The Diocese of Ootacamund came into being by the Apostolic Constitution “Nuntiatur in Psalmis” of Pope Pius XII, which was promulgated on July 3rd, 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 14, 60,000 of which 84,900 are catholics and 51,000 are Christians from other denominations.
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 separate 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 two types of hills namely the Nilgiris and Talavadi hills and plain in Sathyamangalam area. Nilgiris is the meeting place of Western and Eastern Ghats. Nilgiris is called ‘Queen of Hills’. It is also called ‘Blue Mountain’. The altitude of these mountains ranges up to 2400m above MSL. 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 world. River Bhavani springs from the Nilgiris. Main cultivation of this area is tea, coffee, Pepper and cardamom. Talavadi is another hilly area in the diocese. It is a part of Erode district. It lies in the Western Ghats. The altitude goes up to 1200m above MSL. The temperature rages from 18° to 35°c. Elephants, bison, porcupine and deer are common wild animals here. Sugarcane and raagi are common cultivation of this area. Sathyamagalam is the only plains in the diocese. It lies in Erode district. Rivers Cauvery and Bhavani are gift 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 total Nilgiris, Part of Erode and Part of Coimbatore. Nilgiris is the junction 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. Talavadi Vicariate is the border to Karnataka State. In this vicariate out of eight parishes in seven parishes liturgical celebration are conducted both in Kannada and in Tamil. Since Ooty and Coonoor were colonized by English people we have Anglo Indian in these two vicariates. So in these two vicariates in seven parishes we have both English and Tamil Masses. Moreover since it is well known tourist place most of the people know Hindi also. In Sathyamangalam vicariate liturgical celebration are only in Tamil. So we can proudly say that the Diocese of Ootacamund is an icon for National Integration. Here all people live together in spite of different caste, creed, colour and nation.
Culture of the People
The faithful of the diocese of Ootacamund are mostly daily wages and farmers. Apart from people with different culture, the diocese is endowed with different tribes both in Nilgiris and Erode districts. In Nilgiris we have tribes like Badaga, Kurumba, Thoduva and Pania. Among them Badaga are coming up in their life. Their language is called ‘Badaga’. It does not have letter. Most of them are educated and few have chosen religious life too. But other tribes are still living in forest without tasting the modernity outside the world. In Erode district near Sathyamangalam we have two parishes namely Gundri and Makkampalam. Both these parishes are in thick forest. Both the parishes are known for a particular tribe ‘Urali’. They speak the language ‘Urali’ which also does not have letters. Makkampalayam is the mission station in the diocese where the ministry is categorized as ‘Evangelization to the non practicing Christians’. Gundri is the biggest parish in the Sathyamangalam vicariate with more than 2000 catholic population. They are all practicing Catholics.
Places to be visited in the Diocese
OOTY 1. Government Botanical Garden 2. Rose Garden 3. Children’s Park 4. Boat House 5. Doddabetta Peak 6. Ninth Mile Lawn 7. Pine Forest 8. Pykara Boat House, Water falls 9. Mudumalai National Santuary COONOOR 1. Dolphin Nose 2. Sim’s Park 3. Catherine Falls 4. Lamb’s Rock 5. Kodanad View Point, Kotagiri SATHYAMANGALAM 1. Bavanisagar Dam 2. Kodiveri Dam