Today on July 2nd 2004, our society brings into concretization the historic decision namely the creation of Provinces. Following up, on the mandate given by XVI. General Chapter, the present General Council, step-by step, carried forward the task and tactfully completed the all-important matter of assigning members to the proposed provinces in 2003. In accordance with the required procedures we the members of West India Region, having discussed the issue threadbare in our Regional Assembly 2004, opted to be raised to the status of Province. Thus, to those who are working in the region and to all who have worked in the Region, as well to those who will work in future, this is a very significant moment; the raising our Region into a Province.
An Institute of Apostolic life or a Religious Society is normally divided into constituent administrative divisions such a local communities Houses, Districts, Regions or Provinces, for no other purpose that the SERVICE OF OUR MISSIOARY APOSTOLATE. Over a period of time as the apostolate grows, the administrative set up needs to be adjusted to meet the needs of the apostolate vis-vis needs of the members. Thus a Region merits up-graduation into a Province. The Society grows and simultaneously the local ecclesia also grows. The Provinces that have been erected in our Society today are the outcome of a gradual and steady growth from nucleus units in the mission areas/stations, nurtured by our Society since over half a century.
History of the Province of Mumbai that has just been erected/going to be erected, will be no history sans the history of apostolate in the maiden mission of our Society namely Nagar Haveli. The nucleus can be traced back almost to the time of the Re-organization of our Society in 1939. One of the Reorganizers, late Rev. Fr. Joseph Albuquerque was already working in Nagar Haveli mission as secular priest of the Archdiocese of Goa. On condition that the reorganized Society of Pilar would take up the Mission of Nagar Haveli, he joined novitiate of the Society and after his profession in 1940 came back to Dapada, as member of the Society with another member Fr. Theodolindo Cabral to be his Assistant. Thus, although it might have not been canonically constituted (as per the present understanding) this can be charted as the first Local Community of our Society and the embryonic stage of the region that has now been raised to a province entitled Province of Mumbai. Fr. Assuncao Souza sfx and Bro Peter Mascarenhas joined them in the next year. In 1943, with the creation of Vicariate Forane of Khanwel by Patriarch D. Jose de Costa Nunes, the head quarters were transferred from Dapadda to Khanwel. So Fr. Albuquerque and Bro. Peter Mascarenhas began residing in Khanwel, thus forming another local unit of Pilar Fathers in Nagar Haveli.
The embryo went through a rapid growth as the apostolate gathered momentum. Pilar Society sent more missionaries who went in to the interior hilly terrain and opened more residential mission station/communities such as Chisda in 1946, Bedpa in 1950. By this time there were 6 Priests and 2 Brothers of our Society working in the area. More Mission stations were opened in Karchond, Kanvcha, Bildori, Gunsa, Umbermatha, Dudhni, from the period of 1950 to 1958 by zealous missionaries like Fr. Martin Rodrigues, Fr. Assiz and Fr. Joseph Menezes. In Silvassa Church Fr. Joao Pedro Menezes and Bro. Alex D’Mello formed the first community in1954. Nagar Haveli being a Mission ad gentes situation, the Pilar missionaries were involved in multifaceted activities for the benefit of the poor tribals in that area.
Though there is no document available to establish when exactly Nagar Haveli was erected as Region, it appears that Fr. Theodolindo Cabral might have been the first Priest with the title of Regional Superior. This is deduced from the minutes of General Chapter of 1946 where it is recorded that the Chapter appointed two assistants viz. Fr. Assumption Souza and Fr. Joseph Menezes to Fr. Cabral the Regional Superior of Missao de Dapara. Further, the General Chapter of 1949 appoints Fr. Assisi Dias as the next Regional Superior and Dean of Khanwel with Fr. Theodolindo Cabral and Fr. Joseph Menezes as Assistants. In early sixties Fr. Santan Sequeira was the Regional Superior.
As child grows and learns to walk, it faces initial difficulties in balancing and standing firmly on the ground. Similarly the local communities in Khanwel area were facing difficulties and Problems. Dudhni, Sindoni, Chisda communities had to be closed with the approval of General Council in 1963. A policy of ‘CENTRALIZATION’ was introduced where by the members started residing in Khanwel and running the Mission work in those mission stations with the help of Lay people. However, after a period of around fifteen years the communities of Sindoni and Dudhni were re-opened.
The year 1965 marks an important phase in the history of the Region/Mission. The Administrator Apostolic of Goa, Sede Plena, Bishop Fraansisco de Peidade Rebello decided to entrust to the Pilar Fathers the deanery of Damao, hitherto administered by diocesan priests from Goa. Bishop Rebello erected Missao de Damao by Provisao 11/5 dated, 25 November 1965, with Nagar Haveli under it. Fr. Xavier Pinto was appointed the Vicar General of Missao De Damao. Thus, the Society of Pilar began to branch out with its local communities in the UT of Daman in all three parishes of Daman namely; Damao Piqueno, Damao Grande, and Damao Praca. The post of Regional Superior of Nagar Haveli was taken out and the Vicar General who came to be known as Superior General of Mission was also made the Superior Regional. Nagar Haveli was given to the Local Superior and the Vicar General / Regional Superior had Missionary Council composed of three members. However it was felt that the policy of Regional Superior having his headquarters in Daman was not so favorable considering the different nature of apostolate in Daman and Nagar Haveli. It is not clear when the seat of the Superior Regional was brought back to Khanwel.
The Region now came to be called Nagar Haveli-Daman Region and it remained restricted to the boundaries of UT of DNH and DAMAN until 1976 when Pilar Fathers were invited by Bishop Ignatius D’Souza to step in the Diocese of Baroda in the state of Gujarat. The residential unit of Vapi Ashadham, which later became a local community,
was opened with Fr. Sergio Mascarenhas being the pioneer. With this, the Region began to be called as Region of Nagar Haveli-Daman-Vapi.
The seat of the Regional Superior was in Khanwel till 1987. Former Regional Superiors like Fr. Santan Sequeira, Fr. Joseph Menezes Fr. Tiburcio Ferrao, all administered from Khanwel. Between the years 1986 to 1988, the region purchased its own property and the house for Regionalate in Silvassa. Thus in the year 1988 the Regionalate was shifted to Silvassa with Fr. Peter D’ Souza being the first Regional Superior to reside there. The Region by now was showing considerable amount of growth. The finances were organized by policies guiding their administration. The schools were running well under Gyanmata Educational Society that was founded in 1982. Social Service Adivasi Society was registered and functioning well since 1975. Pastoral work too was well organized. A certain amount of stability was seen and the local communities were functioning with a head called Rector. The Rectors had their Councillors. In the year 1992, during the tenure of Fr. Hilario Fernandes as Regional Superior, the Local Community at Karasganv was opened followed by two more Local Communities in the Diocese of Ahmedabad viz. at Vadtal in 1995 and in Khempur in 1997.
The period from 1998 to 2003 saw new constitutional developments in the society, and subsequently in the Regions. The XV General Chapter held in the year 1997-1998 having felt the need for more Major Superiors in the Society, finalized the new constitutions and empowered the General Council to extend the present Regions in view of future Vice Provinces/Provinces. Thus, our Region was formally extended and the Local Communities of Ambarnath-Badlapur and Juhu Koliwada, which were hitherto administered by a Central Delegate Superior under jurisdiction of General Administration, were brought under its umbrella. These two Communities have their own history. Ambernath was started in 1951 by Fr. Albuquerque and Juhu Koliwada was given to the Society in 1979. Fr. Anselmo De Souza was appointed as the Regional Superior of the extended Region entitled, Western Region in the year 1997. Another Local Community was opened in far flung Union Territory of Diu, in the year 2000. After the approval of the revised constitutions, which envisaged raising of the regions to the status of Vice Provinces or Provinces, the process of implementing the constitutions began. While the entire Region was erected as one HOUSE, With Regional Superior Fr. Anselmo De Souza as Major Superior with delegated powers, 15 Local Communities in the Region that now extended from the point of Ambernath to the peak of Diu were officially constituted under Local Delegate Superiors having two Advisors each.
In the XVI General Chapter held in July-August 2002, the issue of raising the Regions to the Vice Provinces or Provinces was further discussed. Each Regional Superior in their reports advocated that their Regions are capable of being raised to the status of Vice Province or Province. The idea of merging two Regions to create one Province / Vice Province was discarded. The Chapter directed the General Council to initiate the process of creating Administrative divisions by projecting the four regions as four Vice Provinces. It resolved to demarcate the area for each projected Vice Provinces. Thus Nagar Haveli, Gujarat, Daman Diu, North Maharashtra and South Rajasthan were set aside for the Province of West India.
The all-important task of assigning members to the Region (Projected Province), was carried out tactfully by the new General Administration. Having assigned the members for respective Regions, Consultation was done in each Region for the appointment of new Regional Administration. It was decided that the new Regional Administration would journey into Provincial Administration when raised to the status of Province. Fr. Hilario Fernandes was appointed Regional Superior with Fr. Valerian D’Souza as first Councilor, Fr. Maxy D’Costa as II Councilor, Fr. Joe Dias as III councilor and Fr. Agnelo Rodrigues as Regional Treasurer. Finally the Regional Assembly held at Silvassa in January 2004, discussed the issue thread bear and resolved to recommend the General Council to raise the Western Region to the status of a Province. As an immediate requirement for the Province, the following four HOUSES were carved out and proposed to be erected.
HOUSE of Khanwel with communities of Dudhni, Sindoni, Dapadda, Karasganv, Shelti.
HOUSE of Vapi with communities of Daman Praca, Moti Daman, Nani Daman, and Silvassa.
HOUSE of Ambernath with communities of Juhu, Badlapur, Tumsar, Valiv.
HOUSE of Vadtal with communities of Diu and Khempur.
Having been formally directed by the General Administration the Regional Administration completed the task of erecting these HOUSES. The General Council issued the decree of erection of Province and here we today on 2nd July 2004 a Province of Mumbai with Fr. Hilario Fernandes as its First Provincial Superior.