Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Mt. Poinsur
|Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Borivali|
Altar of the Church
|Former name(s)||Nossa Senhora da Piedade|
|Archdiocese||Archdiosese of Bombay|
|Archbishop||Oswald Cardinal Gracias|
|Priest in charge||Bishop Barthol Barretto|
Fr Robin Kinny, Fr MelroyMendonca, Fr Joel Pinto and Fr Anto Denish
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Borivali (West) has been a Roman Catholic Parish from 1547 to 1739 and again from 1912 onwards. Its present clergy are Fr. Barthol Barretto (PP), Fr Robin Kinny, Fr Melroy Mendonca, Fr Joel Pinto and Fr Anto Denish. It is situated in I.C. Colony (Immaculate Conception Colony) which is a large colony situated in the suburbs of Borivali, in the North Western face of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
According to tradition, the intrepid Franciscan missionary, Padre Antonio do Porto was the founder of this church in 1544, ten years after the Bombay-Baçaim coastal tracts were ceded by the Sultan of Cambay, Bahadur Shah, to Portugal by the Treaty of Baçaim. Fr. Meersman however holds that although Porto was its founder, the foundation could only have taken place shortly after his arrival in these parts in 1547.
By October 1548, he and his companion Joao de Goa had made a number of followers and had founded a 'devout hermitage' at Mount Poinsur. In October 1549, Meersman described the church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Our Lady of Piety):
On an island opposite Baçaim, a league and a half from the river... there is a church of Our Lady where there must be four hundred Christians.... It is entirely in a rock cliff.... It is very large and has four chapels.— Fr. Meersman, O.F.M., The Ancient Franciscan Provinces in India 1500 - 1835, Christian Literature Society Press, Bangalore, 1971. pg 193
During the time of the same Padre Porto, the village of Mount Poinsur was granted to the Franciscans by the Governor of Baçaim Jorge de Cabral in the name of King John III of Portugal, for the maintenance of their work. The Franciscans bought the two neighboring villages of Pare and Erangal around 1556-1559. Adjoining the church, they also built a Royal College in 1549, the ruins of which are still standing close to the present church. Over the years, the four hundred villagers started following Padre Antonio do Porto. Christians grew in number and soon a settlement for them was built around or opposite the church (records Padre Paulo da Trinidade). Around 1630, the parish counted some 1500 parishioners in the villages of Mount Poinsur, Dhainsa, Simpor, Canaria and Cassor, with a chapel dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel in Canaria. It was also around this time that the name of the church at Mount Poinsur was changed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
During the Maratha invasion of 1739, Mount Poinsur was captured, the Friars dispersed, and the church, monastery and college pillaged, burnt by the invaders. This was left in ruins for a long time. Then for a century and a half, time and nature abetted by the local people who used the ruins as a quarry for stones did their destructive work, so that what had been spared by the Marathas fell into still deeper ruin. Adjoining and beneath the church are the Mandapeshwar Caves.From 1739-1912, it appears that there was no resident Vicar of Poinsur. In 1888, through the efforts of the people of the City of Bandra and under the guidance of the Archdiocese of Goa's Vicar-General of the North, Padre Joao Braz Fernandes, the old parish church was rebuilt on the hillock above the caves and has since functioned as the parish church.
The church has had its own Vicar only from 1912 onwards, thus Humbert (J. Humbert, S.J., Catholic Bombay, Her Priests and Their Training, Catholic Press, Ranchi, Bihar, 1964. Vol. II, pg 219). The church underwent major repairs and renovations in 1912. As for the caves, they have been taken over by the Government of India in the 1960s and are designated as protected archaeological monuments under the Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I.). Mount Poinsur remained loyal to the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman during the Padroado, as part of the Vicariate of the North (O Norte), and was later made part of the Diocese of Damaõ, 1886-1928, which revived the parish and assigned it to Brother Paulus Moritz and his newly founded Franciscan congregation. In 1928, most of the Diocese of Damaõ, including the parish of Mount Poinsur, was integrated into the Archdiocese of Bombay, under its first Portuguese Archbishop Joachim da Lima, S.J.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the parish started expanding, initially gradually and then with increasing speed as people from the island city and southern suburbs started moving to Borivali, attracted by its peaceful surroundings and convenient public transport and other facilities. Over the last two decades till the current year, 2010, the parish has grown into one of Mumbai’s largest with a vibrant involvement in liturgical and community activities.
On the feast day at Mount Poinsur on 8 December, people from all over Mumbai come in large numbers, following a tradition passed down over the centuries that has seen this Church as a centre for pilgrimage.
- Ratus, Frs. Leslie J.; Rosario, Errol (1982). 1982 Directory of the Archdiocese of Bombay. Seminary of Pope St. Pius X, Bombay.
- School Diary. St. Francis of Assisi School, Mount Poinsur. 2003.