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Asian Catholics celebrate Mother Teresa's canonization

Special masses were held and memories shared of the church's newest saint

ucanews.com reporters

ucanews.com reporters

Published: September 05, 2016 11:44 AM GMT

Updated: September 05, 2016 11:45 AM GMT

Asian Catholics celebrate Mother Teresa's canonization

A Bangladeshi Muslim woman pays homage to Mother Teresa during a commemoration program in Dhaka on Sept. 4. (ucanews.com photo) 

Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa Sept. 4 at the Vatican, and throughout Asia churches held celebrations and special events, with people who met her sharing memories of the church's newest saint.

The canonization was a national media event in India where the saint lived, began her work and died 19 years ago, with most English channels telecasting the entire ceremony live while newspapers ran the story on their front pages: "Mother Teresa gets a halo, the world a saint," read a headline in the Times of India.

Dioceses and parishes across India observed the day with prayers and commemorative programs. Several parishes put up pictures of St. Teresa and lit lamps and candles venerating her after Sunday Mass.

"She belongs to the nation, not just Catholics," said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, who was part of the Indian government's official delegation for the canonization at the Vatican. "We want the celebrations to have a national outlook beyond politics, religion and all such differences," he said.

In neighboring Bangladesh, churches installed large portraits of Mother Teresa and paid tribute with garlands, candles and incense. Priests offered special reflections on her life and work.

Some 95 Missionaries of Charity, the congregation that Mother Teresa founded and working in 13 centers across the Muslim-majority nation, held special prayers in the lead up to the canonization with hundreds of laypeople joining.

"Mother Teresa has been an icon of mercy throughout her life. She is an example and she calls us to take up responsibilities and care for poor and suffering souls," said Father Martin Mondol, parish of priest of St. Joseph's Cathedral.

In Pakistan, the church held special prayers and services to mark the occasion. In Lahore, Archbishop Sebastian Shah dedicated his Mass to the new saint, and in Faisalabad children offered gifts to Missionaries of Charity nuns at Holy Rosary Church before watching a documentary on the life of Mother Teresa.

Yousaf Benjamin, Executive Director of Dignity First, an NGO for persecuted Christians, says his encounter with the nun inspired him to work for human rights and charity.

The former seminarian met her in 1991 when she visited Pakistan for the first time. "What have you done for others today?" she asked him. This question later became part of the regular evening reflections at St. Mary's Minor Seminary in Lahore.

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"I feel so blessed and lucky to have meet the saint in person," he said. "She taught us how to live for others and love everybody."

Similarly, special Masses were held throughout Sri Lanka where Missionaries of Charity nuns provide shelter to unwed mothers, orphans, and children with disabilities.

"She embraced the wounded and outcastes of society; this exemplary character is a challenge to us today," said Father Ranjith Terry, parish priest of Pitipana, Negombo during his Mass Sept. 4.


People from all walks of life come to pray Sept. 4 at the tomb of St. Teresa in Kolkata, eastern India, where she is buried. (ucanews.com photo) 


Inspired by her life, parishioners there built a house for low-income families and opened it on Sept. 4 to coincide with the canonization. "We will be sharing the joy of this occasion with the poor,'' said Missionaries of Charity Sister Johannes at Shanthi Niwasa (House of Peace) in Colombo.

In Indonesia, more than 50 members of the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa in Jakarta joined a thanksgiving Mass held to celebrate the beatification. "If I were in her position, I would have been so proud of myself. But she didn't do that, she lived a very simple life," said Wiranto Gunawan, co-founder of the group.

"Mother Teresa was very simple but smart," said Maria Theresa Tresnowati, who runs the home for poor sick people that bears the name of the saint. "I met her when I visited Calcutta years ago. She always said, 'I am nothing; I have nothing; I can do nothing' but in fact she did incredible things."

In China, news of the canonization was widely shared across social media and many were eager to watch the televised ceremony. Mother Teresa visited there three times throughout the 1980s and 90s.

The nun never realized her dream of opening a house for the poor in China but after her death, Li Baofu, a laywoman, founded the Evangelic Association of Mother Teresa in China with members praying every day for the saint's intercession to further their work.

"May St. Teresa's footprint reach every corner of China," is part of the daily prayer, according to the congregation's Superior General Sister Prema.

In Hong Kong and Macau, there were exhibitions, talks and film screenings about the nun. In 2012, Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong called for her intercession to help restart the China-Vatican dialogue — a process that is now well underway.

In Taiwan, Vice President Philip Chen Chien-jen told reporters before boarding a plane bound for the Vatican on Sept. 3 that he would pray for sustainable peace across the Taiwan Strait and the world.

In his article posted on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam's website Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Kham of My Tho wrote, "Mother Teresa is a witness to mercy in the context of Year of Mercy."

When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she was recognized as a lively witness to love and compassion, Bishop Kham said.

"Mother Teresa made no concession when she told the truth. She was not only full of love but also bravery and readiness to protect God's justice and human dignity," Bishop Kham said.

Church leaders in the Philippines expressed hope that her canonization will continue to inspire people to do works of charity and service. Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon described her as a "model Christian."

In an interview on Filipino television, Donnie Salvador shared a "miracle" experienced by her family when her husband, who was living with cancer, met Mother Teresa.

Salvador said that after the meeting her husband's health improved and he even gained weight. "The doctor could hardly believe it," she said. This case was one of a number of miracles presented as a basis for Mother Teresa's beatification in 2003.

"We are glad that Mother Teresa will finally be listed among the saints after being a living saint here on earth," said Bishop Sorsogon.

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