THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: Operation Goregaon
‘Now comes the time to appeal to you to help me finish the work. We cannot stop half-way…This is the first major project with which we have come to you during our episcopate. We call it Major because it embraces the full life of the diocese. It is more than building a school, college, orphanage, or hospital. It is even greater and more inescapable than the building of a Cathedral.’ – Valerian Cardinal Gracias
The success of the Bombay Seminary project was very dear to the Cardinal’s heart and understandably so! For who wouldn’t be excited about the birth of a baby, the baby of one’s dream, the dream that spanned decades? However, you would agree that palpable dreams offer both sleepless nights and threatening nightmares. The construction of the Goregaon Seminary had begun. But would it reach its completion? Undoubtedly the need of the hour was steel and finance.
It is important to note that while substantial funds came from abroad, there was a need to tap local resources as well. The Cardinal was confident that he could count on his people. In 1958 the Cardinal decided to call the laity to a new expression of their generosity. In his all-out appeal for funds, the Cardinal was ably assisted by his then Vicar General, Msgr. Vivian Dyer, who devised a scheme called Operation Goregaon. The scheme embraced two plans of action:
The circulation of information on the Seminary through a book titled ‘Diocesan Seminary, Bombay – A Dream Coming True’. This was edited by Fr. Tarcy Mascarenhas.
The extensive and organized collection of funds from all sections of the community.
This campaign was launched on November 24, 1958, through an Official in The Examiner. The campaign was to be operated between Christmas 1958 and Easter 1959. The Cardinal stated: ‘Our benefactors in America and Europe will have the satisfaction of learning at Christmas that their substantial donations, which helped me make a start, are bearing practical fruit…Now is the acceptable time for our people to play their part, and to play it courageously and generously.’ (The Examiner, 1958)
Through the ‘Campaign Booklet,’ the Cardinal encouraged the laity to be involved in the project in ways of interest, funds, vocations and prayers. Desiring to keep the momentum of the Campaign going the Cardinal once again spoke of the need for vocations, and financial assistance in his Lenten Pastoral Letter of February 2, 1959. He also chose to celebrate Mass on his feast day, April 14, in one of the future classrooms of the Seminary building. A large number of faithful including priests, seminarians, school children, nuns, laypeople joined in the celebration of the Eucharist.
The Campaign bore fruit. The Bombay Church selflessly supported the Seminary Enterprise, an involvement not witnessed in ages. With pride and gratitude, the Cardinal stated: ‘We had fixed the target of eight lakhs from Bombay; and I am happy to announce that we have reached it. Heaven helps those who help themselves.’
On October 5, 1960, the Bombay Seminary at Goregaon was inaugurated but with a deficit of 10 lakhs rupees. In his inauguration speech, the Cardinal informed: ‘With the generous aid received from the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, the Cardinals and the Bishops of America, friends from Europe, and from our own people in Bombay, we were able to make a start and produce this Building which you behold. We certainly are not out of the woods. The Seminary has been a costly project; but let each generation bear its burden, for the seminary is not an Institution for the day but for all time. Fortunately, a Seminary to be inaugurated need not be free from debt. ’
The approximate cost of the Seminary was rupees 45 lakhs. The deficit was met post-inauguration. Thankfully till-date the woods of the Seminary help us breathe in pure air filled with the faith and hope of those who labored with love for this beloved institution. It inspires our path as we navigate our way to the Storeys of Stories.
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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