While the Empire State Building might not be lit up in the blue and white colors of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the centennial of Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s birth Aug. 26 is being recognized in myriad other ways worldwide.
“Her life and work continue to be an inspiration for young and old, rich and poor, from all walks of life, religions and nations,” said Sister Mary Prema, superior general of the order Mother Teresa founded in 1950.
Signifying the “light” that she was for others, several special lighting ceremonies will be taking place in the United States, most of them in New York state.
Both the Peace Bridge on the Niagara River in New York and the Hutchinson Metro Center’s two office buildings in the Bronx will be lit blue and white to honor Blessed Teresa.
“This is symbolic in that Blessed Mother Teresa’s light continues to shine around the world,” said Buffalo Bishop Edward Kmiec.
In addition, Brooklyn’s oldest public building, Borough Hall, will be illuminated in blue and white tonight, the eve of the 100th anniversary.
“What better place than our diverse borough to celebrate not only Mother Teresa but people and groups of all faiths — including Brooklyn’s large Catholic community — who have made great contributions to the world, “ said Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough president.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Bishop Michael Pfeifer of San Angelo has asked priests to hang blue and white lights or ribbons on the doors of the churches on Thursday. He’s encouraged the faithful to wear blue and white, and he said he will be wearing those colors as well.
“Surely in the near future, she will be canonized as a saint,” said Bishop Pfeifer in a news release. “As we all know, Mother Teresa left a legacy and heritage unmatched in her care for the poor with her own hand in the streets of Calcutta and in many other places where she served.”
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who originally asked for the Empire State Building to be lighted, instead will hold a rally outside the Empire State Building on behalf of Mother Teresa on the evening of Aug. 26.
Catholic college campuses are joining in the commemoration too.
Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., is not only lighting several campus buildings in blue, but is also naming its new nursing program building in honor of Mother Teresa. The grand opening of the Mother Teresa Center for Nursing and Health Education will take place on Aug. 26 at 12:15pm.
Several campus buildings, including St. Benedict’s Abbey Church tower and St. Scholastica Hall tower, will be lit from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5 (the 13th anniversary of her death and her feast day). The campus is also launching its “Do Something Beautiful for God” college ministry program, hosting a block party for students in honor of Mother Teresa’s birthday, and installing an original oil painting of Blessed Teresa in the Mother Teresa Center. The college will also say a prayer for the canonization of Blessed Teresa at the school’s first home football game.
Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., will mark the day with a memorial Mass at 11:30am and by publishing videos from her visit and commencement address at the school in 1982. The videos will remain online through Blessed Teresa’s feast day.
“We will long remember the honor of Blessed Mother Teresa’s visit to Thomas Aquinas College,” says the college’s president, Michael McLean, who noted that the saintly nun visited three colleges during her 1982 trip to the United States. “We join the faithful everywhere in thanking God for her example of humble service to ‘the poorest of the poor,’ in whom she saw Christ in ‘his most distressing disguise.’”
Although Mother Teresa might not have wanted it, she’s receiving attention worldwide.
Much is taking place in India, where Mother Teresa started the Missionaries of Charity.
In New Delhi on Aug. 28, between 11:30am-1:30pm, Indian President Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil will preside over a public ceremony honoring Mother Teresa. Sister Prema, the congregation’s second superior general since Mother Teresa died in 1997, will address the gathering, and the government will release a commemorative coin.
The Hindustan Times reported that Indian publisher Amar Chitra Katha is publishing a comic book about Mother Teresa. The 40-page comic book will tell the story of how Mother Teresa came to India and about her life serving the poorest of the poor. It’s based on stories told to ACK Media by Sister Gertrude, one of the first sisters to join Mother Teresa.
“She recalled several inspiring instances, which are lesser known and authentic,” said Reena Puri, editor of ACK Media. “She became a key source of information for us. Without her assistance, the book wouldn’t have materialized.”
It’s not the only new book about her.
A new book featuring writings from Blessed Teresa is being published by Random House. Where There Is Love, There Is God: A Path to Closer Union With God and Greater Love for Others was edited by Missionaries of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of Mother Teresa’s canonization cause.
Time released another new book on the saint, Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint by longtime Time religion reporter David Van Biema and art critic Richard Lacayo, with an introduction by evangelical Christian pastor Rick Warren.
A New Cathedral
At least eight countries are praying special novenas in preparation of Mother Teresa’s feast day.
A variety of symposiums on the life and message of Mother Teresa are taking place around the world. On Aug. 26, St. Paul’s Church in Detroit is hosting a 3pm symposium, followed by the unveiling of a new statue. On Aug. 27, a national symposium featuring six speakers is taking place in New Delhi, India. On the same day, a symposium is being held in Graz, Austria.
Masses are being celebrated around the world. In Rome, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, is presiding over a Mass in the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Damascus. The celebration will be preceded by the opening of an exhibition of photographs, “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: Life, Works, Message.”
Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation of Peoples, is marking the saint’s feast day with a vigil of prayer on Saturday, Sept. 4, and a Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, Sept. 5.
New York’s Albanian community at Our Lady of Shkodra Church in Hartsdale, N.Y., is organizing a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 7pm Aug. 26 in honor of Mother Teresa’s life.
“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun,” Mother Teresa once said. “As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
Over the last few years, the parishioners of Our Lady of Shkodra have raised funds toward the construction of a cathedral named in Mother Teresa’s honor. The Cathedral of Mother Teresa in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, will be dedicated Sept. 5. Kosovo is 88% Albanian.
The only other cathedral bearing her name is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Blessed Teresa of Kolkata in Baruipur, eastern India, where Mass was celebrated on Aug. 23 to kick off a year of celebrations for the centenary.
“Mass was very central to Mother Teresa’s life,” Baruipur Bishop Salvadore Lobo told Massgoers. “She attended every morning before going out to work.”
Stamps with Mother Teresa’s likeness are being issued in four countries, including the U.S. France is issuing four collector-edition coins, one which shows Mother Teresa with Pope John Paul II.
Ten countries are hosting the “Mother Teresa: Life, Spirituality and Message” exhibit throughout the year. The American premiere of that exhibit is at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Conn.
An extensive list of celebrations and initiatives can be found online at the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center.
Tim Drake writes from St. Joseph, Minnesota.