It is befitting that we record the activities and achievements of the church and trace the development of the Catholic Church in this region touching on the people who gave their lives in the service of the inhabitants of the region and on the institutions which in their various ways have contributed to its development.

Although the territories comprised under Nagpur were included within the Vicariate of the Great Mogul, there is no trace of any missionary ever having set foot there till the beginning of the nineteenth century. Nagpur, Kamptee, Aurangabad, and Jalna were first visited by priests of the Goan jurisdiction, from Poona, about 1814. Nagpur and Kamptee were sub-stations of the Parish Church of Poona, which was part of the historical SEE of old Goa. The names of Priests who served Nagpur and Kamptee in those days have not been fully recorded. It would seem that marriages were solemnized in Kamptee even before 1839.

Goan priests built a chapel in honour of St. Anthony which existed at Takli, suburb of Nagpur, where the troops of the Rajah of Nagpur were quartered. Another was built in Kamptee and held in great veneration by native Christians beyond the Ghora Bazar of Kamptee. Simultaneously, Goan priests established themselves at Aurangabad and built a chapel in honour of St. Francis Xavier in 1816; another chapel was built by them at Kannar, two miles from Aurangabad. Military cantonments for British troops were created at Kamptee in 1821, and at Jaulnah in 1827. The Goan priests retained their jurisdiction in these parts until the district fell to the jurisdiction of the Vicar Apostolic of Madras.

The Region under the Vicariate Apostolic of Madras (1832 – 45)

In 1834 a new Vicariate Apostolic was established with headquarters at Madras having separate jurisdiction. From 1806 the Vishakhapatnam region was under the Mylapore Diocese and from 1833 it was officially part of the Vicariate of Madras. The eastern region of the Goa administration was detached and placed under propaganda directly under the control of Rome. It was a vast area with military garrison at Samalkot, Vijaynagar, Berhampur, Cuttack, Kamptee, Jalna and Jabalpur. Most of the soldiers were Irishmen. From 1839 to 1849, two Irish priests, Fathers Breen and Fr. Egen assisted by a Tamil priest Fr. Emmanuel served at Kamptee area which was to become the cradle and the nursery of the church and future diocese of Nagpur. Fr. Breen built a chapel in the Kamptee mission compound in 1842 he also started building a chapel at Nagpur in 1844. Fr. Breen died in the same year and his mortal remains lie even now in front of the new an present alter of the Immaculate Virgin Mary Church in Kamptee.

Father Murphy was appointed the new military chaplain in 1844. Along with Fr. Emmanuel he visited sub-stations at Nagpur, Nagole, Jabalpur and Sagar. Fr. Murphy had built a Temperance Hall at Kamptee which later was converted into St. Joseph's Convent School in 1864. Subsequently, after the Vatican Council of 1870, they were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Vishakhapatanam mission.Fr. Murphy handed over charge to Fr. Lavorel of the M.S.F.S. who reached Kamptee in August 1846. Fr. Murphy whose registers are preserved in the bishop's residence at Nagpur, subsequently became Vicar Apostolic of Hyderabad and then Archbishop of Hobart Town, Tasmania, where he died in 1908.

The Vishakhapatanam Vicariate (1845) Later Vicariate Apostolic (1850)

This was established on the 18th March 1845 by Pope Gregory XVI after this area was separated from Madras Vicariate. This new mission was entrusted to the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales of Annecy in France, a congregation established only in 1838. The region between the Rivers Mahanadi and Narbada in the north and River Godavari in the south and thus including parts of the modern states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh was under this new jurisdiction.

Within the space of 50 years, due to the untiring zeal and efforts of pioneers priests, Catechists and sisters, the young church grew in numbers and strength. And so this vast area of the Vicariate of Vishakhapatnam gave rise to twelve ecclesiastical units, which is call a diocese.

  • The Nagpur Diocese (1887):
  • Cuttack Diocese (1928):
  • Jabalpur Diocese (1932)
  • Indore Diocese (1935)
  • Amravati Diocese (1955)
  • Chanda Diocese (1962)
  • Bhopal Diocese (1964)
  • Raipur Diocese (1964)
  • JagdalpurDiocese (1972)
  • Berhampur Diocese (1974)
  • Khandwa Diocese (1977)
  • Later subdivisions of some of the above units e.g. 1978 Aurangabad, Adilabad and so on.

At present, the ecclesiastical territory of Nagpur, which was raised to an Archdiocese in 1953, comprises the district of Nagpur and Bhandara, Gondia in Maharashtra State and the districts of Betul, Chhindwara, Seoni and Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh.

Administration of the Pro-Vicariate of Vishakhapatanam:

The Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, to whom the Pro-Vicariate of Vishakhapatanam was entrusted, was a community established at Annecy, Savoy, France by Fr. Pierre Marie Mermier (1790 – 1862), with the blessing of the Bishop of Annecy, Mgsr. Rey on 24thOctober 1843, as a Diocesan Congregation. They received the 'Decretumlaudis' from the Holy SEE and on 6th February 1845, Cardinal Franzoni, Prefect of Propaganda assigned to the M.S.F.S. for evangelical work the whole area between the River Godaveri and Mahanadi in India.

Six missionaries i.e. four priests and two brothers constituted the first batch of M.S.F.S. who set out for India. Fr. Martin was the leader and Fr. Tissot, Fr. Lavorel, Fr. Thevenet and Brother Peter Carton and Br. Sulpice Fontanel were the others. Fr. Lavorel and Fr. Thevenet left Vishakhapatanam and passed through Rajahmundry to Hyderabad using bullock carts and proceeded slowly. They enroute rested either in dak bungalows or under the shade of trees. At Raipur they broke journey to visit Yanam where their Superior Fr. Martin had passed away, they prayed at his tomb. On their jouney Fr. Lavorel fell ill and at Hyderabad was fortunately looked after by a French Officer in the Nizam's army. Fr. Thevenet left for Aurangabad after Fr. Lavorel's recovery. The journey was hazardous and he lost all his luggage, having being cheated by a young man who befriended their party of three. At Jalna, Fr. O'Driscoll of the Vicariate of Madras received them with great warmth. After resting for a while, Fr. Thevenet and his group proceeded to Aurangabad which they reached on 14th August 1846.

Fr. Lavorel recouped his health at Hyderabad and left for Kamptee. The Irish soldiers had collected a fund for him and necessary provisions, servants were made available for the journey. On 9th August 1846 he reached Kamptee. Fr. Murphy of the Madras mission and his assistant Fr. Emmanuel welcomed him with great joy. Fr. Murphy very tactfully trained Fr. Lavorel in his duties at Kamptee and soon left, leaving the latter in-charge.

First Church, First Prelates:

In 1858 Dr. Neyret consecrated the church in Kamptee in honour of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Msgr. Neyret had 10 priests, 3 lay brothers and 4 sisters of St Joseph of Chambery working in five residential stations. He was a learned man. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary played a big part in his zeal for his people. But, worn out by a life of hard work and travelling for 66 days without rest via a new route to Kamptee from the South, he passed away on 5th November 1862.

Dr. Joseph Tissot had come to India with the first batch of M.S.F.S. Missionaries. He was appointed Vicar Apostolic in 1863 and was consecrated at Bombay on 3rd of April 1864. Nagpur was separated from Vishakhapatnam in1886. Dr. Tisot became the Bishop of Vishakhapatnam.

The Shift to Nagpur:

A church building was already started in 1844 in the S.F.S. School compound and opened for services in 1857. The foundation for the new church was laid in 1880. Services were shifted to the new S.F.S. church in 1886. The two bell towers came in 1909, in the tenure of Bishop Gayet.

S.F.S. Becomes Cathedral:

For years, the idea of building a new Church in Nagpur remained wishful thinking. Fr. Superior Fr. J. Thevenet, MSFS was in Nagpur and was encouraged to begin work on the Church.

1879 The decision was made. Plans were designed by Bishop Tissot MSFS and Fr. J. Thevenet. It would be 100 feet by 30 feet, in Gothic style. With three naves.

1879 Foundations were started, supervised by Fr. J. Thevenet

1880 29th Jan. Foundation stone was blessed

1881 Dr. JosephTissot exerted himself in finding funds for the building. He knocked on all doors, even of Protestants, for alms in the hope of completing the Church.

1882 The work, began with enthusiasm, was held up for lack of funds.

1883 Fr. Dunoyer MSFS from Savoy joined Fr. J. Thevenet and both worked together on the Church Building.

1884 When the naves were almost completed, Fr. Thevenet left the work in the .hands of Fr. Dunoyer.

1886 –24th Oct. Solemn Blessing of the 2 bells, gifts sent from France by the MSFS Congregation – both weighing 8 and 4 maunds respectively were christened “Immaculate”.

1886 25th Oct. Red letter day for Nagpur – Solemn Blessing of the Church by Fr. J. Thevenet as delegate of the Bishop, followed by a Pontifical Mass at 11.00am. The 2 bells were hoisted up the steeples, from that time they sing their melodious “Re-La” and charm even the least Catholic ears.Within a year the Church became a Cathedral.

The Diocese was originally formed by dismemberment of what was then known as the Central Provinces and Berar, from the Diocese of Visakhapatnam in 1887. It was entrusted to the care of Missionaries of St. Francis De Sales.

On July 18, 1932 the Brief “De Romanorum Pontificum” erected the Prefecture of Jabalpur (now Diocese) by separating from Diocese of Nagpur and Allahabad, the districts of Jabalpur, Mandla, Narsinghpur and the tehsil of Lakhnadon is Seoni District.

Again on March 11, 1935, the Decree ‘Salutis Animarum’ of the S.C. of the Propagation of the Faith erected the Prefecture of Indore (now Diocese) comprising parts of the Diocese of Ajmer, Allahabad and Nagpur, namely, the districts of Hoshangabad and Khandwa.

Further on May 8, 1955 the Decree ‘Cum Petierit’ erected the Diocese of Amravati by taking away from the Nagpur Archdiocese the four districts of berar (Amravati, Akola, Buldanha and Yeotmal) and the three districts of Marathwada (Aurangabad and parts of Parbhani and Nanded- the other parts of Parbhani and Nanded belonged to the Archdiocese of Hyderabad).

On March 31, 1962, the Apostolic Decree “Ad lucen Sancti Evangelii erected the Exarchate of Chanda from the three districts of Wardha, Chanda and Adilabad, till then part of Nagpur Archdiocese. This was entrusted to the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, of the Syro-Malabar Rite. In 1976 Chanda Exarchate was made in to a Diocese.

On January 16, 1964 by the Bull ‘Religio Vera Christique Salus’, the districts of Raipur, Durg and Bilaspur were further detached from Nagpur Archdiocese to form the Prefecture of Raipur which was entrusted to the Pallotine Fathers and later given the status of Diocese in March 1974.

In September 1953, Nagpur was raised to an Archbishopric, with Amravati, Aurangabad & Chanda as its Suffragans. Most Rev. Eugene D’Souza was the first Indian Bishop and later Archbishop of Nagpur.

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