St. Mary’s Basilica is an imposing landmark and a magnificent sight on Sarojini Devi Road, Secunderabad. It was formerly known as St. Mary’s Cathedral while it was the principal Church of the Vicariate of Hyderabad.
From 1500 till 1832, the Diocese of Hyderabad, then known as the Vicariate of Hyderabad, had small pockets of Christians, who were visited at irregular intervals by missionaries of Theatine Order and Carmelite Fathers. It was in the year 1839 that Fr. Daniel Murphy at first searched for a place to build a church in Hyderabad, which was then the Capital of the Kingdom of Nizam, where no religion was looked kindly upon except Islam. Secunderabad was therefore considered as an alternative site and in 1840 Fr. Murphy started building St. Mary’s Cathedral which was completed by 1850. He also built St.Francis Xavier Church in Bolarum in 1842. As years passed, Pope Gregory XVI raised Fr. Murphy to the office of Bishop and appointed him as the first Vicar Apostolic of Hyderabad on 20th May 1851 erecting Hyderabad as an independent Vicariate. However, Sir Henry Pottinger, the British Resident appears to have crossed swords with Fr. Murphy and for almost two years refused to allow him to return to Secunderabad. Hence, the latter was obliged to live at Chaderghat on the Borders of the Nizams dominion with Fr. O’Brien, Fr. Drake and Fr. Hampson as his assistants.
Bishop Murphy opened the All Saints Seminary School to train native students for the Priesthood. It was opened first at Secunderabad and later transferred to Hyderabad in 1857. Bishop Murphy then applied to the PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions of Milan). Between 1857 and 1864 the PIME sent six Priests from Milan. The Bishop invited the Sisters of Loretta to come to Secunderabad. The first group of two sisters arrived on December 21, 1856 but for medical reasons, they left for good in 1860. Bishop Murphy had to look after the Churches in far flung areas like Trimulgherry, Mudfort, Bolarum and Hyderabad. At that time, the British regiment was stationed at Secunderabad. The Catholic population went up to four figures.
Bishop Murphy was a good administrator with exemplary zeal. He left India in 1864 on grounds of ill health. He was sent to Australia where he was chosen Bishop of Tasmania in 1866. He passed away in 1907. Though the stated reason for his departure from Hyderabad was said to be ill health, the real reason was buried with him in his grave in Tasmania. With the sudden departure of Fr. Murphy, The Vicariate was vacant for almost two years.
Fr. Barbero Dominico PIME (1855-82) who was already working in Hyderabad Mission was appointed the next Vicar Apostolic in 1864. He too proved to be a good administrator and he invited the Sisters of St. Ann of Turin to Secunderabad. They arrived at Secunderabad in 1871 and established a Convent and an Orphanage.