|The St. Teresa of Kolkata Syro-Malabar Mission in Nashville celebrated their patron’s recent canonization with a Mass at St. Joseph Church in Madison. The Syro-Malabar Rite is one of the Eastern rite churches in union with the Roman Catholic Church and is most prevalent in India. The day also included a luncheon featuring Indian food, an auction, music from a traditional Indian drum group, and a showing of the movie “The Letters” about the life of St. Teresa. People attending the Mass carry a portrait of St. Teresa during a procession through St. Joseph Church and School. The procession, originally planned for outside, was moved indoors because of rain. Photos by Andy Telli
After Betty Krogman’s husband Gerald was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, they began praying to Blessed Mother Teresa for her intercession, hoping for a cure.
“We were praying we would be the cure that would make her a saint,” Krogman said. “It didn’t work out that way.”
Krogman, whose husband died in 2014, never gave up her devotion to Mother Teresa. Last spring she read in the Tennessee Register that Father Tomy Joseph, M.S.F.S., pastor of St. Joseph Church in Madison, was taking a group to Rome for Mother Teresa’s canonization. “I didn’t even think twice about it,” Krogman said. “I just called and told him I wanted to go.”
Krogman and five others from the Diocese of Nashville – Father Tomy, St. Joseph Youth Director Jennifer Rodgers, Alfred Faria, Michael Maurer and Malu Sepe – were in Rome on Sept. 4 to see Mother Teresa become canonized as St. Teresa of Kolkata.
“I wanted to be there, to be a witness to a great event,” Krogman said. “That was the important part. I was actually there in that place.”
“It was a special moment,” said Father Tomy, who was able to concelebrate the Mass and distribute Communion. For the canonization he was sitting with other priests at the side of the altar, not far from Pope Francis. “It was kind of a dream coming true for me to be part of the canonization.”
For Father Tomy, a native of India where St. Teresa started her ministry serving the dying and the poor, her canonization had a special significance. “I have appreciation for her as a nun, as a saint, as a human person, especially as a person in India,” Father Tomy said.
“So many people were excited” about the canonization, said Rodgers. And despite the massive crowds and the oppressive heat, “people really cared for one another,” she said. “You felt a sense of unity and a sense of great love.”
The discomfort of the heat didn’t matter, Father Tomy said, because “we were focused on something higher, on something better. … All the small sufferings were insignificant.
“That was the beauty of Mother Teresa,” he added. “As she cared for the sick and dying, she was focused on the love of Christ. For her, helping people was a joy, not a pain. She was focused on the love of Christ.
|The St. Teresa of Kolkata Syro-Malabar Mission in Nashville celebrated their patron’s recent canonization with a Mass at St. Joseph Church in Madison. Father Tomy Joseph, MSFS, left, the director of the St. Teresa of Kolkata Syro-Malabar Mission in Nashville and pastor of St. Joseph, and Father Mathew Perumpally, pastor of St. Christopher Church in Dickson, bless rice and St. Teresa medals during the Mass.
“She’s an icon of the love of Christ in our time,” Father Tomy said. “She was never interested in receiving. She was more interested in giving. … That made her a saint.”
“It’s really hard to wrap my mind around how much our Lord endured for us out of love,” Rodgers said. “St. Teresa understood it better than anybody else.”
When Krogman’s husband was sent home from hospice, his doctor kept asking if he was in pain. The doctor was surprised when her husband said he wasn’t feeling any pain because it should have been tremendous. The doctor told them. “Maybe that was your miracle.”
“I truly believe that was,” Krogman said.
Her husband died on Sept. 1, 2014, and he was buried on Sept. 5, the feast day for Mother Teresa. That only deepened Krogman’s devotion to the saint.
She is drawn to St. Teresa’s care for the poor. “I have always had great empathy with the poorest of the poor,” said Krogman, who after 21 years as a teacher and principal at St. Ann School became a teacher in an inner-city school in Nashville, was involved in prison ministry at Dismas House, and is involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Henry Church where she is a parishioner.
“I feel she has been an extreme example of what it is to reach out and minister to those who need our presence,” Krogman said of St. Teresa.
‘Starting a new beginning’
After returning from the canonization, Father Tomy has been involved in celebrating the new saint in the Diocese of Nashville. The St. Teresa of Kolkata Syro-Malabar Mission, of which he is the director, held its annual Mass and celebration for their patron saint’s feast day on Sept. 17. The Syro-Malabar Rite began in India and is one of the Eastern Rite churches in union with the Roman Catholic Church.
|A woman touches the portrait of St. Teresa. Members of Syro-Malabar community traveled from as far away as Memphis and Atlanta to attend the celebration.
“This year was different,” Father Tomy said. “This year was the first celebration of her feast day after she became a saint. We were starting a new beginning.”
On hand for the celebration was Bishop David Choby, Mar Mar Jacob Angadiath, Bishop of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago, and Father Mathew Elayadathamadam Varkey, pastor of St. Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Church in Atlanta, who brought several members of his parish and the parish’s children’s choir. The Nashville mission is part of the Atlanta deanery for the Syro-Malabar diocese, which covers the entire United States.
Also visiting were several sisters from the Missionaries of Christ religious order founded by St. Teresa. They serve in Memphis where they operate a shelter for homeless single women and mothers with children. “It was nice to have them here,” Father Tomy said. “We were happy to have them.”
“We come together … with a sense of humble appreciation for what God reveals to us in someone like St. Teresa of Kolkata,” Bishop Choby said during his homily. “Just as Jesus told St. Thomas ‘whoever sees me sees the father,’ it can really be said whoever sees St. Teresa sees Jesus.”
|Marlon Jacob, son of Dileep Jacob and Manu Joseph, received his First Communion during a Mass celebrating the canonization of St. Teresa of Kolkata at St. Joseph Church in Madison on Sept. 17.
The bishop also noted, that now that St. Teresa has been canonized as a saint of the universal Church, it was appropriate that at the Mass were people of many ethnic backgrounds and three rites of the Church: Syro-Malabar, Latin and Coptic.
By canonizing St. Teresa during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Bishop Choby said, Pope Frances highlighted the Church’s concern for the poor and those on the margins. “Let us maintain that love of the poor.”
The diocesan celebration of St. Teresa’s canonization was to continue with a special program on Saturday, Sept. 24. The program, co-sponsored by Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Catholic Relief Services, the Diocese of Nashville and the Syro-Malabar community, will include Mass with Father Thomas Kalam, C.M.I., the associate pastor at Our Lady of the Lake who worked with St. Teresa in India, a video about the saint’s life, and group discussions.