Beginning of diocesan inquest: 19. 08. 2006
Costantine Vendrame was born in San Martino di Colle Umberto, in the province of Treviso, on 27 August 1893. His parents, Pietro and Elena Fiori, taught him to love work and sacrifice, and especially the Lord. From his earliest years Costantine was known for his intelligence and goodness.
In 1913 he entered the Salesian novitiate in Ivrea. After his first experience in the Oratory at Chioggia, he did his obligatory military service, and this ultimately affected his character. In March 1929 he was ordained priest and, in October, received the missionary cross in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians.
At 31 years of age he left for India. As soon as he reached Shillong, he immediately took up the task of learning the local language, something he achieved in a remarkably short time. In the space of five years the parishes entrusted to his ministry grew enormously, the number of baptised increasing from 400 to 1449. He worked particularly in India’s north east.
He often visited the villages, meeting the people and the children: he became one of them, and sought human contact. He would go into the homes of the poor and the sick, help them, speak to them, listen to their story and, after becoming their friend, tell them about Jesus’ life.
He understood the importance of women in the culture of the Khasi. He set up a group of women, called “Apostles of the Khasi” who took on catechesis for the poor and for children. Always in the forefront like Don Bosco, he made use of mass media to evangelise the villages, and showed filmettes of the life of Jesus.
Many people came to these shows and asked to be baptised afterwards. Fr Costantine stressed formation of lay catechists who would evangelise the communities and who went with him on his journeys. Like the good Salesian he was he set up festive oratories, educated hundreds of children, succeeding in going to their families and broadening out the efforts of evangelisation.
He brought Christianity to Hindus, Muslims and Methodists alike, to the point where he was likened to Saint Francis Xavier or Saint Paul. He was very humble and a man of prayer: he always seemed to be in communion with God. Very devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he had two Shrines built, one in Malawai and the other in Wahiajer. Like Don Bosco, he had a filial devotion to Mary Help of Christians, whom he often spoke about. He also set up a group of young women as part of The “Legion of Mary”, who would visit the poor and the sick and pray for them.
He gave himself to north east India until his last breath: by then he was worn to a frazzle like an old garment unable to be mended. He died a holy death on the 30th January 1957 in the hospital in Dibrugarh.