HISTORY OF THE CO-CATHEDRAL
St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral Church is an ancient parish, dating its origin to the year 1775 had a biggest Catholic population (800 – in 1900). Now the Catholic population has come down to 235 parishioners – with 43 families. A big crowd of 5000 to 10000 devotees of St. Antony visit here very Tuesday. The Church is popularly known as St. Antony’s Church, because of the miraculous statue of St. Antony. People of different religions flock together from morning (5.a.m) till evening (11.30 p.m.). Even on weekdays, one could see a sizable number of devotees praying silently and fervently. This is almost like Ecumenical Church, bringing people of different faiths from all directions. The church is surrounded by commercial centres and hence the residential catholic people are dwindling down. It has only floating population.
St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral is a historic landmark in the city of Madras (renamed as Chennai today). It is a popular pilgrim centre in the heart of the city that attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims of all faiths-Christians, Hindus, Muslims and others-to pray and pay homage to Mother Mary and their favourite saint, St. Antony. People flock to the Church, especially on Tuesdays, the day dedicated to St. Antony, because they believe that their prayers are answered and they witness many miracles here.
St. Mary’s Church, was originally built in 1658. During the French occupation of Madras, the church suffereed serious damages and so it was rebuilt in 1775 and enlarged further in 1785 on a modest scale. The Madras Catholic Directory makes mention of the church of St. Mary of Angels in 1857, with a Catholic population of 8,000, with the neighbouring St. Francis Xavier’s chapel as its substation. St. Mary’s first served as the Church of the Prefects of the Capuchin Missions at Madras and later became the Church of the Vicariate Apostolic of Madras in 1834. In execution of the Papal Bull “Humanae Salutis Auctor” of September 1, 1886. His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, by an “Apostolic Brief” (25-11-1886) promoted the Vicar Apostolic of Madras, Dr. Joseph Colgan, to the Archiepiscopal See of Madras and the Church of St. Mary’s of the Angels was raised to the dignity of the Cathedral Church. Finally, when the Archdiocese of Madras and the Diocese of Mylapore were combined together into a new Ecclesiastical Unit, an Apostolic Constitution, “ExPimaevae Eccesiae.” was issued on December 13, 1952, forming the new Archdiocese of Madsras-Mylapore. St. Thomas Cathedral, Mylapore, was assigned as the Cathedral of the new Archdiocese and St. Mary of Angels as the Co-Cathedral.
Alterations And Enhancements
St. Mary’s church, though rich in history and tradition, is a simple structure, without any architectural pretensions. In 1871, Fr. Ferdinando sought permission to build a splendid structure in its place, worthy of its patroness. However, the engineer questioned the property of raising a high structure in the proximity of the Fort. Hence, Rev. Fr. Ferdinando had to be content with making some minor alterations. In 1931, Archbishop Mederlet SDB, without interfering with the façade of the church raised the walls of the middle aisle by four feet and replaced the old roof with a new concrete roof. A little later, Dr. Louis Mathias, SDB, Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, carried out extensive repairs. In 1991, Rev. Fr. N.A. Joseph SDB, constructed a small hall in front of St. Antony’s altar, attached to the church, for the convenience of the thousands of devotees that flock to the shrine particularly on Tuesdays. The main façade of the Shrine was lined with polished granite in 2000, when Fr. Varuvel Jeromedhas SDB, was pastor, without tampering much with the original architectural design.
Rev. Fr. Arokiasamy Tharsius SDB, the present pastor, replaced the tiled-flooring of the hall in front of the altar of St. Antony and the sanctuary around the main altar with white tiles in 2001. In 2006, he further embellished the background of the main altar with a new exquisite design.
Congresses And Synods
St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral shared the honour of hosting the First Marian Congress in 1921 and National Eucharistic Congress in 1937 with the St. Thomas Cathedral, Mylapore. The first Provincial Council of the Archdiocese of Madras was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral on February 18, 1894. The Cathedral has also witnessed three Diocesan Synods including the significant Synod of 1942, that marked the third centenary of the arrival of the Capuchins in Madras and the fourth centenary of the arrival of St. Francis Xavier, the second Apostle of India, in Goa.
St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral has had the privilege of witnessing the concentration of Vicar Apostolics, Bishops and Archbishops. The mortal remains of many eminent Vicar Apostolics and Archbishops are interred here.
Records show that the Dedication of St. Mary’s was first celebrated on 8 October 1861 and continued ever since. The Cathedral had an unbroken succession Pastors since Fr. Ephraim de Nevers, the founder, till today. Fr. Arokiasamy Tharsius being his present successor. After changing many hands the shrine was finally handed over to the Salesians of Don Bosco in 1928, with Reg. Mgr. Mora, as the first Salesian Pastor. Ever since the Salesian Fathers have been taking care of the shrine.
St. Mary’s Co-cathedral was canonically raised to the status of an Archdiocesan Shrine by Most Rev. Dr. D.M. Chinnappa, SDB, DD, Ph.D, the Archbishop of Madras Mylapore, on September 8, 2005.
St. Antony is certainly one of the most popular and loved saints of the Church. All over the world, St. Antony attracts devotees not only from Christians but other faiths also.
There is an interesting story behind the miraculous statue of St. Antony venerated at St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral. It is believed that in 1929, a group of Goan sailors were caught in a storm that endangered their life. In great distress on the high seas, they made a pledge that, if they were rescued, they would present a statue of St. Antony to the nearest church from their point of landing. They were miraculously saved and true to their promise they commissioned some artists in Goa to make the statue.
“Why is this statue of St. Antony wearing a beard”? ask people, who have seen other statues or pictures of St. Antony clean shaven. Presumably because artists who made the statue had no models for inspiration and since all the Franciscan Missionaries they had seen wore beards, they assumed St. Antony too to be bearded. The statue was duly presented to the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Parish priest gave the statue to the Catechist of Park Town parish, saying that there was no place for the statue in the Cathedral. The Catechist placed the statue on a side altar and forgot about it.
Later on the statue was removed and placed in the chapel of St. Patrick’s cemetry. Gradually, people began to notice the presence of the statue at the cemetry and few of them began to go there to pray before the statue of St. Antony. The number of devotees began to increase day by day as rumours of miracles spread. The church authorities closed an eye over the devotion until there was a fight between the cemetery watchman and the Catechist of Park Town Parish over the money collected there. It was brought to the notice of the Archbishop, His Grace Archbishop Louis Mathias, who ordered the Asst. Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Rev. Fr. Schupp, to remove the statue from the cemetry and bring it to the parish house. The devotees who used to visit St. Antony’s statue at St. Patrick’s Cemetary Chapel, came to the Cathedral searching for their favourite saint. Not finding it there, they went to V. Rev. Fr. Mora, SDB, the Vicar General, requesting him to reinstate the statue in St. Mary’s Church. Their request was granted and the statue was brought back to St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral.
The devotion of St. Antony and veneration for this particular statue, “the bearded St. Antony” spread like wild fire. People of all faiths flocked to St. Antony with their prayers and petitions especially on Tuesdays, a day dedicated to the saint. The devotion continues to grow to this day. Countless number of his faithful devotees bears witness to the miracles and wonders their beloved saint works in response to their prayers.
Apart from the devotion of St. Antony, devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help also flourished side by side at St. Mary’s. The Co-Cathedral regularly conducts Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help twice a week – on Wednesdays in English and on Saturdays in Tamil. Both novenas are well-attended by the faithful.
110, Armenian Street, Chennai-600 001, Tamil Nadu
The history of St Mary’s Anglo-Indian Hr Sec School goes back to the dim past of 1839, when it made a humble beginning as St Mary’s Seminary and Day School.
The School, started on the Esplanade in George Town, was an important landmark for the Europeans and natives alike. Madras, at that time, was a little bigger than a big village with more open spaces than buildings.
St Mary’s is the first school started by the Catholic missionaries in the city of Madras. Formal education starts at school. As the School is engaged in the noble task of transforming young boys into enlightened citizens, the connection between the School and society becomes important.
Educational institutions are of different categories. Some are run by the Government, others are managed by Private individuals or different organizations. Among the many agencies which fostered education in Tamil Nadu, Christians missions, both Catholic and Protestant have contributed significantly in this part of India.
The Christian Missions won the goodwill and admiration of the non-Christian majority. These institutions contribute immensely to the promotion of the integrated personality, integral development and national integration. Education, therefore, is the systematic training of the people to take pleasure in active, constructive work for the common good.
Like the other educational institutions run by the Christian missions, St Mary’s has been serving the cause of education in the city with distinction for more than a century and a half – a hundred and seventy four years to be exact, as of the year 2013. In his message for the Post Centenary Golden Jubilee Souvenir,:
Chief Minister M Karunanithi, in his message wrote: “St Mary’s Anglo-Indian Hr Sec School is a standing example of the dedicated services of the Christian Fathers in fighting illiteracy and spreading education. “
The origin and history of the School till 1978, was associated with the history of the Archdiocese as the development of the Church of St Mary’s of Angels, at present called, the St Mary’s Co-Cathedral. The Church was built by the Capuchin fathers in 1775. Strategically situated in the heart of the city on Armenian Street adjacent to the St Mary’s Co-Cathedral, the School faced very many obstacles in its proud and prestigious history. While describing the hardships faced by the institution, Charles Gover had this to say: “St Mary’s …. Is a splendid example of what can be done by single-minded labour and persistant energy against a thousand obstacles.” (Report on the Results of Educational census, Madras, 1871, p.43)
The Institution was supported by the Madras Catholic Mission by fees collected and by grant-in-aid from Government and was initially under the management of fathers belonging to the society of St Joseph’s Mill Hill, London, who had completed the course of studies prescribed and listed by the Madras Educational Department as equal to the Trained Licentiates in Teaching (vide Fort St George Gazette 15.02.1901).
H.B. Grigg, Esq. , M.A., Director of Public Instruction, in his report to the Government for the year 1882-83, had this to say: “Three private schools, St Mary’s Seminary and Day School, the Doveton Protestant School and Bishop Corrie Grammar School are chiefly intended for the education of European and Eurasian children.” (Ref: Report on Department of Public Instruction 1882-83), Madras, 1883, page 63). The system of education embraced the full classical course adopted to those who were destined for learned professions.
The teaching community formed an important part of the school. It played an eminent role in the growth of the school. Both European and native teachers were employed.
The School started receiving grant from Government from 1865 onwards. During the year 1884, increased accommodation was needed because of the enhanced strength. The Director of Public Instruction, H.B. Grigg strongly recommended to the Chief Secretary the sanction of Government Grant of Rs.1920/- for the erection of the school hall. This grant was sanctioned through order No.450 (Misc) dt: 05.08.1884 by the Government. St Mary’s was one among seven institutions which received the building grants in the year 1885-86. (Report on the Department of Public Instruction (1885-86) , Madras 1886, p.17.
Gazing at the compact two-storied building of St Mary’s Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School as it stands today, one is struck by its plain utilitarian appearance. But what it lacks in aesthetic design is amply compensated by the fact that this institution is steeped in traditions and its long and proud history.
Founded in 1839 by the Rt.Rev. Joseph Carew, its purpose was to offer to the Catholic youth of Madras, the opportunity of a liberal education. Known as St Mary’s Seminary and Day School for the first 44 years, the first Principal was Rev Dr William Kelly of Maynooth, Ireland.
Long after the establishment of St Mary’s came the foundation of the Indian Universities in 1857. So by the year 1862, St Mary’s was raised to the status of a second-grade College and was granted affiliation to the Madras University. The institution was accordingly permitted to prepare its students of the first examination in Arts, thus entering a new phase as St Mary;s College, with Rev Theophilus Mayer as its Principal.
Again in April 1906, St Mary’s entered yet another phase in its history. In that year the Government of Madras issued a Special Code of Regulations for all European schools. This special code necessitated the bifurcation of St Mary’s into two separate sections, the European/Anglo-Indian section and the Indian Section. Accordingly, in July 1906, St Mary’s European High School opened in a separate two-storey building in the adjoining Cathedral compound. St. Mary’s European High School was recognized by Director of Public Instruction in proceeding No.ROC.4244 dated 08.12.1908. Thus the new St. Mary’s and St. Gabriel’s school already had a 68 year old history at this stage of their growth.
Fr. T.F. Macnamara S.S.J. was appointed Headmaster of the new St. Mary’s European High School and he and his staff experienced many difficulties and inconveniences during this period of transition. There were about 100 boys on the rolls and the classrooms and verandahs were crowded; the apparatus was scanty, maps and books had to be borrowed from the old school in the adjoining compound.
From the year 1906 the Headmastership of St. Mary’s passed through the hands of four Mill Hill Fathers until in 1911 Fr. Vander Berg took over as Headmaster and Correspondent.
Under his tutelage the first issue of St. Mary’s Magazine was launched at the end of 1912 and this publication continued every year until the farewell number was published in 1930. It was during the time of Fr.Vander Berg that the school colours Red, White and Blue was introduced and the motto “Viriliter Age” (Be manly) was adopted. Which are two Latin words, – Viriliter means Manly and Age means Act. Hence the free translation of the Latin means “Act Manly” . By adopting “Viriliter Age” the school was set on the road of conquests in the field of athletics and studies.
The period 1916 to 1927 witnessed all-round improvement and development of the school. New buildings were added, besides the School Hall and an additional wing to the school building. The Science Laboratory was remodeled and equipped at considerable expense, making it one of the best science Laboratories for High Schools in the city! Progress in studies and in sports was rapid and St. Mary’s soon won a place in the forefront of European Boy’s schools in the Madras Presidency.
With the handing over of the Archdiocese of Madras to the Salesian Most Rev. Eugene Mederlet sdb, became the first Salesian Principal in 1928. In the same year, he was made theArchbishop of Madras. Fr. Boria was the next Headmaster from 1933 to 1937. He was succeeded by Fr. Cornelius Cronin in June 1937. During this time another extension was completed, consisting of a two-storey building to provide five class-rooms and an Assembly Hall. In January 1945 Fr. Joseph Cockshoot took charge temporarily from Fr. Cronin. Five months later Fr. George P. Whyte arrived and assumed charge as Principal and Correspondent of St. Mary’s School, ushering in a new era in the history of the school.
Fr. Whyte’s service of 27 years for the School can rightly be called a saga of devotion and dedication to the service of youth, especially the needy. The strength of the School began increasing and there was urgent need for more class-rooms. Assembly hall was partitioned to provide space for five classrooms. In 1959 a magnificent auditorium was built over the classrooms which formed the previous assembly hall.
Under the guidance of Fr. GP Whyte and with the approval of His Grace, Archbishop Louis Mathhias, the Alumi Association of St. Mary’s was established on September 7, 1952. It is the only officially recognised past-students association and it continues to be the link between the students, both past and present.
In June 1960, Bro Zahcary, sdb, was appointed as Administrator. In 1962 a third storey was built over the old school building, to house the new Science Laboratory and Demonstration Room. On August 1, 1970, Fr G P Whyte celebrated a silver jubilee double – 25 years of service in the vineyard of the Lord, and 25 years of service in the School. In 1972 Fr. John Peter Sathiaraj, took over as the new Principal. He revived the two annuals “St. Mary’s Magazine” and “The Trumpet of St. Mary’s “ into a bi-monthly and the first volume of the new magazine called “Spotlight on St. Mary’s” was published in September 1972. In December 1973, Mr Bernard A Mathew, retired as Headmaster of the school, after 31 years of dedicated service. He was succeeded by Mr M Emmanuel.
In 1974, Fr. Ittyachen Manjil assumed charge as Principal. Fr C A Bout, a former pupil of St Mary’s took his place as Principal, in 1977. Mr M Emmanuel voluntarily retired from service and Mr L D’Cruz was appointed as Headmaster in his place in 1977. In 1978, His Grace, Dr. R. Arulappa, the owner and Manager of St. Mary’s transferred the management of St. Mary’s to the Salesian Congregation. The same year Mr. L D’Cruz left St. Mary’s for a posting in another school.
In 1978, Fr. C.A Bout took over as the Administrator, and Fr. V V Grorge, sdb, assumed charge as Principal and Headmaster. The year also marked 50 years of fruitful service put in by the Salesians of Don Bosco, and it was in the same year that the P.T.S.A. was formed on December 1978, thus laying the ground for the New Educative Community. To further strengthen this formation the Home-School Link newsletter, “The Educative Community” was started. In 1979, Fr. V V George introduced the Higher Secondary Course (+2) in the school. In 1985, Rev. Fr. P J Sebastian, sdb, assumed charge as Principal and Headmaster. The same year the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore handed over to the Salesians of Don Bosco, the school and Co-cathedral in perpetuity. In 1986, Fr. K C Francis, sdb, was appointed Principal of the School and Mr. D. Paulraj, the Headmaster. Mr. D. Paulraj retired from service in 1987.
St. Mary’s proudly celebrated its post Centenary Golden Jubilee in 1989. The school received accolades and recognition on this memorable occasion. In his message to the school, published in the Jubilee Souvenir,Dr. P.C. Alexander, the then Governor of Tamil Nadu had this to
say “ …. initiative, enterprise and the dynamism of Don Bosco’s Salesian Institutions in running 500 educational institutions all over the country, including 75 in Tamil Nadu, assumes special significance. The completion of 150 years of service by St. Mary’s Anglo Indian Hr. Sec. School, is indeed a landmark ….” In his message Fr. George Patrick Whyte, former Principal had this to say: “ In various parts of India and right across the globe where many past pupils of St. Mary’s have distinguished themselves, there can be found the true grit of manly behaviour.”
On Fr. K.C. Francis’ transfer, Rev. Fr. Raphael John, sdb was appointed Principal and Headmaster of the school in 1991. In 1996, Rev. Fr. Joseph Fernandez , sdb, also an aluminus, was appointed Headmaster of the School. Under his initiative, a new computer lab was established, the school library was shifted to the new block and remodeled to modern standards and a state-of-art audio-visual hall was set up. A balcony was built up in St. Mary’s Hall to accommodate all the students in one sitting for any function. Rev. Fr. K.J. Antony, sdb, was ap pointed Headmaster of the school from 2002. Under his able management, a new block for the Science Labs, was constructed, separately for Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Language laboratory and the Don Bosco hall for extra accommodation for conducting examinations were part of the plan during the tenure of Fr. K.J. Antony, who retired from service in 2005. Fr. Jayaprakash Reddy took over the reigns in June 2005 to May 2006.
Rev. Fr. Paulraj Maniam, became the Headmaster of St. Mary’s from 2006 to 2009, followed by Rev. Fr. Siby Mathew, from 2009 to 2013.
The Old Order Changeth: