Kolkata gears up for celebrations of 'St. Teresa'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Piyal Adhikary, EPA

By Saadia Azim

KOLKATA, India (CNS) — A group of young independent
photographers are busy clicking away, taking photos of the “City of

Their photos, part of the crowdsourced “Sainthood
Project,” will be displayed in several locations in Rome in early
September, to coincide with the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. The
photographers are volunteers, trying to highlight aspects of the young Mother
Teresa, who founded the Missionaries of Charity to serve the “poorest of
the poor” in India. The young people are funding their own travel to Rome
to participate in the ceremony and exhibit the photographs in open-air galleries.

“This is our tribute to Mother,”
said Srijita Deb Burman, 25, a business professional. “These images will
depict the inspiration that must have attracted Mother to this city.”

Although the Sept. 4 canonization is at the
Vatican, Kolkata is making preparations. Scholars, priests, students and artists
are continuously holding seminars, exhibitions and prayer meetings every day
across the city to propagate “Mother Teresa’s philosophy towards humanity.”

“I have made several new paintings
depicting her ideology that will be exhibited at the arts exhibition at St. Xavier’s School in Kolkata
until her canonization,” said noted artist Sunita Kumar, a Sikh who volunteers
for the Missionaries of Charity.

Park Street, Kolkata’s vibrant street and a
prominent hangout for young people, has already been renamed Mother Teresa
Sarani. Special festivities will continue in that area until Christmas.

At Mother Teresa’s home, the headquarters of
the Missionaries of Charity, the doors are open for all, and followers and
admirers come every day, visiting and praying in her tomb. Many say they have
been doing so for a long time and vouch that their prayers have been heard.
Some people drop in to be counseled by the sisters, asking for solace; others
come looking for medicine or other daily items.

“Mother Teresa has always been the icon
for the confluence of faiths, and that’s why I have such devotion for her
saintly powers,” said Aarti Kumari, a Hindu and a regular visitor who comes
for counseling from the nuns on family issues.

Mother’s home is already a place of worship,
where novices and ordinary people can be seen carrying their books to the tomb
seeking blessings.

“It was her influence that I joined the
order at 18,” recalled Sister Ruth from Andhra Pradesh state.

Sisters Laisa and Ansavio stood near Mother
Teresa’s statue, distributing small packets of medicine to a few local visitors
who had come seeking help.

“I came volunteering for Mother’s home
at her call, and I feel so fulfilled,” said a woman who identified herself
only as Federica from Rome; she will return to Rome just before the canonization.

Mother Teresa’s relics have been placed near
her tomb on the ground floor of the motherhouse, but very soon the place will
be dedicated for worship to the saint. Representatives of the Missionaries of
Charity say they have plans for regular special Masses and prayer meetings.

A thanksgiving mass will be held Aug. 26, Mother
Teresa’s birthday, ahead of the canonization. On Sept. 4, nuns, novices and
followers will participate in the canonization in St. Peter’s Square through a live viewing party.

“We, too, will witness the live
ceremony here. This is a blessing and no one is going to miss it here,” said
Sister Blacila.

About 30 members of the Missionaries of
Charity will travel to the Vatican for the canonization. German-born Sister Mary
Prema, superior general, is already in Rome to facilitate the process and
accommodate the guests.

Later in September, a series of festivities
have been planned across the city, where many believe Mother Teresa’s work had already made
her a saint.

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