No overview of the Catholic Church in Bombay can ignore the tremendous contribution of Valerian Cardinal Gracias. His indefatigable drive laid the foundations of an Archdiocese that nurtured the spiritual, contemplative, educational, medical needs of the Catholic community while keeping the nation's cares and concerns “especially in the field of development and the struggle for social justice" its own. Too long had the Church been associated with the colonial powers. His tenure helped to dispel this notions and chart a new course.
India kept its tryst with destiny in 1947, and the Church in Bombay now under its first Indian Archbishop Valerian Gracias accepted the goals of national regeneration in keeping with the nascent Indian state. Serving the twin objectives of education and health, the Church in Bombay (now Mumbai) through its schools, hospitals and the Medical Guild was an important part of the city and nation's development.
The then Mayor of Bombay, S.K Patil, at a reception in 1951 to honour the appointment of Archbishop Valerian Gracias referred to the "extent of activities, religious, educational and social that are carried out in the Archdiocese of Bombay." His Grace replied, "If freedom brings with it heavy responsibilities, no better service to the city and the country can a religious leader render than by paying for such benefits as will help the country's welfare and prosperity, namely wisdom and fortitude to our leaders, understanding and co-operation among the citizens of all communities, and unselfish and devoted labour on the part of all in the cause of the motherland."
The National Marian Congress, 1954 was a milestone in the history of the Archdiocese of Bombay. This event celebrated the crowning glory of the ‘Marian Year’ in the country. In the words of Pope Pius XII, “fervent devotion to the Queen of Heaven together with a manifestation of the faith,” described the Marian belief in India. Cardinal Valerian Gracias was appointed Papal Legate to the Congress held from December 4-8, 1954 in Bombay. The event had an impressive opening at Azad Maidan and concluded with a touching ceremony. Superbly organised and generously supported by the clergy it was attended by all sections of the Archdiocese.
In his closing address, the Internuncio, Most Rev. Martin H. Lucas, S.V.D. applauded Cardinal Valerian Gracias for hosting the National Marian Congress.
The Archdiocese of Bombay had the unique privilege of hosting the 38th International Eucharistic Congress. According to the desire of Pope John XXIII, it was held in Mumbai from November 28 to December 6, 1964.
Its objective was to promote Eucharistic devotion and reaffirm Catholic belief that the "real presence of Christ is in the Eucharist.” The Congress was attended by Pope Saint Paul VI, Cardinals, and an estimated 20,000 foreign visitors, besides multitudes from the Archdiocese who professed their faith at Oval Maidan. The scale, grandeur, and magnitude of the event so impressed Pope Saint Paul VI that he wrote to Cardinal Valerian Gracias:
“With indelible remembrances of the incredible enthusiasm and touching sincerity of Our welcome by the Indian People, and from a heart filled with glorious memories of the International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay, which owes so much to Your indefatigable and generous labours, We send You, beloved son, the assurance of Our heartfelt and undying gratitude for Your exquisite hospitality, and for all the kindnesses You have shown Us during Our pilgrimage, asking God to reward You with his richest graces. We lovingly impart to You and bestow upon Your great Archdiocese, and upon the Hierarchy, Clergy, Religious and faithful of beloved India, Our appreciative and most affectionate Apostolic Blessing.” PAULUS PP. VI
Simon Ignatius Cardinal Pimenta succeeded Valerian Cardinal Gracias as Archbishop of Bombay in 1978. Prior to being installed as the 8th Archbishop of Bombay, he was nominated Coadjutor Archbishop of Bombay by Pope Paul VI on 26th February 1977.
A strong advocate of the faith, Cardinal Pimenta introduced the Priest Consultation in 1990. This helped draft the Parish Pastoral Plan and sparked the renewal of the Church in Mumbai at the Parish, Diocesan and Pastoral levels. His leadership shaped the Archdiocese through various initiatives like the Think Tank, the Synod of 2001 and, the BCC (Basic Christian Community). During his tenure as Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Pimenta managed 12 hospitals and 44 clinics. He strongly encouraged the use of Marathi and expressed his love for the language, which was also his mother tongue.
In 1986, Cardinal Pimenta was the main host during Pope Saint John Paul II’s apostolic visit to India. He also presided over the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) for three terms.
The Bombay Priests’ Consultation was convened at St. Pius X College, from November 5 - 9, 1990. The general theme of the Consultation ‘Parish renewal, a call to priestly renewal’ was divided into 3 topics:
Priestly - Renewal was in the context of the spirituality of a pastoral agent.
Parish renewal - Parish renewal in union with the thrust of the Archdiocese, sharing a common vision, the relevance of the parish and the building the Eucharistic community towards pastoral animation.
Diocesan renewal - Diocesan renewal seen in the context of accountability, democratic leadership policies and structures. The coming of age of a prophetic church, involved with its flocks with a pointed outreach and a dynamic lay collaboration.
The Synod of 2001 was a milestone in the pastoral initiatives of the Archdiocese.
At rare moments, God brings together a multitude of forces which collectively generate the power to produce incredible results. 470 delegates, 5 Bishops, 111 Priests, 60 Religious Sisters, 6 Religious Brothers, 1 Seminarian, 287 laymen, and women were participants in the First Synod of the Archdiocese of Bombay, held at St. Pius X College, from January 21 to 26, 2001. The theme was - 'The Church in Mumbai, light to the nation and the glory of God's holy people' emphasising that the Church of our times is a 'Participatory-Servant Church.'
During the preparatory process of the Synod, seven ‘core values’ emerged after addressing the theme:
-We are called to be an all-embracing Church as a community of equals and with gender equality.
-We are called to renew our faith.
-We are called to renew our family life.
-We are called to be truly an Indian Church.
-We are called to network with others.
-We are called to respond to the InfoTech revolution.
-We are called to improve the quality of life.
The next step examined a concrete vision for the future, keeping in mind the derived information that: "The Church in Mumbai wants to become a PARTICIPATORY SERVANT CHURCH".
"Setting the Goal" – the compiled Paper - spelled out this objective and proposed initiatives for the practical implementation of these goals.
Next, 154 priests of the Archdiocese participated in the enriching ‘Diocesan Live-in.’ Based on their Pastoral experiences and concerns, the live-in provided an opportunity to express their major concerns which formed the basis for the final Synod Working Paper: ‘Called to Abundance of life.’ This Paper focused on making concrete these goals, in terms of the following propositions for implementation:
-SPIRITUALITY FOR NURTURING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
-OUR MISSION OF SOLIDARITY FOR CREATING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
-TRAINING FOR PROMOTING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
-PARTICIPATIVE GOVERNANCE FOR ESTABLISHING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
Implementation and Follow-through
The Bombay Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Committee (BASIC) was formed and included all Bishops, some Priests, Religious, laymen and laywomen. Through the various ecclesiastical bodies like the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Priests’ Council, Parish Pastoral Councils, Council of Deans and various Commissions connected with Liturgy, Justice, Family, Youth, Catechetic, Bible, ‘BASIC’ oversaw the implementation of the Synod recommendations and the various components presented in the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter.
Achievements of BASIC - the Implementation body
-Formulating Parish Vision - Mission statements in parishes
-Strengthening SCCs & CCO
-Initiating the Community Welfare Fund
-Creation of an Archdiocesan Dialogical Centre
-Setting up Offices for Parish Councils, laity training & lay collaboration in ministry
-Organising Parish Council Training Programmes for effective functioning
-Renewing Liturgical Celebrations
-Organising Pastoral Care Management Seminars for priests
-Fostering a ‘god experience’ with contemplative prayer, personal prayer, catechesis, scripture, and knowledge.
-Establishing new ministries
The Archdiocese of Bombay has evolved continuously and by setting up the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum, it has created a future for its past. In order to protect and preserve the rich and ancient traditions of the Church, the Archdiocesan Heritage Committee was set up in 2006 by Cardinal Ivan Dias. On September 25, 2011 the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum housed on the first floor of St. Pius X College, Goregaon was blessed and inaugurated by His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias. It has a collection of artefacts ranging from manuscripts, religious objects, paintings, vestments, sculptures and liturgical books. One of the features of the museum is the timeline painted on its wall, showing the stages of Christianity in the region from 6 AD onwards.
His Eminence described the museum as an “instrument of evangelization, especially for younger people, with the works of art having a profound message for all of us, revealing how artists of the time saw and lived their faith.”
The Archdiocese has also established its own Communication Centre which works towards spreading the Word of God through a new form of cyber ministry and has a strong presence across social media platforms. In this digital age, the Church has been making optimum use of technology in its work. The Centre offers a host of facilities namely production of short films and documentaries for promotion of activities as well as for social awareness, advertising promos, teaser campaigns, effective communication methods, creating brand identities for parishes through design of logos and Parish stationary, Internet consultancy, media awareness and education through workshops for children, youth and parents, and sound consultancy for churches. The Centre is to the Catholic Church what advertising firms are to commercial products.
The Archdiocesan Corpus Fund was a step taken to reach out to the poor in the Archdiocese of Bombay. The campaign launched under the direction of Bishop Percival on March 1, 2006, involved parishes, priests, and families in the Archdiocese to make contributions towards this fund. The initiative received a positive response and a sum of Rs. 10,000 from the personal savings of one of the Bishops was deposited - the Archdiocesan Corpus Fund was born!
Ever since its initiation, the fund has helped poor Catholic families meet their often unaffordable medical expenses. It was formally made operational by his Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias on September 15, 2012.
The Archdiocesan Consultation of 2012 was an after product of the Synod (2001). The Consultation analysed the eight important aspects of parish ministry outlined by the Archdiocese. It collected feedback from the laity on aspects of relationship with the Church. The Archdiocese Consultation witnessed a vibrant renewal of pastoral commitment with the cooperation and inclusion of all who comprise the Archdiocese: Clergy, Religious, Laity.
The Archdiocesan Survey (2012), conducted prior to the Consultation, revealed a number of facts. Some of them were that majority of the people do attend Mass on Sundays (80.2%), read the Bible and are helped in their faith formation by it (72.2%), and were able to give witness to their faith by undertaking family responsibilities seriously (72.8%). On the other hand, some significant comments of the Survey (2012) state that ‘The reality of faith is not being experienced by many’ and ‘Life has become commercial’.
As per the 2011 Census of India, 37 million is the difference in the male and female population in the country. This startling difference screamed out for gender sensitization in the country. The 37 Million Diyas campaign was undertaken in order to take a stand on gender disparity and the increasing violence against women. The Archdiocesan Women’s Commission launched this movement across the Archdiocese on 27th January 2013. The message that women should enjoy greater respect at home, in the workspace and in society was reiterated at various fora, including talk shows, street plays, films, power point presentations, processions, homilies, public gatherings. A bookmark with a pledge to safeguard the rights of women was circulated in parishes.
In 2014, the Archdiocese celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, and appropriately declared it as the ‘Year of the Eucharist’. A number of activities – seminars, talks, novenas, exhibitions, Masses and Holy Hours – were planned by the Archdiocesan Golden Jubilee Committee and conducted at the diocesan, deanery and parish level. A shortened version of a documentary (originally by the Films Division of India) about the 38th International Congress produced by the Archdiocesan Catholic Communication Centre, was showcased during all the Masses on October 5, 2014.
The Archdiocese came alive with Eucharistic processions, during the month of November 2014. “The Blessed Sacrament was carried on 7 different routes from one parish to the other covering the entire Archdiocese. This was truly a moment of renewal of faith for parishioners and a witness to people of other faiths.”
To further commemorate the 38th International Eucharistic Congress of 1964, a week-long celebration was organized from November 28 – December 7, 2014. The activities during this period coincided with the dates and the programmes held in 1964:
On November 28, 2014, the Exhibition on the 38th International Eucharistic Congress was inaugurated by his Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias at St. Joseph’s Convent, Bandra. This was followed by a Holy Hour conducted by persons who had received a sacrament in 1964.
On November 30, 2014, a Rally attended by more than 600 Altar Servers, representing various parishes from the Archdiocese of Bombay, was organised at the Holy Name School Grounds. That same day, the Sacrament of Confirmation was conferred at certain designated parishes in Mumbai. In the evening, a Rally of the Extraordinary Ministries of Holy Communion [EMHC] from across the Archdiocese of Bombay was held on the grounds of St. Paul Church, Dadar East.
On December 1, 2014, a Youth Rally was convened and had as its theme, ‘Get a LIFE.’ The Rally took place at St. John the Evangelist, Church, Marol. Over 800 youth from various parishes participated in the programme.
On December 3, 2014, the Archdiocesan Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue organised an inter-religious dialogue session on Euthanasia at Mount Mary Convent Hall, Bandra. This day was also dedicated to the sick, wherein Blood Donation Drives were organized in Catholic hospitals in the Archdiocese. The same evening, Masses for the sick were conducted at the Deanery level.
December 4, 2014, was a day dedicated to the Priesthood and Religious Life. A recollection was held for priests and religious on the Priesthood at St. Michael’s, Mahim. This was followed by a special Holy Hour for priests and religious in all the parishes.
December 5, 2014, “The Day of the Cross,” was dedicated to prayer and penance. His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias visited Shanti Avedna, Bandra and Our Lady’s Home for Boys, Dadar. The Bishops, Episcopal Vicars, Deans and Parish Pastoral Council members visited hospitals, institutions, homes for the aged and prisons.
On December 6, 2014, a gathering of Sacristans was held at St. Pius X College Hall, Goregaon. 73 Sacristans from 63 parishes all over the Archdiocese attended the event. Bishop John Rodrigues welcomed and thanked all of them for the services rendered in the parishes.
On December 7, 2014, the final day, His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias celebrated the Eucharist at the Holy Name Cathedral, where 80 children received their First Holy Communion. A brief cultural programme was organised on the grounds of Don Bosco, Shrine, Matunga. The theme for the day was, ‘I am Catholic – I am alive’ - this signified the practical conclusions of the celebrations, namely living the Eucharist for the other.
The closing Eucharist was presided over by the Apostolic Papal Nuncio, His Excellency, Salvatore Pennacchio and concelebrated by Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay,12 Archbishops and Bishops from the Western Region Bishops’ Conference and 200 priests from the Archdiocese.
As the outcome of the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the 38th International Eucharistic Congress and the visit of Pope Paul VI to India in 1964, the National Eucharistic Congress was held in Mumbai. On August 15, 2015, Cardinal Oswald Gracias released the hymn, logo, the website for the National Eucharistic Congress which was held from November 12 – 15, 2015. The Congress attracted hundreds of people from all over India. The four Cardinals, Bishops, representative of Priests, Religious, Lay people and Youth from all the 170 Dioceses in the country participated in the four day event. The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Albert Malcom Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, as his Special Envoy to the Congress.
The main theme of the Congress that aimed at deepening the understanding, appreciation and love of the Eucharist was ‘Nourished by Christ to Nourish Others.’ On the evening prior to the last day, the participating delegates made a pilgrimage to the Mata Valankani Shrine at Bhate Bunder, Uttan, Bhayandar. The trip to the Shrine gave the participants an opportunity to experience the vibrant faith and rich culture of the local community. At the conclusion of the Congress the participants made a public commitment to make their lives Eucharistic: centred on the Eucharistic and reaching out to others in love and service.
Earlier on September 13, 2015, in gratitude to Pope Saint Paul VI for his visit to India and at the invitation of the home diocese and relatives of Pope Saint Paul VI, Cardinal Oswald Gracias paid a visit and celebrated the Eucharist at the Cathedral of Brescia.
It has been noticed that many Catholic families, who can afford quality education, choose not to send their children to the Parish based schools that offer only the SSC stream of education. A concern, raised over a period of time, is the need for International Schools affiliated to Archdiocesan Board of Education. In order to provide a holistic education which challenges children academically, enables them to develop socially and emotionally, and guides them toward independent thinking and problem solving, St Anne’s International School, Sacred Heart International School and Aquinas International School now offer an international curriculum.