THE BOMBAY SEMINARY: The First Rector – Backstory

 We never know how or why God calls us, unworthy though we are, to consecrate our efforts and energies for His purposes.

I must have said these words hundreds of times during the past fifty years, either to myself or to those who bothered to ask me how I became in 1936 the first Rector of the Seminary of the Bombay Archdiocese. But it was, if anything, a partial and very general response. The real answer might sound a little dramatic, but I’ll say it because it is not only real but really dramatic.

On Ascension Thursday, May 28, 1936, at about six in the evening, as l was saying my second vespers, the Tertian Instructor came over quietly and whispered in my ear, “See me after your prayer.”

My head buzzed with images of all sorts as minutes later, I stood knocking at his door. What could have gone wrong, I asked myself. Did I break something in the kitchen? Was I in for a ‘culpa’? When the door opened, I realised to my relief that it was none of these that interested the Instructor.

Standing there, tall as a tower, he delivered the verdict, in a voice that was clear and a manner that was real. “You have been appointed.” he said, “Rector of the Bombay Archdiocesan Seminary.” And before I could react, he added “Father General has exempted you from the second half of your tertianship. You have three days to pack.”

My diary says I left Ranchi on Sunday, May 31. On Tuesday, June 2, I was presented to His Grace, Archbishop Lima S. J. On the 13th, the feast of St. Anthony, His Grace’s favourite saint-understandably, since both were born in Portugal – the Seminary was ceremonially inaugurated at Parel with just nine candidates.

What began as a gentle mountain brook has, over the years, flowed on and on till it has flowed into the golden pool now at Goregaon. As I said, we never know how or why God calls us, unworthy though we are, to consecrate our efforts and energies for His purposes.

JOSEPH VALLS S. J – First Rector of the Bombay Seminary at Parel

(As published in the souvenir of the Golden Jubilee of the Bombay Seminary, 1986)

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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