In all, sixteen Augustinians were bishops in India between 1579 and 1840. Two were in Goa, five in Cochin, and nine in Chennai (formerly called Madras). Fourteen of these Augustinians were Portuguese, one was born in Goa, and one was Irish.
In the year 1522 a tomb was located at Mylapur that people, including King John III of Portugal, thought fitted the tradition that Saint Thomas the Apostle was buried on the coast of India. Franciscan missionaries had come to the area in 1516, and Dominicans (Order of Preachers) in 1520. The Jesuits (Society of Jesus) followed, and in 1545 Francis Xavier, one of the six founding Jesuits, stayed in Mylapur for three months to pray at the apostle's tomb. The Portuguese Augustinians took charge of the very small church that was built over the grave of the Apostle, and built their house and a larger church beside it. In 1606 Mylapur was made a diocese, and Sebastião de San Pedro O.S.A. was appointed as its first bishop. He arrived from Madrid in 1611, but in 1614 was promoted to the position of bishop at Cochin, India.
He was replaced as Bishop of Mylapur by Luiz de Brito e Menezes O.S.A. in 1615, who like his predecessor was also transferred in 1628 to the See of Cochin. In the 1640s about five kilometres from Mylapur a British trading centre was built and named Fort Saint George. The town of Madras grew beside it. Madras grew, and Mylapur in 1697 was invaded and overcome by Mohammedans from the north. Augustinians withdrew from Mylapur, and were replaced by other religious orders using non-Portuguese priests. (Portugal had suppressed religious orders in 1643, and this effectively ended Portuguese missionary activity.) They still served, however, at Bandel, further north in Bengal, where in 1714 they had a legal dispute with the bishop. In 1886 there were new diocesan boundaries established for Mylapur. The local bishop at Mylapur demolished the old Augustinian house and parish church beside the apostle's tomb, and built the present cathedral.
Chennai (formerly called Madras),
(Above). Some of the many hundreds of life-sized figures on the exterior of the Myalpore Hindu Temple at Chennai. The insert (at top right) shows the many hundreds of figures. Since the 1640s the Catholic Church increasingly centred its focus on Madras, five kilometres from Mylapur. Both centres had a bishop, but, with difficulties in making appointments and in that appointees often had to come from Europe, on numerous occasions there were gaps of up to three years when one centre or the other had no bishop in residence. Antonio da Incarnacao O.S.A. was made the bishop of Fort Saint George (Madras) in 1747, and died in office in 1752. He was replaced by Bernardo de San Caetano O.S.A., who died in 1780 and was succeeded by Manoel de Jesus Marie Jose O.S.A., a native of Goa and the prior of the Augustinian community there. He was consecrated in 1788, and died at Saint Thomas in 1800. He was succeeded by Joaquim de Menezes e Athalde O.S.A., who was consecrated and received charge of the diocese in 1805.
But before he could travel out from Europe he was transferred to the Diocese of Funchal in Portugal. Rome then made Fort Saint George a Vicariate of Madras on 25 April 1832. A citizen of Ireland, Daniel O'Connor O.S.A. became the first British subject to become a bishop in India. A hasty appointment carried out in political expediency, Daniel O'Connor O.S.A. arrived on 20 August 1835, with baggage that, it was reported, contained "several thousands of books for the instruction of the ignorant." O’Connor was born in Limerick on 6th July 1786, and entered the Augustinian novitiate at Galway in 1807. He was ordained to the priesthood on 29th June 1810, and ministered for the next twenty-one years in Cork. During that time, he had been Prior of the Augustinian community in Cork in 1823-1827. He served in the Augustinian church at Cork, and took an active part in the movement for independence of the Irish Church from restrictions by the English Parliament. In that matter, he was the member of a delegation that in April 1829 was sent to London to meet with the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.
Upon appointment as the Vicar-Apostolic of Madras by the Holy See, he was consecrated a bishop in the Augustinian Church at Cork on 3rd August 1834. He then remained in Ireland for eight months to raise funds for the Madras mission. He gathered over 1,600 pounds sterling (British currency), with which he paid the expenses of the voyage for ten priests and seminarians to accompany him to India, plus the several thousand books on religious education that were mentioned above. O'Connor was the first of a series of church leaders from Ireland appointed to Madras. His successors were diocesan clergy who had been educated at Maynooth College, the Catholic seminary in Dublin that had been built with British Government assistance to provide priests for Ireland and British territories. Almost all of these men sent from Ireland were doctors of divinity. They were socially and intellectually on an equality with the best British talent. Protestants as well as Catholics crowded to hear their sermons in churches and their lectures on scientific matters.
Photo (above right): Today's Madras Cathedral, built long after the episcopy of Dr O'Connor.When Dr O'Connor first came out, he brought letters of introduction to the governor and was a guest at Government House. In 1836 the Supreme (British) Government of India appointed O’Connor as the official Superior of the Catholic Church there. By this appointment, the colonial government required that all Catholic matters be brought to it via Bishop O’Connor; he was appointed as liaison officer for the Catholic Church with the Presidency of Madras. He had with him a few Irish Augustinian friars, although historical details about this matter are unclear. On the first occasion when Bishop O’Connor drove to Saint Mary's of the Angels’ Church, the quasi-cathedral of his vicariate, he was wearing a cocked hat and buckled shoes, plus a long coat and knee-breeches. The older Catholic ladies protested that he surely could be not be the Catholic bishop but rather an official of the British Government who had been sent to make them become Protestants.
Yet Bishop O’Connor soon became a well-respected figure. He had the Catholic catechism translated into the Tamil language, and in 1837 founded schools for Christian girls in spite of Hindu resistance. In a display of leadership in 1839, he led the other vicars apostolic of the Catholic Church in India in formally ending a schism. The number of Catholics recorded as resident in Madras on 14th March 1838 was only about 3,000. When O'Connor resigned in 1840 because of ill health, it was reported in 1856 by W.J. Battersby (see bibliography on the previous page) that the Catholics of Madras were “pained to extremity.” As a parting gift, they presented him with a valuable gold and diamond cross, chain and episcopal ring. He returned to Ireland, was appointed to the Augustinian community at John’s Lane in Dublin, and ministered as an episcopal assistant in the Archdiocese of Dublin. An obituary states that in Dublin between 1842 and his death in 1858 he received 553 persons into the Catholic Church, and rectified 800 marriages that hitherto lacked church approbation. To the Dublin poor whom he assisted, he was known as “the John’s Lane bishop.”
He was on intimate terms with political figures in Ireland such as Daniel O’Connell, Charles Gavan-Duffy, Fr Matthew, and other leaders of the Repeal and the 1848 Movements. He died in Dublin on 10 July 1867 at the age of eighty-one years, and was interred at Glasnevin Cemetery.
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Map of India. http://www.1uptravel.com/worldmaps/india2.html OK
Bishop Daniel O’Connor osa. A timeline in Madras. http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/boconda.html AN4833