Brief Biography of the Founder
Cardinal Celso Costantini, founder of the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord or in latin Congregatio Discipulorum Domini (CDD), was born in the northern part of Italy at Castions di Zoppola on April 3, 1876. In 1899, he obtained his Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and then he was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Concordia (the present Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone). Besides pastoral work, he was also actively involved in the study and promotion of religious art and was well-known for his artistic achievements in Italy.
In 1921, Father Costantini was appointed the Bishop of Fiume in the midst of a political crisis. However, Costantini mediated between the conflicting parties and was acclaimed for preparing their “cease fire” declaration.
In 1922, Archbishop Costantini was appointed by the late Pope Pius XI as the first Apostolic Delegate to China where he contributed eleven years of service. His major contributions are as follows:
- Called for the First National Bishops’ Conference in Shanghai
- Promotion of six Chinese priests being consecrated in Rome as bishops
- Helped in the establishment of Fu Jen Catholic University
- Founded the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord
- Institution of several major seminaries
- Recommended seminarians to study in Rome
- Founded the Chinese Catholic Action and the Union of Chinese Catholic Students
- Resisting the influence of Protectorate of that time
- Improving the image of the Catholic Church in China
In 1933, Archbishop Costantini returned to Italy due to health reasons. He was appointed Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (the present Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) in 1935 and elevated to cardinal in 1953. During these seventeen years, he contributed greatly to the rebuilding of the distressed Chinese Catholic Church, the official end of the Chinese Rites Controversy, promotion of Chinese bishops and hierarchy, founding the Chinese Catholic Action and promotion of Chinese religious art.
Cardinal Costantini died on October 17, 1958 at the age of 82. However, his missionary spirit persists and affects the universal church and the local Church in China.