|Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa a saint in Rome on Sept. 4. She was widely revered around the world for her work with the “poorest of the poor” in India. Blessed Teresa of Kolkata cares for a sick man in an undated photo. CNS photo/KNA
On Sunday, Sept. 4, Pope Francis cannonized as a saint Mother Teresa, who founded the Missionaries of Charity to serve the destitute and dying in India. Just as her renown and influence spread throughout the world, so will the celebration of her sainthood.
The Diocese of Nashville will have two events to mark Mother Teresa’s canonization.
On Saturday, Sept. 17, the Blessed Mother Teresa Syro-Malabar Mission Parish will celebrate its annual Mass and Taste of India Experience meal to honor its patron. And on Sept. 24, the diocese will host an enrichment day in the new saint’s honor featuring a Mass celebrated by Father Thomas Kalam, C.M.I., who met Mother Teresa in his native India, and several age-appropriate workshops for children and adults examining how people can carry on her mission of service of the poor.
“Our idea is that as Catholics we are called to reach out to the poorest of the poor. We’re holding up someone who reached out to those most in need,” said Amy Shelide Mayer, advocacy and social concerns coordinator at Catholic Charities of Tennessee and one of the organizers of the enrichment day. “With Mother Teresa’s love for God and love for those in need, it’s something we couldn’t pass up.”
Father Tomy Joseph, M.S.F.S., director of the Syro-Malabar mission in Nashville and pastor of St. Joseph Church in Madison, will lead a group of eight people who will travel to Rome for the canonization.
“All over the world people are coming. It’s going to be a big ocean of people,” Father Tomy said of the canonization.
“She’s a saint of our time, a saint we touched, a saint who we looked at, a saint who we have listened to,” Father Tomy said. “It’s good for us to see a saint in our time. It makes it personal to you and personal to me. There’s more excitement, more passion when you know somebody who is canonized a saint.”
|This Dec. 12, 1979 shows Mother Teresa in Oslo, Norway, after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. CNS/EPA|
In his native India, Mother Teresa was revered, even though only a small percentage of the people are Catholic, Father Tomy said. “They have a great appreciation of what she did for the people.”
“She is a source of pride for all India,” he added. “An icon of love, icon of hope, icon of even pride for all Indians, not only Christians.”
Mother Teresa reached beyond religious boundaries, Father Tomy said. “She only had one standard, to see God’s love in the eyes of another person.”
Her willingness to serve Indians of every religion required a special grace, Father Tomy said. “If you are not a person of God’s grace, you can’t do that.”
The Syro-Malabar rite is one of the Eastern rites in union with the Roman Catholic Church. It traces its origins to St. Thomas the Apostle, who brought Christianity to India in the first century.
When the Syro-Malabar mission was established in Nashville, Father Tomy chose Mother Teresa as its patron saint because of his appreciation for all she’s done, he said. The mission is the only Syro-Malabar community in the United States named for Mother Teresa, he said.
Each year, the mission holds a special celebration to honor its patron saint. This year, all the people of the diocese are invited. The mission celebrates Mass twice a month at the Church of the Assumption in Nashville, but this year’s celebration of Mother Teresa will be moved to St. Joseph to accommodate more people, Father Tomy said.
The celebration will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David Choby and Bishop Jacob Angadiath of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas of Chicago, which oversees the Syro Malabar Rite communities in the United States and Canada. Also on hand will be Father Mathew Elayadathamadam Varkey, M.S.F.S., pastor of St. Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and several of his parishioners.
Following the Mass, there will be a procession around the St. Joseph parish grounds. The celebration will continue with a small auction to raise funds to support the mission and a Taste of India Experience featuring Indian food.
“People can come to one of the events or all of them,” Father Tommy said. Organizers are asking that people who are planning to attend the Taste of India Experience contact the St. Joseph Church office at 615-865-1071 so they can prepare enough food.
|In this 1996 black-and-white file photo below, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata talks with Ken Hackett, left, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former president of Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore, Md. CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Relief Services|
The diocese’s enrichment day will follow 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Catholic Pastoral Center, 2800 McGavock Pike in Nashville. The theme for the event is taken from an initiative by Catholic Relief Services: “Mother to the Poor, Model to us all.”
The event is designed for people of all ages, and child care will be available for families with young children, Mayer said. Following the opening Mass, there will be workshops geared to different age groups: grades one to five; grades six to eight; high school, young adults; and adults, Mayer said. The diocesan offices of Youth and Young Adults and Adult Formation are helping to organize the events.
The workshops will be interactive, reflecting on Mother Teresa’s story, Mayer said.
For adults, the focus will be on advocacy, “how to go forward in the spirit of Mother Teresa’s witness,” she said. Jennifer Murphy of the Catholic Public Policy Commission will talk about advocacy on the local and state levels, and CRS representative Michael Trujillo will speak about CRS’ advocacy globally.
The event will end with a service project, Mayer said. People will be asked to make cards for the clients in Catholic Charities’ Senior Enrichment Center and the Living at Home program, which serves about 40 people who are homebound.
Mayer is hopeful participants will be able to deliver the cards themselves and meet the people they are making the card for. “Mother Teresa was so relational I would love for that to be an outgrowth of that. She believed in spending time with people.”
There is no charge for the enrichment day, but registration is required and available online at http://bit.ly/MT9-24-16 or by calling 615-760-1019.
The opening Mass will be celebrated by Father Kalam, the associate pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville, who met Mother Teresa and members of her order in India.
As a theology professor, Father Kalam defended Mother Teresa from critics who saw her work as perpetuating an unjust society. “My argument was Mother Teresa is taking care of the victims of injustice in society,” and if others have a vocation to change an unjust society they should follow that call, rather than criticize her. “Victims have to be taken care. They are human beings. They have a life,” he said. “That is something beautiful for God and his people.”
Father Kalam would visit Missionaries of Charity convents, he said. “I was impressed by the simple life of these sisters. … There was no waste of money donated to them. Every penny was meant for the poor.”
Mother Teresa didn’t send the sisters of her order for formal training as nurses, preferring to put them to work serving those in need as soon as she could. “Mother Teresa had a sense of urgency for serving the poor,” Father Kalam said.
After she died in 1997, Father Kalam was serving as the chief executive officer of St. John’s Medical College and Hospital, the largest Catholic teaching hospital in India and one of the country’s top medical schools. He met with Mother Teresa’s successor, Sister Nirmala. “I told her your sisters have the love for the poorest of the poor. Perhaps you don’t have the expertise to serve them. We at St. John’s have the expertise to serve them. And we don’t have that love that you have for the poorest of the poor,” Father Kalam said.
He offered to train a group of the order’s sisters free of charge every year.
“In the hospital their presence was very beneficial,” Father Kalam said. “The doctors and staff benefitted from their commitment and their love of the poor.”
Father Kalam remembered Mother Teresa as “a very humble person. As a humble person, she was very strong. She had the courage to be herself.”