In just 19 years after her death, Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who devoted her entire life to serve the poor and homeless in India, was canonized as a saint by Pope Francis at a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on Sunday (Sept 4, 2016).
She was beatified on Oct 19, 2003 after Pope John Paul II approved a miraculous cure of Indian woman Monica Besra, who was suffering from stomach tumour, attributed to Mother Teresa post her death in 1997.
On Dec 17, 2015 Pope Francis approved a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Mother Teresa, where a dying Brazilian man, Marcilio Haddad Andrino, was reportedly cured by praying to the saint.
On Sunday, before thousands of pilgrims across the world, the Pope announced: “We declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a Saint.”
The canonization was attended by a twelve-member delegation led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, a state-delegation led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and another led by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who had in his early years worked as a volunteer for Mother’s Order The Missionaries of Charity (MoC) in Kolkata.
As many as thirty-five bishops across India attended the ceremony.
Back in Kolkata, a special Mass was organized at Mother House, The Missionaries of Charity headquarters.
Here are 10 interesting facts about Saint Teresa that you might like to know:
1. Though Mother Teresa was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on Aug. 26, 1910, at Skopje in Macedonia, she preferred to recognize Aug 27 as her DoB (Date of Birth) since it was the day when she was baptized.
2. At the age of 18, she left home and joined Sisters of Loreto in Rathfarnham, Ireland to lead the life of a missionary. And since then, she met neither her mother Dranafile Bojaxhiu nor her sister Aga Bojaxhiu till she died at the age of 87.
3. She took the name “Teresa” in 1931 as a mark of respect towards her patron saint Saint Therese of Lisieux.
4. In 1946 during her retreat to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa realized her true calling was. She was often quoted as saying: “I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”
5. It was in the evening on Aug 17, 1948 that Mother Teresa, the headmistress of Loreto Convent School at Entally in Kolkata, officially wore her signature white saree with three blue stripes for the first time.
Pertinently, in those days, women sweepers in the city used to wear similar kind of sarees. Mother selected the dress to honour manual scavengers.
5. Her only belongings were two pairs of sarees, one pair of sandals, a prayer book and a rosary.
6. When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa insisted that the $192,000 budget for the traditional honour dinner be given to charities to help the poor in India.
7. In 1964 when Pope Paul VI came to Calcutta (now Kolkata), she was too busy in her charity works to meet him. Praising her dedication, he gave his ceremonial white limousine to her. Mother auctioned the car and used the funds for the poor.
8. In 1981, citing failing health conditions, Mother Teresa offered to resign as the head of MoC and held an election to choose her successor.
Everyone unanimously voted for Mother while she voted for Sister Nirmala, who later took charge of the Order post her demise.
9. Once when Mother went to a baker to ask for bread for her orphaned children, he spat on her hand. Mother told him that she would keep the spit for herself and held out another hand to ask for some bread for the kids. The baker went on to become the main bread donor of her orphanage.
10. Even today the name plate at Mother House reads: Mother Teresa, M.C., IN (and not OUT). This is because the Sisters at MoC believe that she is always inside the house in body (tomb) and in spirit.
(Sources: Motherteresa.org, Catholic.org, BBC, CNN, Legacy.com, Speaking Tree, YurTopic.com, India Today)
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.