By Robin Gomes
Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Kolkata, on 26 August, celebrated a Mass at the tomb of the Mother Teresa at the Mother House, or the headquarters, of the Missionaries of Charity nuns, in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, o the occasion of the saint's 109th birthday.
“Jesus invites us to love one another. The Mother served the poorest of the poor with selfless service and passionate love, giving them to Jesus through her work,” the archbishop said in his homily.
Later, he lit a candle on the decorated tomb and those present sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to their founder, known simply as Mother Teresa.
Sister Mary Prema, the Superior General of the congregation, said: "Mother always repeated that we are called to be faithful, not to be successful".
The saint’s birthday is a major celebration in the house when she was alive, and the nuns continue to celebrate it even after her death in 1997 and canonization in 2016.
Senior nuns told UCANEWS that the tradition of celebrating Mother Teresa’s birthday continues to be observed in the order’s 700 homes in 136 countries, even after her death.
Today, the MC nuns worldwide number some 4,500 members.
For Father Dominic Gomes, the vicar general of the archdiocese, who concelebrated the Mass with his Archbishop, "It was a splendid celebration.” “The 109th anniversary of the birth of our beloved Saint Mother Teresa was a moment of thanksgiving through prayer and joy,” he told AsiaNews, noting that the chapel was packed with people of all social classes.
In the Catholic liturgical calendar, a saint’s feast day is marked normally on the day of death, the day he or she attained heavenly life.
Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents on August 26, 1910, in Skopje, in what is North Macedonia today. The 19-year old teenager arrived in eastern India’s Kolkata city in 1929 with the Sisters of Loreto from Ireland. After her novitiate, she became a member of the congregation. Later in 1950, she founded her Missionaries of Charity order for poor and abandoned people.
She died 22 years ago on 5 September 1997, at the Mother House, at the age of age 87.
She was declared a saint by Pope Francis on September 4, 2016, and her liturgical feast is celebrated on September 5, the day she died.
Fidelity to Christ
"Our dearest Mother, give us a part of your faithfulness to God and to the poorest of the poor," said Sr. Prema in a prayer, sharing her thoughts in a message on the occasion of Mother Teresa’s 109th birthday.
"God did not call me to be successful. He called me to be faithful,” Sr. Prema said recalling Mother Teresa’s conviction. “She was not concerned about success, wealth, fame and power. She knew that God had called her and that God is always faithful.” Sr. Prema explained that this was because of her Albanian culture and her mother who taught her to “keep her word of honour, even at the cost of her own life.”
In her faithfulness, she relied on God’s providence for everything she needed, never closing her heart to anyone, especially those who wounded her. Her fidelity made her the “defender of the right to life of for the unborn, the abandoned and disabled children” and the “Mother of the unwanted”. Because of her faithfulness, she was blessed with extraordinary fruitfulness and became “an icon of God's tender and caring love”.
Sr. Prema recalled that Mother Teresa was faithful in dedicating herself to the most humble service, so much so that in 1985 the then UN secretary-general Perez de Cuellar called her “the most powerful woman in the world".
The United Nations General Assembly on 17 December 2012 adopted a resolution instituting the International Day of Charity on 5 September, Mother Teresa’s feast day, in recognition of the efforts of charitable organizations and individuals, including those of Mother Teresa.