Saturday, September 5, 2009

Twelfth Anniversary of Blessed Mother Teresa; a Priest from Tamil Nadu

Today, September 5, marks the 12th anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa, a woman known the world over when she passed away as the founder of the Missionaries of Charity.

During a trip to the Jesuit Province of Darjeeling, India in 1996 to ordain six Jesuit priests (the local bishop had died a couple of years earlier and there was a long interval before his successors appointment, which coincided with the 50th anniverary of the English-speaking Canadian Jesuits taking responsibility for the mission and the invitation for me to preside), I had the opportunity to concelebrate Mass at the Motherhouse of the Missionaries in Calcutta and met Mother afterwards. Though in frail health, she had bounded forward to receive the Lord in Holy Communion from my hands.

It was a moving moment for me and my confreres to speak briefly with her and to be recipients of her joy and enthusiasm for the Lord's mission. We know since the publication of her spiritual diaries (Come, Be My Light), that interiorly she was experiencing her personal "dark night of the soul".

As a blessed (and not yet a saint), liturgical celebration of her memorial is restricted to those who are already in some way associated with her (the Church in India; where the Misssionaries are present; in their communities and chapels where they serve; prayer groups inspired by her charism, etc). Let us pray God that she may be raised to the altars by canonization so that the whole world may rejoice in her witness and her intercession with the Lord for whom she thirsted her whole life long.

The following is drawn from The Saint of the Day for September 5:

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the tiny woman recognized throughout the world for her work among the poorest of the poor, was beatified October 19, 2003. Among those present were hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, the Order she founded in 1950 as a diocesan religious community. Today the congregation also includes contemplative sisters and brothers and an order of priests.

Born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje, Macedonia (then part of the Ottoman Empire), Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu was the youngest of the three children who survived. For a time, the family lived comfortably, and her father's construction business thrived. But life changed overnight following his unexpected death.

During her years in public school Agnes participated in a Catholic sodality and showed a strong interest in the foreign missions. At age 18 she entered the Loreto Sisters of Dublin. It was 1928 when she said goodbye to her mother for the final time and made her way to a new land and a new life. The following year she was sent to the Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling, India. There she chose the name Teresa and prepared for a life of service. She was assigned to a high school for girls in Calcutta, where she taught history and geography to the daughters of the wealthy. But she could not escape the realities around her—the poverty, the suffering, the overwhelming numbers of destitute people.

In 1946, while riding a train to Darjeeling to make a retreat, Sister Teresa heard what she later explained as “a call within a call. The message was clear. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them.” She also heard a call to give up her life with the Sisters of Loreto and, instead, to “follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”

After receiving permission to leave Loreto, establish a new religious community and undertake her new work, she took a nursing course for several months. She returned to Calcutta, where she lived in the slums and opened a school for poor children. Dressed in a white sari and sandals (the ordinary dress of an Indian woman) she soon began getting to know her neighbors—especially the poor and sick—and getting to know their needs through visits.

The work was exhausting, but she was not alone for long. Volunteers who came to join her in the work, some of them former students, became the core of the Missionaries of Charity. Other helped by donating food, clothing, supplies, the use of buildings. In 1952 the city of Calcutta gave Mother Teresa a former hostel, which became a home for the dying and the destitute. As the Order expanded, services were also offered to orphans, abandoned children, alcoholics, the aging and street people.

For the next four decades Mother Teresa worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Her love knew no bounds. Nor did her energy, as she crisscrossed the globe pleading for support and inviting others to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On September 5, 1997, God called her home.

Mother Teresa's beatification, just over six years after her death, was part of an expedited process put into effect by Pope John Paul II. Like so many others around the world, he found her love for the Eucharist, for prayer and for the poor a model for all to emulate.

Speaking in a strained, weary voice at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II declared her blessed, prompting waves of applause before the 300,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. In his homily, read by an aide for the aging pope, the Holy Father called Mother Teresa “one of the most relevant personalities of our age” and “an icon of the Good Samaritan.” Her life, he said, was “a bold proclamation of the gospel.”

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Welcome, Father Lawrence!

Every year priests from the world over come to Ottawa to study at St. Paul's University, Dominican University College and the public universities here.

Some of these reside in parish rectories and assist with pastoral care on the weekends or for daily Mass (several, for instance, are in residence at St. Patrick's Basilica). The Archdiocese is blessed by their presence and contributions during their studies.

One such priest has come to live in my residence while doing studies in Canon Law at St. Paul's. Father Lawrence Rasaian is from Tamil Nadu, India and has recently been incardinated in the missionary diocese of Tyler, Texas. He will assist with hospital chaplaincy while engaed in his studies.

Earlier this week, we went for a reconnoitering walk to Gatineau and along the Ottawa River, admiring the natural scenery and a beautiful sunset. Welcome Father Lawrence; blessings on your stay among us!

Late summer sunset in Canada's National Capital Region


  1. Mary Leland MacDonaldSeptember 5, 2009 at 11:40 AM

    Nice to see a picture of Ottawa as I am away from the city for a work term in Western Newfoundland.
    God bless you Abp Terry and all the priests of the archdiocese in this special year of the priest