HE BOMBAY SEMINARY: Panch Mala
I was taken back on alighting at Goregaon Station when a porter accosted me with “kither jane ko hai, saheb – ‘Panch Mala’?” (Where do you have to go, sir – the ‘Five Storey’s?). So the new Seminary building had already acquired a name among the local inhabitants! Doubtless, as they first gazed at the mammoth foundations, they had speculated on its possible purpose (an atomic reactor perhaps, or a new milk colony!) and as they watched it grow storey upon majestic storey they wondered how high it would rise. Now still uncertain of its function and not quite sure it wouldn’t suddenly spring another storey, they had named it tentatively “Panch Mala”.
“Panch Mala”-or St. Pius X College, to give its proper name stands on a low hillock, facing roughly north-west. About 30 acres in extent, this site was chosen for its seclusion, healthy surroundings and scenic beauty. However, within the few years that have elapsed since its purchase, of housing colonies and industrial concerns have sprung up in and around Goregaon. This puts the Seminary more into the hub of things, but the large acreage and the elevation we possess will always ensure a certain degree of seclusion. Happily, this sudden craze for building on the part of Goregaon’s citizens has robbed us neither of the healthy atmosphere nor of the grand scenery. From our eastern boundary, the Aarey Milk Colony stretches right a low range of hills which marks Bombay’s Lake District. Extensive green pastures dotted with low cattle sheds and slender “thar-gola” palms make for an atmosphere most conducive to study.
The site was first occupied by a sıngle-storeyed structure-a country-house. Till it was demolished this served as a comfortable residence for Fr. Sylvester Pereira and his assistants Bro. Zachary and Bro. Florian, who supervised the entire constructional programme.
The first important date in these records, August 22nd, 1957, is a memorable one in the history of the building. Bishop Longinus Pereira, Auxiliary Bishop, at a simple yet significant ceremony, cut the first sod. A fortnight later the digging of the foundations was begun in earnest. The hopes and dreams of our Cardinal and many another far-seeing individual were at last being realised. If the magnitude of the building operations excited the curiosity of the casual passer-by, the interest and even anxiety of those who had conceived the whole great plan and had laboured for its fulfilment can be gauged. His Eminence the Cardinal paid frequent visits to the building in the course of its construction. Fr. Rector too, when not at Parel or Bandra could safely be reckoned to be at Goregaon. We Seminarians naturally took a keen interest in our land of promise and daily after Mass we said a special prayer for “our new Seminary building”
As the construction progressed and the bare structure began to look more like a human habitation, there was a fresh upsurge of interest. The Seminary building became the proud show-piece of the diocese. Nearly every ecclesiastical dignitary passing through Bombay was brought to “see our new enterprise”. The new Seminary was privileged to open its doors, in a purely figurative sense, to two foreign Cardinals and a number of Archbishops and Bishops, before it was even half-completed-a pledge of great things to come!
The place also became a favourite picnic spot. Schools, Sodalities, and Catholic Action Groups from nearly every parish in Bombay came to see the building which they are helping to construct by their prayers and monetary aid-and they went away impressed. In the last few months particularly, the flow of visitors increased considerably, and included a number of casual passers-by who came in to inspect this curious construction.
All that now engages the attention of the builders is the many finishing touches. The compound wall is rising rapidly, and some work still remains to be done on the Chapel and the Hall. The garden has been laid out and stately lawns and flower beds are beginning to supplant the uncultivated shrub.
St. Pius X College, the dream long dreamt of by many has at last come true. To our Superiors, it represents the first stage of their plan for a great spiritual power-house destined to charge not only the diocese of Bombay but all India as well; to all those souls who have contributed towards its completion, it holds out a promise of pastors who will work devotedly for their people; is and to the local populace who first proudly named it “Panch Mala” it stands a thing of beauty, a joy forever!
BRO. PATRICK de SOUSA
(As published in the College Magazine – ‘Fraternitas’, 1960)
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