of enchantment and an atmosphere of fairyland to the whole scene; and in the distance, the dim outline of the rolling hills and the needle-shaped palm trees, growing fainter as the sun went down. The dais itself was magnificent – floodlit gladioli providing a floral base for the stage which was strewn with carpets and supported a light blue lotus-shaped backdrop, draped with scallops of yellow satin and surmounted by the Seminary crest. By the time the evening function began the crowd had swelled at a conservative estimate to about fifty thousand.’
As the audience awaited the proceedings in silence, the naval and police bands from a special stage played soft silvery music. Soon the Seminary bells pealed and all eyes turned to the glorious procession led by the Papal Knights and followed by the Bishops and Archbishops in their purple ferraiolos and the Cardinals in their flowing mantles. The procession paved its way from the Seminary entrance to the stage. On the front row were the four Cardinals namely – the Cardinal Prefect, H.E. Gregory Peter Agagianian; H.E. Valerian Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; H.E. Franziskus Cardinal König, Archbishop of Vienna and H.E. Rufino Cardinal Santos, Archbishop of Manila. Beside them were the Archbishops of Karachi and Colombo representing India’s neighboring countries and Mr V. L. Desai, the Mayor, the Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev James Knox, and Archbishop Roberts.
The event began with a great symphony, sung by the Clergy Choir under the direction of Msgr George Fernandes. After the special message of H.H. Pope John XXIII was read by Msgr William Gomes, Valerian Cardinal Gracias rose to deliver his official address.
‘For His Eminence, the Solemn Inauguration of the Seminary was an occasion that he had been living for during the last few years…He begged his audience to listen to him with patience for he had been preparing this speech, he said, for almost a year but it was evident that the 53 minutes of his address was hardly felt as they passed swiftly by. His audience was prepared to hear him for still longer time. ’ (The Official Souvenir, 1960)
The Papal Knight, Mr. Leo Rodrigues spoke on behalf of the laity in gratitude for this ‘Sermon in Stone’. And then arrived the long-awaited dramatic moment – Amidst absolute silence, His Eminence Gregory Peter Cardinal Agagianian rose, looked up at the imposing building in front of him, then turned to the crowd, pressed an electric switch and declared the Bombay Seminary open!!! Lo and Behold! Immediately, the whole building awakened to a thousand twinkling lights while the surmounting Red Cross shone gloriously amidst the shining stars.
‘At the same time, a double string of white bulbs hung along the sides of the palm trees around the lawn burst into light, adding to the wonder and the enchantment of the scene. So great was the impression produced on the thousands of spectators that they broke out spontaneously into mighty and thunderous applause.’ (The Official Souvenir, 1960)
St. Pius X College, the Diocesan Seminary of the Archdiocese of Bombay was finally inaugurated! A million dreams of the past, present and future were now fulfilled. As the Final Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given – whispers of gratitude filled the air while joyful tears seeped into the soil. A thousand hearts sang the song we still sing – What thanks O Lord can we render Thee! Te Deum Laudamus!
The story continues. Stay tuned!
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