Glowing Tributes Paid to Mother Teresa in India on 25th Anniversary of Her Death
The saint’s legacy remains alive and vibrant in the Indian city where she founded the Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of the poor.
KOLKATA — The Sept. 5 feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta assumed special significance as it marked the 25th anniversary passing into eternity of the founder of the Missionaries of Charity.
“We are celebrating today the 25th anniversary of the heavenly entry in death of St. Teresa of Calcutta,” said Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Kolkata, presiding over the memorial Mass on Sept. 5 at the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity.
In his homily, Archbishop D’Souza paid tribute to the legacy of the “Saint of the Gutters”:
“Mother Teresa remained ever faithful in making any sacrifice in the service of the poorest of the poor. She continues to live as the guiding principle of Missionaries to Charity and is alive through the work of Missionaries of Charity.”
Sister Mary Joseph, who was elected superior general of the congregation in March, said, “Mother Teresa was truly the mother to the old and the young, the rich and the poor. She was a mother to the Hindu and the Muslims and Christians in all walks of life.”
Sister Mary Joseph spoke to the Register at the saint’s tomb after participants from the 25th anniversary celebration visited the ground-floor tomb of Mother Teresa below the chapel. Both Archbishop D’Souza and Sister Joseph lit candles at the tomb before Missionaries of Charity sisters and devotees lit candles.
The melodious singing of Happy Feast by the novices of the congregation kicked off the celebrations on the historic day, with hundreds of pilgrims queueing up to Mother Teresa’s tomb through the day with flowers in their hands.
Soon, the archbishop’s residence — hardly 2 miles away from the motherhouse — held a special celebration of the day. Archbishop D’Souza climbed on a ladder to place a garland on a life-size bronze statue of Mother Teresa, installed on her canonization in 2016, with vicar general Father Dominic Gomes playing the accordion.
Archbishop D’Souza concluded the event with a special prayer of intercession to the saint for the archdiocese. In September 2017, the Vatican declared St. Teresa patron saint of the archdiocese for her selfless service towards helping the underprivileged and poor in Kolkata.
The massive public celebration of the 25th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa was held at an Allen Park crossing on prominent Park Street, which had been renamed “Mother Teresa Road” upon her beatification in 2003.
More than a dozen religious leaders, politicians, government ministers and artists paid tribute to Mother Teresa at the gathering, which was organized by the Catholic Association of Bengal. A portrait of Mother Teresa, with her decorated bronze statue, stood beside the stage, for each pilgrim to pay floral tributes. “I don't need your money but I need your time,” said Usha Uthap, an eminent Hindu playback singer who had been a close associate of Mother Teresa, recalling the nun’s advice to her.
“We must give our time for the service Mother has taught us,” Uthap urged, after singing a moving song about the late saint, which she had sung at Mother Teresa’s canonization at the Vatican in September 2016.
“St. Mother Teresa dedicated her entire life in the service of the poor, the ailing and the destitute. She is the epitome of love and compassion. She is an inspiration for millions,” said Mamata Bannerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state, in her message to the silver jubilee. “On this day I pay my tributes and respect to this extra ordinary soul.
“All of us are blessed to have been born in this city blessed by Mother Teresa,” said Satnam Singh Aluwalia, a leader from the Sikh community of Kolkata. “Our challenge is to follow the model she has showed us.”
A Mother to All
Arunjyoti Bhikku, a senior Buddhist monk in Kolkata, extolled St. Teresa as “a mother to all, not just the Christians.”
“She was mother to Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims,” he said. “We call her Mother because of her sacrifice and love for the poor, especially for the suffering and the needy, irrespective of their faith.”
Subha Prasanna, an eminent Hindu painter, reminded the gathering of “the noble soul that Mother Teresa was.” “She overwhelmed everyone who came in touch with her,” recalled the elderly painter, who had several close associations with the saint.
“I was amazed by Mother’s love and concern for the poor from my college days when Mother used to come to address us,” recounted Murali Punjabi, an ethnic Sindhi. “Mother would go to restaurants and request them not to throw away food but inform them the (MC) Sisters could collect it and give to the poor.”
“Once I was on a late-night flight from Mumbai to Kolkata in which Mother was also there. Since the flight had been delayed, only a few people took the food served. I could not believe when I saw Mother going around and collecting the food. She is an incredible personality with concern for the poor. That is why everyone calls her Mother,” Punjabi told the Register.
Angelina Mantosh Jasnani, president of the Catholic Association of Bengal, told the Register that “Mother taught us to give until it hurts. That is what prompted us to organize this special homage to her on this occasion.”
Jasnani, the first woman president of the century-old lay forum, said, “Mother always fascinated me with her humbleness. She inspired and brought people together to be instruments of God’s love.”