History

GREAT SYNOD :

     It may be safely said that the history of Petit Seminaire dates from January 1844, when Bishop Mgr. Bonwand called the first Synod of missionaries. That was the occasion when the great assembly of priests reviewed the functioning of seminary. It was found that there were only 17 students and the studies were very mediocre except in Latin and Theology. The Synod advocated a series of steps to promote education in general in the Mission.

PETIT SEMINAIRE BORN:

     Petit Seminaire began to function from March 1844 with 89 students of whom 25 were boarders. Only 20 were eclectics students, aspiring for priesthood.

INAUGURATION:

    The ground floor of the imposing structures was completed and blessed by Mgr. Bonmand on St. Joseph’s Day, 19th March in 1846. After the blessing of the building the Bishop sang a High Mass in the chapel of the Seminary.

    Petit Seminaire has been successfully launched to the great envy of the Europeans living at Karaikal.

NEW MAJOR SEMINARY:

    Mgr. Bonnand laid the foundations for a separate grand Seminary, which had been since March 1846, sharing the new building with Petit Seminare College. The new building, hastily built, was blessed on September 18, 1850.

    Fr. Godelle was appointed as the Rector of the Major Seminary.

INDEPENDENT COURSE:

    Petit Seminare College was at last on an independent career of her own with Fr. Godet as her Superior. In the same year following instructions from Rome, She opened her gates to children of all creeds.

A FRENCH SECONDARY SCHOOL:

    Petit Seminaire college was a minor seminary preparing boys, desirous of becoming priests, for major seminary, as well as a college giving secondary education and preparing students for life. It was called a college after the French fashion though it was only a secondary establishment.

    It followed a syllabus equivalent to what was followed in any French college or Lycee. Science found an important place in the curriculum since the French missionaries wanted to bring about a harmony between Faith and Science in the adult life of their students.

GROWING SEMINARE:

    The strength of the College steadily increased from 100 students in 1850 to 200 in 1859. Of them 40 were boarders, who wished to become priests. The mission looked after their needs. Day scholars had to pay a monthly fee of two and half Francs i.e. Rs.1

In 1873 the strength stood at 445 including 40 seminarians. There were a number of Hindu and Muslim boys on the roll. They were free to follow their religion.

    The major seminary has been constructed in haste without proper planning. As time went on it proved to be too small to accommodate the ever increasing vocations.

A FRENCH COLLEGE, PURE AND SIMPLE:

Petit Seminaire ceased to be a Seminary but continued its existence as a public college, pure and simple. The junior seminarians went to Petit Seminaire to attend classes.

LAICIZATION:

    In 1880, Petit Seminaire stopped receiving the government subsidy to keep her freedom. Till date she is maintaining this financial independence.

    In 1882, Pondicherry government took over from the Mission the Directorate of Primary schools. To allure the people the government offered free education and supplied free books. These concessions of course attracted many poor catholics. Yet the strength of Petit Seminaire was steadily on the increase.

    In 1899, the MEP fathers were asked to quit the college colonial, which was placed in the hands of laymen. It was really a blessing in disguise. The priests relieved from the college joined the staff of Petit Seminaire.

A NEW CENTURY:

    The dawn of 20th century saw Petit Seminaire College with a new face – a full fledged Secondary Establishment. Open to all denizens of Pondicherry, irrespective of caste and creed.

FR. ESCANDE AND HIS LONGEST INNINGS:

    At the helm of affairs was a new superior – a giant of a man who would ride across the stage of Petit Seminaire like a colossus for the next third of century, a skipper with the longest innings on the Petit Seminaire pitch, a soul which is still dear to many an old man of the town Fr. Pierre Escande.

    A practical man with a great foresight, he attended to the day to day needs of the establishment with an eye on the distant future. The college entered an era of prosperity, registering rapid growth both vertically and horizontally.

ESCANDE HALL:

    The most monument of his constructions was the hall which today bears his dear name. This pillarless hall covering an area of 600 sq. metres with a seating capacity for 1000 persons, is an engineering feet, with its vast roof resting entirely on dozen of cantilever steel beams.

ENGLISH SECTION:

    Fr. Escande readily responded to people’s wish and in 1904 an English section in III standard to meet the growing demand for English education. It was to grow upto III form i.e. 8th Standard.

QUALITY AND QUANTITY:

    With well qualified professors on the staff, the standard of education in Petit Seminaire improved. So the students strength showed a steady increase. The strength increased from 800 in 1903 to 1100 in 1907. Of them 700 were Catholics. In spite of the efforts of the anti-clerical government to woo parents and students to government schools with free education and supply of free books, parents preferred the superior education provided by the missionaries. The college did exceptionally well in the examination, despite the fact that the examiners were from government school, not much favourable to Petit Seminaire students.

MATRICULATION SCHOOL:

    In 1932, the English section was upgraded into a high school, preparing boys for the Matriculation and was affiliated with the Madras university.

FIRST SET:

    The joy of seeing the first set of boys appearing for the Matriculation Examination in March 1934 was not given to Fr. Escande. Providence chose to give it to Fr. Guillerm the new director. The first set, though only six in number set the trend for later years by securing 100% pass.

BELIED HOPE:

     As it very often happens with hopes, this hope proved to be a liar. It fell to the lot of Fr. Guillerm to preside over the abolition of the French section. In July 1948 there were no more admissions to the ‘seconde’ ( Higher Secondary ) and ‘Kindergarten’ classes. Having inaugurated the process of dissolution Fr. Guillerm left for St. Peter’s Seminary, Bangalore shedding the mantle of responsibility on Fr. Swamicannou.

ERA OF TRANSITION:

    The next eleven years saw the great transition from a French college to an English High School. Year after year a class in the French section was closed till French was reduced to a second language in the Matriculation section.

FIRST INDIAN SUPERIOR:

    It was not mere coincidence but real providence that willed that the first Indian superior and that too a priest trained in the Seminary, both Petit and Grand should guide the destiny of the institution in this transitional period.

    The person chosen for that honour was Fr. A. Swamicannaou. He had been the director of the English section during the regime of Fr. Guillerm.

STEWARDSHIP OF FR. S. PETER:

    In June 1960 we find Petit Seminaire poised for a grand take off in her new career as Petit Seminaire High School. Fr. S. Peter was her principal. His stewardship, signaled an era of expansion both in space and strength.

FULL FLEDGED ENGLISH SCHOOL:

    English had hitherto been medium of instruction only from I form i.e. VI standard. Under Fr. S. Peter the school became an English medium High School from I standard onward.

MID TERM TESTS:

   The achievements of the students were so far gauged by the three terminal examinations. To egg them to greater heights he introduced the system of three mid term examinations.

SCIENCE LABORATORIES:

    From March 1969 Science practical came to be included in the Matriculation Examination. Accordingly the laboratory was enlarged and well equipped to provide facilities to every student to do required experiments.

PETIT SEMINAIRE HIGHER SECONDARY SCHOOL:

    In July 1978 Petit Seminare was born again, this time as Petit Seminaire Higher Secondary School, offering two courses of study at the higher secondary level.

INAUGURATION:

    The higher secondary classes were formally inaugurated by Mgr. Michael Augustine, who was then Bishop of Vellore Diocese.

COMPUTER GROUP:

    Petit Seminaire Higher Secondary School stepped into modern era in December 1983, when Fr. M. Peter relinquished office into the hands of Fr. J. Paul.

    The first thing Fr. J. Paul did was to open computer lab. Inaugurated by Mr. P. Kannan, an old student of Petit Seminaire. The opening of computer center was a preparation for offering computer science as a subject of study in the Higher Secondary Course and that group was started in July 1984.

    A tiny brook in 1846, Petit Seminaire has swollen into a mighty torrential river, carrying here a lusty trout or silver grayling and there a foamy flake or a sweet forget me not.