KOLKATA: Singing nuns and followers clutching flowers flocked to Mother Teresa’s tomb in the Indian city of Kolkata to celebrate her proclamation as a saint at the Vatican yesterday. People began gathering in the early morning at Mother House in Kolkata for a special mass for the “Saint of the Gutters” before the ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica. They placed candles and flowers on her tomb in sombre contemplation. But the atmosphere at the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, the order that Teresa founded, was also one of celebration.
Nuns were singing songs honoring her and giant television screens were erected so the gathering visitors could watch the ceremony. “It’s a day of rejoicing, a day of gratitude and a day of many, many blessings,” said senior sister Mary Lysa. “The Missionaries of Charity has decided to turn this into a celebration to further Mother’s cause serving the poorest of the poor and the dying and sick.” “We will gather to witness the entire process at Vatican City as it unfolds,” she said.
Rise to fame
Teresa rose to fame in the eastern Indian city, where she devoted her life to helping the destitute and the sick in its teeming slums. Lighting a candle and placing it on the tomb, Konica Cecilia said the beloved nun had given her impoverished parents money to help them send her to school as a child. “I was fortunate to meet Mother. She was a living saint and an inspiration to me,” the 32-year-old said, adding that the nun was the pride of Kolkata. “My memories of her comfort me when I am in trouble.”
A giant portrait of Teresa was erected near Mother House and there were rounds of applause as a growing numbers of nuns and followers gathered to watch the ceremony live on the screens. In the city of Mumbai the Indian government unveiled a commemorative postage stamp of Teresa, born into a Kosovar Albanian family in 1910 in Skopje. The mass at the Vatican came one day short of the 19th anniversary of Teresa’s death, at age 87, in Kolkata.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner’s path to canonization was sealed after the Vatican last year recognized the second of two required miracles, following her death. But she had long been regarded by many as a saint. English literature teacher Madhura Banerjee described her as an inspiration to the younger generation in today’s modern world. “I was touched by her simplicity,” said Banerjee, who visited Teresa in 1995 at the headquarters to celebrate her own birthday. “When I think of her, it makes the difficult things look easy,” she said. There were also celebrations at the various homes for the destitute in Kolkata run by the charity, including special meals for those in their care. – AFP