St. Francis Xavier arrived in Goa on May 6, 1542. From 1602 to 1759 Goa was the centre of a large Jesuit Province, which extended over the Indian subcontinent with the exclusion of South India and the East Coast. Nepal and Tibet, too, belonged to this Province. In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal and Portuguese territories and this meant the end of the Goa Jesuit Province. The modern history of the Society of Jesus in Western India began at Bombay. Anastasius Hartmann, Vicar Apostolic of Bombay, invited the Jesuits to Bombay. In 1854 the German Jesuit Province (the Swiss and some Austrians also belonged to the German Province at that time) was entrusted with the new Vicariate of Poona, and in 1858 with the large territory of the “Bombay Mission” which extended from Quetta to Hubli, which were separated by a distance of 2166 km.
The first task of the Jesuits was to start high schools in the more important towns, from St. Patrick’s in Karachi to St. Mary’s, Hubli. Some of the early educational foundations were St. Stanislaus High School, Bombay (1863), St. Mary’s High School, Bombay (1865), St. Vincent’s High School, Poona (1867), and St. Xavier’s High School, Bombay (1869). The climax of their efforts was the starting of St. Xavier’s College, Bombay (1869). In addition to their educational efforts, they looked after parishes in railway centres and military cantonments.
Inspite of these many works and the shortage of personnel, the task of bringing the message of Christ to the non-Christians remained their basic concern. A Mission was started at Goolegood (1868) and Padatgal (1870), a Marathi Mission at Kendal, Ahmednagar District (1878), and a Gujarati Mission at Anand (1896), and Vadtal (1897).
The German Province sent several young men every year on a regular basis until 1914. During these 61 years, 366 Jesuits came to the Bombay-Poona missions. The first World War brought great difficulties to the Mission – the German nationals were interned and later repatriated. The Swiss Jesuits assisted by other Dioceses and Missions continued the work. After the war, it was a long time before the German Province was able to send men. As a result, some part of the territory of the old Bombay mission was handed over to other Jesuit Provinces in Europe. Thus, the Spanish Jesuits came to Bombay and Gujarat in 1922.
The British rulers allowed new missionaries from Germany to return to India only several years after the end of the war. In 1929, the Poona Mission was entrusted once again to the South German Province (to which the Swiss Jesuits also belonged).
The mission had hardly recovered from this blow, when World War II began. The missionaries of German nationality were again compelled to give up their ministries. This time, however, they were not sent back to Europe, but were interned in Camps in India itself. It was only after 1950 that the German and Swiss Provinces (The Swiss Province was established in 1947) were able to send missionaries to India again. But the period of this third renewed effort was shorter still. In 1959-60, the Indian Government put an end to the entry of foreign missionaries. As a first reaction to this drastic decision, some felt that this might mark the end of the mission in India. It was, indeed, a severe blow to the expansion of the Catholic Church in the country. But, soon, intensive efforts were made to promote local vocations. This was so successful that several new Jesuit Novitiates sprang up in a very short time, leading to the growth of the local Church, and the development of the variety of ministries that the West Zone Jesuit Provinces are presently engaged in.
The Pune Province was constituted on July 24, 1992, by a degree of reorganization from Rome, whereby the Districts of Pune, Beed, Ahmednagar, Satara, Sholapur, Sangli, and the northern division of Kolhapur were affected as an integral part of the Pune Province.