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

“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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