Kolkata, India, Sep 6, 2023 / 09:57 am (CNA).
The Sept. 5 feast of St. Teresa of Kolkata — better known as Mother Teresa — was celebrated in a simple and somber manner at the Missionaries of Charity motherhouse in Kolkata, India, with hundreds of Christians and non-Christians thronging to her tomb throughout the day.
After the solemn 6 a.m. Mass led by Kolkata Archbishop Thomas D’Souza, participants — including devotees and international volunteers — came down to the open area of the three-storied building to sing “Happy feast, dear Mother” in front of a giant portrait of the saint hanging above the grotto.
Sept. 5 is also observed as Teachers Day in India.
“As we also celebrate Teachers Day on this day, let us remember that Mother came to India as a Loreto nun and teacher. But she was not just a teacher who molded young minds, she was a teacher of love, planting it in human hearts,” D’Souza emphasized in his message after lighting a blue-ribboned candle on the white marble tomb of Mother Teresa.
Born in Albania in 1910, Sister Mary Teresa reached India in 1928 as a Loreto nun and taught in the congregation schools in Kolkata for more than two decades before founding the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 with three nuns.
With her missionary service, D’Souza pointed out, “Mother has shown that love is a powerful force that can transform lives.”
“In this sacred place, she spent her life worshipping God and teaching us to be instruments of God’s love to feed the hungry and clothe the naked with kindness and compassion,” he said.
“Mother is alive today because of her charity. Let us thank God on this day for the gift of the mother who founded the Missionaries of Charity congregation of nuns, brothers and fathers, and contemplatives to serve the world, a world that needs care and compassion,” he added.
Mother was popularly called the “saint of the gutters” in her lifetime. She was canonized by Pope Francis on Sept. 4, 2016.
Missionaries of Charity Superior General Sister Joseph was in New Delhi so Sister Christy, assistant superior general, led the congregation in reciting a prayer to Mother Teresa before the sisters, novices, and others present began placing flowers on the tomb.
Pilgrims from different parts of India — as well as non-Christian devotees of the saint — carried flowers and bouquets while others bowed their heads beneath the hand of the bronze statue of Mother for her “blessing.”
“We are happy to come here today to express our love and respect for Mother,” Mohammad Farooque, a martial arts professional who led half a dozen Muslim friends to Mother Teresa’s tomb, told CNA.
“The lesson of love Mother taught cannot be forgotten,” said 27-year-old Farooque, who came with the karate team that will participate in a global meet in Thailand in September.
“We need the blessings of Mother for success. Our [karate association] founder has been organizing a peace rally every year on Mother’s death anniversary,” he said.
After the celebration at the tomb, the action moved to the archbishop’s house — fewer than two miles away from the motherhouse — where D’Souza placed a garland on a life-sized bronze statue of Mother Teresa, patroness of the archdiocese.
The Catholic Association Bengal, as it has done in previous years, organized a public event where people could pay homage to Mother Teresa at the junction in front of the Allen Park gate. In addition to the Catholics present, dignitaries from diverse religious backgrounds as well as politicians and artists paid tribute to the saint with rose petals before her portrait, which is kept underneath a permanent statue of the saint installed there.
For the rest of the night, Mother Teresa’s tomb, located in a chapel formerly used as a refectory at the motherhouse until the saint’s burial there in 1997, was packed with devotees in prayer along with Missionaries of Charity nuns and novices.
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