St. Peter’s Seminary which started functioning in Bangalore from 1934 was in no way a new institution: it was the happy development of the former “Grand Seminaire” of Pondicherry founded in 1778.
The “Grand Seminaire” of Pondicherry
When the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773, the Carnatic, Madura and Mysore Missions in India were entrusted to the care of the Paris Foreign Mission Society (MEP). To cater to the spiritual needs of these missions and to foster indigenous vocations to priesthood, the Paris Foreign Mission Society started a Seminary in 1778, at Ulgarpet, about 2 miles away from the town of Pondicherry. Rev. Fr. Busson, the ex-Jesuit, was made the first Rector of this Seminary. After him, Fr. Magny took charge of the Seminary and stayed for 40 years as Rector. It was in 1788 that the first ordination to priesthood took place.
St. Joseph’s Seminary
In 1790, the Seminary was transferred to Pondicherry itself for the sake of better accommodation and other facilities. The Seminary took the name of “St. Joseph”. At the end of 40 years of Rectorship, Fr. Magny could count 13 ordained priests among the students. The First Synod of Pondicherry took place in 1844 and opened the way for further steady progress of the Seminary. In the first 100 years of existence (1778-1878), the Seminary had given 49 indigenous priests to the Church.
St. Joseph’s Provincial Seminary, Pondicherry
In 1850, the Apostolic Vicariate of the Coromandel Coast was bifurcated into the Apostolic Vicariates of Pondicherry, Coimbatore and Mysore. In 1886 they were erected into the Archdiocese of Pondicherry and the dioceses of Coimbatore and Mysore. In 1899 the new diocese of Kumbakonam was carved out of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry. The Bishops of these dioceses had decided to send all their Seminarians to the “Grand Seminaire” of Pondicherry, so that there could be common training with the economy of Staff. Then onwards this “Grand Seminaire” was considered as Provincial Seminary of these dioceses.
St. Peter’s Regional Seminary, Bangalore
With the further division of dioceses and with the increasing number of vocations, accommodation became a big problem. In 1912, the Bishops of the Province finally decided to transfer the Seminary to Bangalore for the reason of its milder climate. The historic transfer took place in 1934.
As the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle bore a considerable part of the expenses for the construction of the Seminary building, the new institution assumed, in gratitude, the name of St. Peter.
Since 1934, there was some uncertainty regarding its canonical status. In 1942, it was finally and officially declared by Rome that St. Peter’s Seminary was a regional one.
Expansion of the Seminary
With the passage of time, the number of seminarians increased steadily and the problem of accommodation began to be acutely felt. This led ultimately to draw up plans for the construction of a new separate block for theology section.
In September 1960, the Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Pothacamury, the then Archbishop of Bangalore, blessed the new extension in the presence of Cardinal Agagianian, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, and the first batch of 19 Deacons moved to the new block.
When the building of the entire Theology Section was completed in 1966, the new elegant chapel was consecrated by His Excellency the Most Rev. Dr. James R. Knox, the then Internuncio to India.
St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary
In 1962, the Seminary was affiliated to the Pontifical Urban University of Rome, (Sacra Congregatio Pro Institutione Catholica, No. 415/62, dt. 30.06.1962). From then on, the Regional Seminary was raised to the status of Pontifical Seminary. The University granted facilities to the final year students of Theology for the Baccalaureate examination in Theology (B.Th).
Change of Administration
Ever since its inception, the general administration of St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary had been entrusted to the Paris Foreign Mission Society (MEP).
Inspired by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the Paris Foreign Missions Society felt that the time had come to transfer the administration to the Bishops in charge of St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples ratified this transfer by a Decree, Prot. 5346/68, dated December 12, 1968.
By the Decree “Ecce Vir Oriens” of the Congregation for Catholic Education, dated January 6, 1976, the theological discipline of the Seminary was upgraded into a faculty under the name of St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute of Theology. Permanent recognition of this Institute of Theology was granted by the same Congregation by its Decree Prot. N. 518/75/39, dated January 6, 1985. According to the approved Statutes N. 728/79 on 18.11.1986 of the said Institute by the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Board of Administration is the same as the Board of Administration of the Seminary. Going through the records, one finds that during the past two centuries as many as 1654 priests have come out of the portals of St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary.