Archbishop Dominic Jala with 92 year old Juliana Vendrame, grand niece of Servant of God Constantino Vendrame
An Indian bishop has thanked people from the home town of Italian Father Constantine Vendrame for their support in furthering the cause of sainthood of the missioner who worked among the Khasi tribal people in northeastern India. “We wanted to personally thank the people of Colle Umberto for their love and support,” said Salesian Archbishop Dominic Jala of Shillong during Mass on May 14 at San Martino parish in Colle Umberto, northeast Italy. The archbishop, who belongs to the Khasi tribe among whom the missionary worked in India, is in Rome on an ad limina visit to see the Pope. The Diocesan Process of Inquiry into the life and virtues of Salesian Father Vendrame (1893-1957) was brought to a conclusion in Mawlai Parish, Shillong Archdiocese on February 19. The title 'Servant of God' is conferred on those the Holy See has granted the 'nulla osta' to introduce the Cause. This involves two steps: one at the diocesan level (the celebration of the process) and the other in Rome with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. “The Roman process for the Italian missionary is scheduled to begin on May 30,” said Salesian Postulator General Father Pier Luigi Cameroni. Once the congregation checks the documents and endorses the diocesan process, a rapporteur will be appointed to prepare the “positio,” he said. Father Vendrame is a household word among the Khasi people in India. His missionary feats have become legends among the people. It is said he died of exhaustion. Born at San Martino di Colle Umberto, in the province of Treviso, he joined the Salesian novitiate in 1913. After his ordination in 1924, he went to Shillong. Within a period of five years (1926-1931) the number of Catholics there increased from 400 to 1,449 and the number of centers to 105. Encountering the matriarchal system of the Khasi Hills, he understood the importance of women in the culture and set up a group of women called the “Apostles of the Khasi” who took on catechesis for children. Father Vendrame also used media to evangelize in the Khasi villages. Senior citizens recall how he showed filmstrips on the life of Jesus, which was a great attraction in the villages where there was neither electricity nor cinema halls. The Salesians will mark 90 years since their arrival in Shillong in 2012. The mother diocese of Shillong erected in 1934 now has 14 more dioceses spread over seven states of northeast India. Other Servants of God in the region are the second bishop of Shillong, Bishop Stephan Ferrando (1935-1969), whose diocesan inquest was concluded in 2006, and Bishop Oreste Marengo (1951-1979) from Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Tura, whose diocesan inquest was started in 2007.