By Antonina Zielinska
On the day Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonized a saint of the universal Church, local bishops, priests, Missionaries of Charity and the lay faithful gathered at Our Lady of Victory, Bedford-Stuyvesant, for a Mass of thanksgiving on the occasion.
“We all knew that she is a saint, but now it is official,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said Sunday, Sept. 4, at the Mass at Our Lady of Victory. He also thanked and congratulated the Sisters of Charity who were in attendance at the Mass from the Diocese of Brooklyn and Archdiocese of New York.
“What a blessing they have been to our diocese,” Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto said in his homily. “We see the good work that they do. We feel the powerful presence of their prayers. Sisters, we thank you for your presence.”
Six Sisters of Charity call Our Lady of Victory home and fondly recall Mother Teresa’s visits there. Our Lady of Victory Church is a worship site of St. Martin de Porres parish.
“When she told her sisters that the best way to serve God is to do the next good thing, truly she gave you a way of life,” Bishop Chappetto said.
“Hers was an unforgettable life, devoted to, as we all know, the poorest of the poor. Pope Francis gives us a great example. It is no coincidence that this Saint of Mercy is canonized during the Year of Mercy.”
The bishop said Mother Teresa’s life was a witness to great virtues. Her dedication to prayer was so profound she refused to allow her sisters to forgo their prayer times, even when humanitarian workers called. She said it is from prayer that the sisters are nourished to be able to undertake their work.
She also had a powerful respect for other religions demonstrated not least by the fact that her order paid for the funeral rights of each person who died in their care in accordance with each individual’s religious beliefs.
Woman of Humility
Her humility inspired the world. She did not forgo completing her simple chores such as cleaning and laundry even on the days where she had to deliver important speeches, such as to the general assembly of the United Nations.
As a way to commemorate the day of her canonization, Bishop DiMarzio blessed a statue of the church’s newest saint, depicting her holding a joyful child.
After the Mass of thanksgiving, the Missionaries of Charity hosted the congregation for a cake and a movie about their foundress’ life.
“She brought sweetness to a dark world,” Bishop DiMarzio said before he cut the cake. “She brought sweetness to those who suffer.”
Bishop Chappetto explained that despite Mother Teresa’s great sacrifices she still enjoyed chocolate and ice cream.
“Mother is a testament that we do not have to suppress our humanity in order to become a saint,” he said.
Henry Charles, who attended the Mass of thanksgiving while visiting his family, said Mother Teresa is special to him because he can relate to her. He said it is a revolutionary thought that people from his lifetime can be canonized. He also said he feels a special connection with her through the goodness she spread in his native St. Lucia, to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Danette Friedel, an Episcopalian from Kansas who volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity in Harlem, returned to New York to celebrate with the Sisters.
“She loved everyone, whether or not Catholic,” she said, explaining that she was so inspired by Mother Teresa’s life that she wanted to join her in India. Although she could not do so, she eventually was able to assist Mother Teresa’s sisters in Harlem. She said the saint taught her that “you don’t have to go to India to find God.”
Rose May Agnant, also a volunteer with the sisters, said that Mother Teresa has been a personal inspiration to her.
“What she has done, it shows that there is still hope,” Agnant said. She said the saint’s life inspired her to not wallow in her own problems, but to trust Jesus and concern herself with others.
“I fell in love with her because she loved Jesus and the Blessed Mother,” said volunteer Blanca Rabanales, who once discerned a vocation to the consecrated life.
Aida Castillo, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes, Bushwick, met Mother Teresa when she came to Castillo’s parish for the opening of her new convent there. Although she was only about 11 at the time, Castillo said she remembers being in the presence of a saint.
Aura Around Her
“We knew we were in the presence of someone special,” she said. “There was an aura around her. Of course, everyone wanted to meet her and touch her hand.”
Castillo said she is continually thankful for the presence of the contemplative Sisters in her parish.
“I am grateful that the sisters are praying for us, praying for the priests, praying for the Church,” she said.
Castillo shared a table at the Our Lady of Victory celebration with two girls who have also felt the impact of the new saint.
“She means everything to me because she helped children around the world and she inspires children,” said 11-year-old Paula Medouze. “When I get older, I want to help a lot of children.”
“She showed us how to help those who do not have much, or do not have anything at all, with a peaceful heart,” said Paula’s 13-year-old sister, Ashley.