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In Kolkata, joy, prayers and testimonies as Mother Teresa becomes saint

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeffrey Bruno

By Saadia Azim

KOLKATA, India (CNS) — At Shishu Bhavan, children, the destitute, Missionaries of Charity nuns and novices sat silently, glued to the TV screen for the live telecast of the Vatican canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa.

While many prayed at the new saint’s tomb, the nuns and the children of Shishu Bhavan (Children’s Home), preferred to stay indoors and celebrate the historic moment all by themselves, as Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa to be St. Teresa.

“It is a day of feast for us. Brothers and sisters of the Missionaries of Charity are watching this in all the establishments of the MOC, but many of the sisters are visiting the headquarters for the special thanksgiving Mass after the ceremony in the evening,” said Missionaries of Charity Sister Benoy, who had come from the home in suburban Dum Dum to help the sisters with the large number of visitors.

Earlier, outside the gates of Shishu Bhavan, the poor, the sick and the old had gathered like they do each Sunday, hoping for a meal. Like any other Sunday, the nuns and cooks filled their plates.

“This has been our home. What would you call someone who provides you food, medicine and shelter?” asked a woman who identified herself only as Amina, who regularly visits for food and medicine. After the meal, she and her mother waited to watch the ceremony. She sang hymns and prayed silently near the saint’s statue.

In the narrow lane leading to the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, hundreds of people had gathered together not just to witness the live ceremony for the “saint of Kolkata” but also to invoke her in their prayers. Special arrangements outside the home had been made for live viewing, and devotees gathered with their little memories of the “blessed” one. Some were carrying pictures, some flowers and some photographs declaring their love and devotion. Hymns were sung by the visitors and the nuns, but also commoners who gathered outside. Souvenir shops had come up and people went around buying little artifacts being attributed to Mother Teresa.

Mohammad Ahsan, 62, had come to visit the nuns and pray at the tomb. He had carried his photographs with Mother Teresa that he had taken in 1994.

“My association with her is more than two decades old. These pictures are my prized possessions. My life is much peaceful now, and I owe it to the saint of Kolkata,” he said gleefully.

Diana Silvester, a television producer from the Indian state of Kerala, came carrying a poster of Mother Teresa.

“I came to witness a historic moment,” she said. “Mother Teresa was and will be the icon of love, compassion and service to humanity for all days to come.”

Sister Babita, 20, from the Indian state of Orissa, chose to sit with other postulants at the convent to watch the ceremony. “For us it was sheer the call of the saint of Kolkata,” she said of her vocation.

“If not a saint, then why would the world follow her footsteps 19 years after her death? Her life, through her humanitarian work and her healing touch, is the everyday miracle that keeps us going,” said Sister Adelica, who came from Bangladesh for the ceremony and will spend a month working in India.

Before leaving for Vatican, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was part of the 40-member official delegation from the state, said: “Mother was the mother of humanity. Her love for the ailing, the needy, entire humanity was unbounded. Bengal is more proud as Mother lived and worked here and showered us with her abundant love and care.

“Bless us, Mother, so that we can continue to serve the people,” she prayed.

Nearly 250 miles away from Kolkata, in Nakor village, Monica Besra, whose healing from a tumor was Mother Teresa’s first miracle recognized by the Vatican, sat and prayed at the nearby cathedral.

“I miss not being at Vatican. But I was there for the beatification ceremony,” she told Catholic News Service by telephone. “For me she was a saint always, and I invoked her always in my prayers. Today the world recognizes her and prays to her.

“I was dying,” she said. “Mother had a healing touch and she healed me. That is enough for us. We are much better and a happy family now.”

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