Bishop Thomas Bhalerao, S.J., was born on 1st February 1933 at Sangamner in the District of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. He entered the Jesuit Society at a very early age and made his Profession on 20th June 1953 and later was ordained Priest of the Society of Jesus on 27th March 1965. He held several responsible posts in the Poona-Goa Province of the Society of Jesus and served the Diocese of Poona in several capacities.
When the Diocese of Poona was bifurcated and the new Diocese of Nashik was erected in 1987, Pope John Paul II appointed Most Rev. Thomas Bhalerao, SJ, as its first Bishop on 09th June 1987. His Episcopal consecration took place on 23rd August 1987 at Sangamner. He resigned from the office of Bishop of Nashik on 31st March 2007 after serving for almost 20 years as its first Bishop.
Bishop Thomas Bhalerao had many challenges before him as the first Bishop of a new Diocese. The vast area of the new diocese was underdeveloped and inhabited by relatively poor people. The majority of the Catholic population of Nashik comprises of landless labourers, marginal farmers, factory workers and a few in Government services. Bishop Thomas Bhalerao was a zealous pastor and his main concern was to attend to the pastoral needs of his people. Under the pastoral guidance of Bishop Thomas Bhalerao, the diocese of Nashik became one of the most flourishing mission dioceses in the Western Region, with about 71,000 Catholics. It was during the time of Bishop Thomas that several new Parishes were erected and scores of Mission Stations established. Bishop Thomas also laid sound foundation for the development in the educational and health care sectors.
Besides being an ardent pastor and a tireless missionary, Bishop Thomas Bhalerao had shown keen interest in fostering vocations from the indigenous people. The steady increase in the number of vocations to priesthood and religious life from among the local people testifies to this great service of Bishop Thomas Bhalerao. He also concentrated on the upliftment of the poor and the improvement of the living conditions of his people. With the strong support of the Society of Jesus, Bishop Thomas Bhalerao could procure substantial aid from donor agencies and raise local resources, and built several Educational Institutions, Social Service Centres, Rehabilitation and Training Centre, Hospitals and Health Care Centres. The Diocese of Nashik owes much to its first shepherd for what it is today. Bishop Thomas Bhalerao’s dedicated service, fatherly concern and tireless labour for almost 20 years, aimed at the spiritual well being and social welfare of those entrusted to his pastoral care, will be remembered with gratitude and love by the people of the Diocese of Nashik, and by the Church in India, in the years to come. As we recall the priceless service of Bishop Thomas Bhalerao to the Church in India, we pray that the Good Lord, whom he has served so faithfully, received him in His glory.
Education: Elementary School: 1 – 7 grade : Our Lady of Remedy School, Vasai.
Middle School and High School: 8 –11 grade: St Thomas’ High School, Deotalao, Sandor, Vasai
University Education: Inter Arts (University of Bombay)
Special Diploma : Prajna in Marathi Literature, Marathi Sahitya Parishad, Pune (Poona).
Priestly Formation : St Pius X College, Goregaon, Bombay – Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Bombay (1966-73). Licentiate in Catholic theology at the Catholic Theological Faculty, Lyon, France (1974-76).
Ordained priest in the Catholic Church: 30 October 1976 (Archdiocese of Bombay)
Academic Studies: M.A. in theology (specialization in Catholic Missiology) Maryknoll School of Theology, New York, USA (1979-1980).
Doctorate (Ph.D) in Catholic Dogmatic theology at Fordham University, New York, USA.
Has was Professor of Catholic dogmatic theology, missiology and formator of future priests at St Pius X College – Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Bombay, 1984 – 1993.
From April 1993 called to Rome in order to work in the Roman Curia (Holy See, Vatican) at the Asia Desk of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. On 1 October 1999, nominated Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Vatican, by Pope John Paul II. This appointment was confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
Publications: three books: Jnaneshvari, Path to Liberation; Journeying Together (in English, French and Italian), a Marathi translation and short commentary on the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium; has also published over hundred articles in various international academic journals of theology.
Appointed Bishop of Nashik with the personal title of Archbishop on 16 January 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI. Ordained Bishop on 8 March 2008.
Although his tenure as Bishop of Nashik was short, he deligently inspired the Priests and the faithful and setout sound footprints through his very simple life and great personality. As Bishop he reached out to every corner of the Diocese and strongly emphazising the need of practicing austerity and raising local contribution for the development of the Church. He also reached out to religious heads of other religions and worked immensely on the issue of inter-religious dailogue.
On 10 November 2009 he took over as Bishop of Vasai diocese.