HISTORY OF OOTACAMUND DIOCESE

The diocese of Ootacamund came into being by the Apostolic Constitution Nuntiatur in Psalmis of Pope Pius XII, which was promulgated on 3rd July, 1955. It came into being by partition from the mother diocese-Mysore, of which it had been a part from 1941-1955. Comprising the whole of the Nilgiris district and a part of Erode district which lies to the north of river Bhavani, the diocese covers an area of 7,312 sq kms and has a population numbering 20,60,445 of which 90,864 are Catholics and 20,235 are Christians from other denominations. The Church of the Sacred Heart, Udhagamandalam was chosen as its Cathedral and Antony Cardinal Padiyara was its first Bishop.

THE PARIS FOREIGN MISSION

In 1773 when Pope Clement XIII suppressed the Society of Jesus, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of Faith handed over the entire Carnatic Mission to the Fathers of the Paris Foreign Mission in 1776. The Paris Foreign Mission had its  headquarters at Pondicherry and the Fathers being few in number; found it impossible to care for the immense territory, which stretched from Pondicherry to Kumbakonam, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Mysore. Finally, despite the difficulties arising from the political situation of those times, two M.E.P Fathers succeeded in getting permission in 1836, to settle in Karumathampatty in the Coimbatore District. Two years later, one of them took charge of the small nascent out-station of the Coimbatore Mission at Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri in the Nilgiris. In 1842, a small chapel was built in Ooty to cater to the spiritual needs of the Christian community that began steadily increasing after the completion of the ghat road from Mettupalayam to Coonoor.

THE NEW DIOCESE OF OOTACAMUND

In 1845, Coimbatore and Mysore became seperate pro-Vicariates Apostolic and in 1850 Vicariates Apostolic and later on in 1886 separate dioceses with the establishment of the Hierarchy in India by Pope Leo XIII. Until 1940, the Nilgiris District together with all the territory lying to the North of the river Bhavani was part of Coimbatore Diocese. By a decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of Faith, dated 13th February 1940 it was attached to the Diocese of Mysore. In 1941 Mysore Diocese was reconstituted and Nilgiris District and all the territory to the north of river Bhavani became a part of it. Being a part of the diocese of Mysore for fourteen years, owing to the difficulties arising out of the differences in language, culture and distance, Ootacamund was raised to the status of a diocese in its own right on July 3rd, 1955.

GEOGRAPHICAL NATURE OF THE DIOCESE

The diocese of Ootacamund is gifted with three types of hills namely the Nilgiris and Talavady and Gundri hills and plain in Sathyamangalam area. The Nilgiris is the meeting place of western and eastern ghats. The Nilgiris is called the ‘Queen of Hills’. It is also called the ‘Blue Mountain’. The altitude of these mountains ranges up to 2400m above sea level. The highest peak of the eastern ghats Doddabetta lies in Nilgiris. The temperature goes below the melting point in the winter. South east monsoon from the middle of June to the end of August and the north west monsoon in the months of October and November are the gifts of God to this area to get rain. Naduvattam is one of the highest rain falling places in The Nilgiris. River Bhavani springs from the Nilgiris. Main cultivation of this area is tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom. Talavady and Gundri hills are in the Erode district. They lie in the western ghats. The altitude goes up to 1200m above sea level. The temperature ranges from 18° to 35°c. Elephants, bisons, porcupines and deer are common wild animals here. Sugarcane and raagi are common cultivation of this area. Sathyamagalam area is the only plains in the diocese. It lies in Erode district. Rivers Cauvery and Bhavani are gifts of the nature for the fertile fields in this area. Temperature ranges from 21°c to 40°c. Main cultivation is sugarcane, turmeric and paddy.

DIOCESE OF OOTACAMUND – ICON OF NATIONAL INTEGRATION

The diocese of Ootacamund spreads out in three districts namely The Nilgiris, part of Erode and part of Coimbatore. Nilgiris is the meeting point of three states called Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. So, naturally people of these states meet together for various purposes. Inter-linguistic marriages are common in the diocese. Gudalur vicariate is the border of Kerala and dominated by Malayalam speaking people. In this vicariate out of nine parishes, in five parishes liturgical celebrations are conducted both in Malayalam and in Tamil. Talavady Vicariate is the border to Karnataka State. In this vicariate out of eight parishes in seven parishes liturgical celebrations are conducted both in Kannada and in Tamil. Since Udhagamandalam and Coonoor  were 31 colonized by English people, Anglo-Indians are there in these two vicariates. Hence masses are celebrated both in English and in Tamil in seven parishes. In Sathyamangalam vicariate liturgical celebrations are held only in Tamil. The diocese of Ootacamund remains an icon of National Integration. Here there is unity in diversity in spite of caste, creed, colour and language.

CULTURE OF THE PEOPLE

The faithful of the diocese are mostly daily wage earners and farmers. With people, with different culture, the diocese is also endowed with various tribes both in The Nilgiris and Erode districts. In The Nilgiris there are Badaga, Kurumba, Thoduva and Pania tribals. But people of other tribes are still living in the forest without tasting the modernity outside the world. In Erode district near Sathyamangalam two parishes namely Gundri and Mak kampalam are populated by people belonging to ‘Urali’ tribe. They speak the language ‘Urali which does not have alphabets.