Nuns from the Catholic Order of the Missionaries of Charity pray at the tomb of Mother Teresa to mark her 110th birth anniversary in Kolkata on Aug. 26. (Photo: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP)
The feast of Mother Teresa of Kolkata was a subdued affair this year as Covid-19 restrictions prevented the faithful from visiting the headquarters of the saintly nun's congregation in Kolkata city in eastern India.
Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Calcutta led a concelebrated Mass on Sept. 5 and prayed at the tomb of the nun, who founded the Missionaries of Charity congregation in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).
Missionaries of Charity nuns celebrate the feast of St. Teresa, popularly known as Mother Teresa, with solemnity each year, drawing people from all over the world into the packed tomb room and courtyard of the headquarters, also known as Mother House.
But only a handful of nuns, including the congregation's superior Sister Mary Prema Pierick, attended the Mass that Archbishop D'Souza concelebrated with two other priests.
"Mother Teresa's spirituality was based on the person of Jesus … she believed in the dignity of every person created in the image and likeness of God," he said, explaining the foundation of the Missionaries of Charity.
The archbishop distinguished between "true spirituality and artificial religiosity" and said Christian prayers should help make inner changes to share resources without selfishness.
The world is witnessing an unprecedented pandemic. "If Mother Teresa was alive today, she would tell us to see Jesus in every suffering person, dying person, and care for him or her in whatever way you can and share whatever you have and do not be indifferent."
Farell Shah, the archdiocese's social communication director, said that this year, due to the Covid-19 restrictions and safety concerns, numbers were strictly limited to a handful of participants.
He said they arranged to livestream the Mass online "considering the global interest in the Mass from Mother House," Shah told UCA News.
The death anniversary has gathered significant crowds since the nun died on Sept. 5, 1997, aged 87. It is an official feast day in the Church since her canonization on Sept. 4, 2016.
The United Nations has designated the feast day of St. Teresa as the International Day of Charity.
The Albanian nun, born in Skopje in 1910, came to India as a Loreto nun at the age of 19. She left the Loreto congregation following a "call within the call" to "serve the poor's poorest," her biography states.
She began working in the slums of Kolkata and in 1950 founded the Missionaries of Charity congregation. The nuns, now identified by their blue-bordered Indian sari, work worldwide among the poor.
The congregation has some 5,000 nuns in over 770 houses, 243 of them in India. They work for the destitute and dying besides providing shelter homes for unwed mothers and orphanages.