Shillong: A historical musical drama on Father Constantine Vendrame, the first Salesian missionary to northeastern India was staged at a major seminary in Shillong, capital of Meghalaya state. More than 1,500 people witnessed the musical staged for three consecutive days from October 19 at Sacred Heart Theological College (SHTC), Mawlai, a Shillong suburb.
“He is one of the greatest missionaries God has ever sent to our land. We cannot explain much about him within this few hours. And the new generation may not know much about this man but through this play we surely hope to learn something about him,” said Meghalaya’s Urban Affairs Minister R V Lyngdoh. Lyngdoh after watching the program.
The original script and music score of Father Barnes Mawrie, the college president, and the artistic direction of Brother Jomon Augustine brought alive the Italian missionary, who came to Shillong in 1924. He is known a s the ‘Apostl e of Shillong’ and the pioneer of Catholicism in the region.
The director of the play acknowledged, “It’s a great pleasure to direct and stage this drama on great missionary like Fr. Vendrame, whom people appreciate so much, especially in areas where he had evangelized.” Sylvester Kurbah, headman Mawlai Phudmuri, in his speech recalled the contribution of Fr. Vendrame for the advancement of Khasis in Shillong.
Khasi is one of the major tribes in Meghalaya. Father Vendrame “had contributed a lot for Khasi people here in Shillong both spiritually and intellectually. In the beginning, he built a small chapel at Mawlai but now it has turned into a holy shrine. We need to pray for the speedy cannonization of Father Vendrame. He left his home and family for the betterment of Khasi people in here,” he added. The Sacred Heart seminary brings out a musical drama every two years. The next musical drama will be in 2019.
Father Vendrame is now a Servant of God, the first step in the four-stage canonization process. He was born at San Martino di Colle Umberto, in the Treviso region of Italy in 1893. It was said at his death in 1957 that he died of over exhaustion. He toured the length and breadth of the Khasi-Pnar land and reached out even to the remotest villages.
He became a household word among Khasis in northeastern India, reports Donboscoindia.com. After his return from Arcot in 1951, he was assigned to Mawkhar, a stronghold of the Methodists. In those days, no Catholic priest could walk through this area without being insulted or threatened. ”He was our St. Francis Xavier,” hailed Monsignor Louis Mathias, the first Catholic bishop of Shillong.