Indians shed tears, share stories as Kolkata honors Mother Teresa
IMAGE: CNS photo/Saadia Azim
By Saadia Azim
KOLKATA, India (CNS) — With folded hands, Margeret Rose stood praying near Blessed Teresa’s statue near the entrance of the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity.
Local residents had joined the sisters and Kolkata Archbishop Thomas D’Souza March 18 for a special Mass marking the announcement that Blessed Teresa’s canonization had been approved at the Vatican and scheduled for Sept. 4 in Rome. After Mass, men and women took turn visiting the order’s exhibition room and learned of options to volunteer at the homes run by the Missionaries of Charities worldwide.
But Rose, 74, remained indifferent to the flurry of activity. She was deep in prayer to Mother Teresa, with large tears flowing down her cheeks. After half an hour of prayer, she was finished.
“Mother was a saint always, and I have been praying to her even when she was alive,” said Rose, who daily walks along congested streets to reach the home with the wide gates. The Missionaries of Charity headquarters was Mother Teresa’s residence until her death in September 1997. “I owe my life to her. Her touch was magical, and I live till today only because of that saintly magic.”
“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace,” recited those who attended the Mass.
A sense of elation gripped the air as people talked about their association with the 60-year-old building and with Mother Teresa. Outside, a drug addict in an inebriated state lay on the road and shouted, seeking forgiveness in her name. A young sister in her white and blue-bordered sari went out to help the man. She tried to bless him and guide him into the home.
“He is a homeless (man) on drugs,” she said later. “We are trying to help him out. He has started coming here regularly for his medicines.”
Sunita Kumar, a renowned artist, has been associated with the Missionaries of Charities for the last 36 years. A practicing Sikh married to a practicing Hindu, she had been vociferously and voluntarily serving as the official spokeswoman for the Missionaries of Charity for the last 30 years. She has had drawn numerous sketches of Mother Teresa recognizable by her trademark petite frame in her white and blue-bordered sari.
Displaying one of her best artworks on Mother Teresa, she said: “Most of them were signed by Mother, but Mother had just one question for me, ‘Where are my eyes and my lips, not marked in the sketches?’ And I had explained to her then that ‘I saw the saint in you. You do not need physical features to get identified.’
“In fact her presence was so colossal that I never felt the need to draw features to explain her presence. She was always recognizable,” she added.
Kumar, now a grandmother, said she personally experienced a miracle from Mother Teresa.
“Just two hours before Mother’s death, I had asked her to pray for my young child suffering from Hepatitis B then. But after Mother was gone, we checked him out of curiosity, and it was gone from his body. My child recovered, and I cannot forget this miracle ever,” she said.
Before the Mass, young novices carried their prayer books and bowed before the statues of Mother Teresa in the corner of the chapel on the first floor of headquarters. People entering the chapel blessed themselves with holy water.
The chapel is near Mother Teresa’s tomb, where petals of flowers write “Jesus thirsts for you” on the marble. After Mass, the sisters touched the tomb, bowed, prayed quietly and left.
“We have prayed to her earlier, too,” said Sister Aaronette, a Missionary of Charity from Orissa state. “Now it means the world recognizes her powers as a saint. But for us she was the call, hence I came all the way from Orissa at the age of 18 to be a sister at the Missionaries of Charity.”
Clare, 16, and Aisling, 17, from Dublin’s Alexandra College were visiting Kolkata, seeking to volunteer at one of the Missionaries of Charity shelters. They said they hoped to learn Mother Teresa’s philosophy and take it worldwide.
Amid recent incidents in which Hindu nationalists accused Christian missionaries of conversion, Kumar said Mother Teresa “practiced a philosophy of humanity where she never asked her followers to convert to her faith. I prayed with her in the same chapel where she always asked me to pray the way I knew.
“She has always been the saint as I know her,” Kumar added.
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