THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: The Determined Dom Pedro


 Although the British expelled the Carmelites in 1789, the unpredictable history of the Bombay Seminary had miles to go. In 1791 the British recalled the Carmelites and the Bombay Seminary was reopened at the Vicar’s residence at Fort. Next in 1794, the British introduced the turbulent Double Jurisdiction.

The Vicar Apostolic, Dom Pedro D’Alcantara, found himself stranded amidst stormy seas. Foreign missionary support was impossible. To meet the need of acute clerical shortage Dom Pedro was determined to establish a proper seminary to foster local vocations.

‘A seminary is needed for the formation of good priests…,I shall make every effort I can for the erection of a Seminary. At present the young candidates and aspirants to the priesthood come to the residence of the Bishop where Father Raphael Cicala teaches them the Roman Catechism, the Council of Trent, liturgy and moral theology. After lectures they return home and make no great progress in their studies or in piety, the spirit of which they generally lose at home through distractions and intercourse with lay people.” (cf. Gense, 1960)

However the make-shift Seminary at the Vicar’s residence did meet with some success. By 1825, Dom Pedro had ordained around eighteen priests. In 1819 the single minded and strong hearted Dom Pedro applied to the British for ‘leave to establish a proper Seminary.’ The grant he sought was finally approved in 1828. The Government assigned a monthly subsidy of Rs 150 to the Bombay Seminary.

Allegedly, the Seminary did not take immediate flight. In 1826, an intermediate provision was made by Dom Pedro who engaged the Goan Fr Agostinho do Rosario to lodge the seminarians in his own house and supervise their progress. The classes continued at Bishop’s House under the Carmelite Fra Aloysius Mary Fortini (later the Vicar Apostolic).

Gradually, with characteristic zeal, Dom Pedro managed to acquire a building near the Bishop’s residence. In 1836 the boarding and teaching facilities were finally combined and the seminarians moved to the new building. However Dom Pedro’s joy was short-lived. In 1838, riled by the Papal Brief ‘Multa Praeclare’, Fr Rosario instigated nine seminarians to send a memorandum to the Holy See and fled with them to Goa. This exodus marks the dawn of the Dark Ages of the Bombay Seminary. 

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  

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