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

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

“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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