History of the Cathedral
The cathedral had its beginning way back in 1849 when Fr. James Carry, an Irish diocesan priest, drew up plans to erect a new chapel. The Government gifted the land and sanctioned a grant of INR 2000. The zealous priest inspired several people to fund the new building which cost INR 18,000. He raised half the amount from his friends and the remaining was drawn up from the soldiers according to their ranks with many a soldier contributing a full month’s salary towards the Building Fund.
The first Mass in the new church was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Dr. Sheehan on December 8, 1850. The walls were still damp, the altar fresh from the hands of the mason. Rev. Sheehan caught a severe cold that day and never recovered. A memorial slab of black marble now recalls the sad event.
Fr. Carry was recalled to fill the gap left by the death of Rev. Sheehan. Later, in 1853, Fr. Walter Steins from Holland was appointed and he had a glowing zeal for the spiritual advancement of the flock. The church soon became a new point of attraction.
Fr. Steins was a sound theologian and a bright scholar. However, his English was poor and some parishioners saw to it that his monthly allowance of INR 100 was stopped. Major Gordon decided to teach the language to Fr. Steins. Within six months, he started preaching in English and was given a loud ovation. He was succeeded by Rev. Fr. John Esseiva and here it is worth mentioning that Fr. Carry completed the south or Wanowrie side of the church with its pinnacled buttresses and showy masonry. A belltower was later added to the facade. A verandah was also constructed along the east end of the church to protect the priests’ quarters.
Bishop Hartman, Vicar Apostolic of Bombay and Administrator of Poona, who gave it the name, St. Patrick, blessed the chapel after its completion in June 1856.
During the time of Rev. Fr. George Talbot Bridges, the flooring of the sanctuary and that of the priests’ quarters was done in a kind of stucco or plaster. In 1878, a Temperance Society was established for the soldiers and in 1892 a Catholic library or institute was built where soldiers would come to read and play games.
In 1886, Poona became a Diocese with Bishop Bernard Beider- Linden S.J. as its first Bishop. St. Patrick’s Chapel thus became St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1887. From 1900 to 1984, no major events were reported regarding the cathedral.
The historical structure had stood the test of time but was in need of substantial repairs. On July 15, 1984, the roof of the old cathedral collapsed but not a single statue, holy picture or the sanctuary area was damaged. The cathedral was rebuilt with the new vault roof. The re-dedication of the cathedral was held on October 22 1987. Subsequently, the cathedral parish gave birth to five new parishes.
A project including major restoration, repairs and beautification of the Cathedral was blessed by Bishop Thomas Dabre and Bishop Valerian D’souza on September 8 2009. A team of 16 professionals from the parish worked tirelessly for an entire year. The project included re- plastering of the turrets, replacing and redesigning all wooden doors and windows, fixing 16 theme based stain glass windows illustrating the story of Jesus, enhancing the new backdrop to the Sanctuary wall, a skylight above the altar depicting the Decent of the Holy Spirit, rose windows, acoustic treatment, revamp of the interior of the Cathedral and much more. These features herald the rebirth of the Cathedral which has become an important landmark in the city of Pune.
The 160 year old St. Patrick’s Cathedral (after the major restoration and beautification) was blessed on October 23 2010 by the Rt. Rev. Thomas Dabre, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Pune.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27