History of Mysore Diocese
The Mysore Mission was originally under the pastoral care of the Society of Jesus (SJ) and was subsequently handed over to the “Paris Foreign Mission Society (MEP)” in 1785. It covered a vast area comprising the whole of Karnataka barring Mangalore, Karwar, Bellary and Belgaum. The most popular MEP missionary to have worked in this area was Abbe Dubois, who came to Srirangapatna after the fall of Tippu Sultan to reconstruct the Christian Communities scattered during the Persecutions by Tippu Sultan.
During the reign of His Holiness Pope Gregory XVI the Mysore Mission was separated from the existing Vicariate Apostolic of Pondicherry on the 16th of March 1845 and was made into a Pro-Vicariate Apostolic. Later in 1850 His Holiness Pope Pius IX erected it into a Vicariate Apostolic and entrusted it to Most Rev. E. L. Charbonneaux MEP, the co-adjutor Bishop of Pondicherry. In 1886, when His Holiness Pope Leo XIII established the Indian Ecclesiastical Hierarchy by His Papal Bull “Humanae Salutis Auctor”, Mysore became a Diocese with Bangalore as its headquarters. His Holiness Pope Pius XII by his Apostolic Letter “Felicius Increscente”, dated 13th February 1940, appointed Most Rev. Rene Feuga, as the First Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Mysore, comprising the districts of Mysuru, Mandya, Kodagu, Shimoga, Hassan, Chikmagalur, the Nilgiris and a part of Coimbatore District.
Fifteen years later, by His Apostolic Letter, “Nuntiatur in Psalmis” dated 3rd July 1955, His Holiness Pope Pius XII erected the New Diocese of Ootacamund (Ooty) separating it from the Diocese of Mysore with the Nilgiris and a part of Coimbatore District in Tamilnadu. On the 16th November 1963, His Holiness Pope Paul VI, by His Apostolic Letter “Indicae Regionis Conditio”, created the New Diocese of Chikmagalur, bifurcating the districts of Chikmagalur, Hassan and Shimoga, from the existing Diocese of Mysore.
The present Diocese of Mysore comprises the four civil districts of Mysuru, Mandya, Kodagu and Chamarajanagara. It is bordering clockwise, namely – The Archdiocese of Bangalore, Salem, Ooty, Bathery, Calicut, Manandavady, Belthangady, Mangalore and Chikmagalur.
History of St. Joseph’s Cathedral or St. Philomena’s Church
A visit to the city of Mysore would not be complete without a visit to St. Joseph’s Cathedral or St. Philomena’s Church, situated on Ashoka Road, because, this Church is the pride and prestige of the devotees of St. Philomena and also to the city of Mysore.
This historical and world famous Church, popularly known as St. Philomena’s Church, attracts a large numbers of tourists throughout the year. The Cathedral is built in the classical perpendicular Gothic style of Architecture, which was more prevalent between 12th and 15th centuries. This Cathedral is patterned after St. Patrick’s Cathedral of New York and is a replica of the Cathedral in Cologne in Germany. The Church is built in a Cross Shape. From the aerial view the Church looks a huge Cross embedded on the earth. The length of the Church is 165 feet. The total height from the tip of the cross to the base is 187 feet, making it one of the tallest buildings in the city. The “Twin crosses” of 16 feet could be seen from miles around. The “Twin Towers”, Contain “Three Bells”. The three bells in the twin towers of the cathedral are rung in unison on festive days and on special occasions. The visitors stop before this Church and admire its architectural beauty. This Cathedral is on the tourist map of Karnataka.
Earlier it was a small chapel for the British Catholic Workers. There were a lot of Catholic workers who came to work in Mysore especially in Railways, Constructions and many other jobs. This first Chapel was built by Rev. Fr. Etienna Louis Charbonnoux, the then parish priest of St. Joseph’s Church, with the donation given by the Maharaja of Mysore and generous devotees. His Highness, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III on 1st January 1843 laid the foundation stone. On 1stJanuary 1844 this Chapel was blessed and inaugurated by Rt. Rev. Dr. Maurice Bernard Despatures (1922-1942), the then Bishop of Mysore with residence at Bangalore. Then, Rev. Fr. J. Cochet (1923-1930) who was the then parish priest of St. Joseph’s Church spared no pains to give vast publicity to the devotion to the new saints for until then St. Philomena was not known.
In 1927, during the years Mr. T. Thumboo Chetty, the Huzar Secretary to His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore, obtained the statue and relic of the saint from Rome. He also obtained the “Holy Oil” from Rome and handed it over to the parish priest. The devotees used to throng in large number at the grotto for prayers. Thus, this Church served the people all these years.
Later, the great visionary Rev. Fr. Rene Jean Feuga (1931-1964), the parish priest planned a new Church, because the congregation was rapidly growing in number and a large Church would answer all his problems and it will also be worthy of the beautiful city of Mysore. So, he demolished the old Church in the year 1939 and dedicated the new Church to St. Philomena. The foundation stone for the New Church was laid on 28th October 1933 by His Highness Nalwadi Sri Krishnarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur IV, the Maharaja of Mysore who was called the “saintly sovereign” of Mysore. Then Rev. Fr. Feuga, started the construction of the Church dedicated to St. Philomena with the help of friends and benefactors. More than nine thousand people across the world have contributed for the construction of this Church. One can find the names of the donors in the underground catacomb. Likewise, this beautiful Cathedral was completed in the year 1941. The blue print of the Cathedral was done by Mr. Dally, an artist.
Later, the Church was dedicated to St. Joseph as St. Philomena’s name was not found in the saint’s calendar of the Church. Thus, it was renamed as St. Joseph’s Cathedral. However, it is popularly known as St. Philomena’s Church among the people.
The present Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Staney D’Almeida who is in-charge of the Cathedral Parish, spares no pains in the up keep and improvement of the Cathedral.
Life of St. Joseph
St. Joseph is the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the foster-father of Jesus, St Joseph was a carpenter. Through his work of manual labour, Joseph provided for the Holy Family, and shared in the divine plan of salvation.
The Gospel of St Matthew describes Joseph as a “just man”, which in the language of the Bible means one who loves and respects the law as the expression of the will of God. Like Mary, Joseph too was visited by an angel, who appeared to him in a dream. And, again like Mary, her spouse, Joseph said “Yes”, when the angel revealed that the Child she bore was conceived of the Holy Spirit.
However, we know very little about the life of St. Joseph. The Bible tells us nothing of Joseph in the years after the return to Nazareth except the incident of finding Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41–51). The special characteristic of Joseph is hiddenness, remaining in the background. No word of his is recorded in the Gospels. He is not mentioned after the finding of Christ in the Temple. Probably by the time Jesus began his public life, at the wedding in Cana, Joseph had already passed to the next life, although we don’t know exactly when or where he died. And the place of his burial remains a mystery.
Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Having died in the “arms of Jesus and Mary” according to Catholic tradition, he is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death, in other words, the patron of a happy death. Saint Joseph is well known as the patron saint of fathers, both families and virgins, workers, especially carpenters, expecting mothers and unborn children. His feast day is on 19th March
Life of St. Philomena
St. Philomena is of Royal ancestry. She was the daughter of the ruler of a small state in Greece. Her mother was also of Royal blood. After parents were without children a doctor from Rome, who lived in the palace, seeing that they were issueless spoke to them about Christianity and promised to pray for them. Then, the family of Philomena professed Christianity and received the grace of Baptism and as a reward, the following year they were blessed with a child. Philomena was born on 10th January in the year 291 A.D. They gave her the name of Philomena or Filumena which means the “Daughter of Light” because on that day she was born to the faith. From an early age, she showed signs of exceptional piety and her parents did all in their power to train her to virtue. When she was thirteen years old, her parents took her to Rome, where they went to obtain the favour of the emperor Diocletian.
The beauty of the young girl at once captivated the emperor and he promised her father, “I shall place at your disposal all the force of the empire and grant all you ask for, I ask you only one thing that is the hand of your daughter.”
Not knowing that Philomena had vowed herself to Christ, the parents gladly consented. But, in spite of threats and promises, Philomena refused so decidedly, that the emperor had her loaded with chains and cast into a dungeon. Thinking that pain and shame would weaken her courage, he was exasperated by her resistance, the emperor ordered Philomena to be scourged, even chained to an anchor around her neck and then thrown into the waters of the Tiber, she came back unharmed. He later ordered her to be pierced with sharp darts even that did not help; he then condemned her to be beheaded on August 10th, a Friday at 3 O’clock in the afternoon in the year 304 A.D.
Her soul took flight towards her heavenly spouse and maker, who placed her with the crown of virginity and the palm of martyr and to be in His Divine presence forever. The devotion to St. Philomena spread far and wide; Churches bearing her name are to be fond all over the world.