When the world celebrates the proclamation of Mother Teresa as a ‘Saint’ on Sunday, September 4, by Pope Francis in the Vatican, a church in Maharashtra will also have its own memorable celebrations.
On that day, ‘The Blessed Mother Teresa Church’ in Virar town here, around 60 km north of Mumbai, will be re-christened as ‘St. Mother Teresa Church’ amidst pious celebrations for the lady who touched the hearts of millions of poor in India with her selfless charitable works.
The renaming ceremony will bring alive the cherished memories of Mother Teresa’s only visit here in April 1986 for the people of Vasai-Virar and will make it perhaps the only church in the country to be dedicated to ‘Saint’ Mother Teresa.
“She had blessed the people of this Diocese, inaugurated the extension wing of the Cardinal Gracias Hospital and later addressed a youth rally here,” Father Richard Dabre, Secretary to Archbishop, Diocese of Vasai, said.
The soon-to-be St. Mother Teresa Church also treasures a drop of Mother Teresa’s blood — a relic enshrined in a glass case — which attracts thousands of people from all over the country.
A magnificent, one-tonne statue of Mother Teresa, constructed in stark white Makarana marble, erected in 2012, looks benevolently upon the worshippers inside the church, Dabre said.
Preparations are currently under way to make the upcoming historic event of Sunday in the Vatican and in Vasai Diocese unforgettable. Colourful decorations, multi-coloured lights, banners, hoardings and flowers shall be seen in and around the Christian pockets in the Diocese, with a population of 137,000.
A procession of young and old will be taken out to the church and will culminate in a special Mass to be celebrated by Archbishop Felix Machado to herald the new Saint that evening. More than 5,000 people are expected to witness the event.
Representatives of the Missionaries of Charity in Vasai, Mumbai and other parts of the country will also be present.
People all over the world will remember Mother Teresa, especially in Kolkata where she dedicated her life to serving the poorest of poor, earning the nickname of ‘Saint of the Gutters’ during her lifetime, through the Missionaries of Charity she founded.
Born on August 26, 1910, as Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, in Skopje, Macedonia, the former school teacher attracted global attention, was honoured with some of the most prestigious awards, including India’s top civilian award Bharat Ratna in 1980, Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1962.
Wearing a white sari with blue border — her perpetually smiling, wrinkled face etched permanently in the memory of the people — she remained an ever-accessible human being to commoners, celebrities and world leaders till her death on September 5, 1997, aged 87.
Her death anniversary has been declared by the UN as ‘International Day of Charity’ and Indian Railways introduced a new train ‘Mother Express’ on her birth centenary in 2010.
A delegation of around 50 Christians drawn from the Diocese of Vasai will head to the Vatican later this week to take part in the celebrations there for the canonisation which will be watched by a global audience.
The delegation will comprise the former Parish Priest of The Blessed Mother Teresa Church, Father Michael Rosario, and Father Joe Pereira of Vasai.
After her passing, the Vatican initiated the process of canonising her as a Saint which will finally happen next Sunday.
Over the years, she inspired articles, books, dramas, films, documentaries, a painting series by the late Indian artist M.F. Husain, hundreds of coins and postage stamps by countries around the world.