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Calcutta prepares to celebrate canonisation of Mother Teresa

A nun and a visitor await the start of evening prayer on the eve of the 105th birth anniversary of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, at the Missionaries of Charity mother house in Calcutta (CNS)

Although the canonisation of Mother Teresa will take place at the Vatican on September 4, preparations are already well underway for celebrations in Calcutta.

Scholars, priests, students and artists are continuously holding seminars, exhibitions and prayer meetings every day across the city to promote “Mother Teresa’s philosophy towards humanity” and a group of young independent photographers are taking part in the crowdsourced Sainthood Project. Photographs taken throughout the city will be displayed in several locations in Rome in early September, to coincide with the canonisation of Mother Teresa.

The photographers are volunteers, trying to highlight aspects of the young Mother Teresa, who founded the Missionaries of Charity to serve the “poorest of the poor” in India. The young people are funding their own travel to Rome to participate in the ceremony and exhibit the photographs in open-air galleries.

“This is our tribute to Mother,” said Srijita Deb Burman, 25, a business professional. “These images will depict the inspiration that must have attracted Mother to this city.”

Meanwhile, artist artist Sunita Kumar, a Sikh who volunteers for the Missionaries of Charity, said she has “made several new paintings depicting (Mother Teresa’s) ideology that will be exhibited at the arts exhibition at St Xavier’s School in Calcutta until her canonisation.”

Park Street, a popular meeting place for young people in Calcutta, has already been renamed Mother Teresa Sarani and special festivities will continue in that area until Christmas.

At Mother Teresa’s home, the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, the doors are open for all, and followers and admirers come every day, visiting and praying in her tomb. Many say they have been doing so for a long time and vouch that their prayers have been heard. Some people drop in to be counseled by the sisters, asking for solace; others come looking for medicine or other daily items.

“Mother Teresa has always been the icon for the confluence of faiths, and that’s why I have such devotion for her saintly powers,” said Aarti Kumari, a Hindu and a regular visitor who comes for counseling from the nuns on family issues.

Mother Teresa’s home is already a place of worship, where novices and ordinary people can be seen carrying their books to the tomb seeking blessings.

“It was her influence that I joined the order at 18,” said Sister Ruth from Andhra Pradesh state.

Sisters Laisa and Ansavio stood near Mother Teresa’s statue, distributing small packets of medicine to a few local visitors who had come seeking help.

“I came volunteering for Mother’s home at her call, and I feel so fulfilled,” said a woman who identified herself only as Federica from Rome; she will return to Rome just before the canonisation.

Mother Teresa’s relics have been placed near her tomb on the ground floor of the motherhouse, but very soon the place will be dedicated for worship to the saint.

Representatives of the Missionaries of Charity say they have plans for regular special Masses and prayer meetings. A thanksgiving mass will be held on August 26, Mother Teresa’s birthday, ahead of the canonisation. On September 4, nuns, novices and followers will participate in the canonisation in St Peter’s Square, watching it via live broadcast.

“We, too, will witness the live ceremony here. This is a blessing and no one is going to miss it here,” said Sister Blacila.

About 30 members of the Missionaries of Charity will travel to the Vatican for the canonisation. German-born Sister Mary Prema, superior general, is already in Rome to facilitate the process and accommodate the guests.

Later in September, a series of festivities have been planned across the city, where many believe Mother Teresa’s work had already made her a saint.